With the 2020 general election less than a month away, Texas A&M students, faculty, staff and other Brazos County residents have started voting.
Early voting in Texas for the 2020 general election began Tuesday, Oct. 13, and will continue through Oct. 30. According to The Eagle, the first day of early voting in the county saw almost 3,500 voters to the polling places. A&M’s Memorial Student Center is one of five polling locations in Brazos County.
Brazos County Elections Administrator Trudy Hancock said there have been many social distancing guidelines put in place at each polling location to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some of these new precautions include floor decals, providing hand sanitizer while entering and exiting the room and providing pencils to use as styluses on the voting machines.
“When you get your access code you get to choose a pencil, and you vote on the electronic machine, touching it with the pencil eraser. You don’t have to touch the machine anywhere else,” Hancock said. “We’re also sanitizing the machines, wiping them down after every use.”
Hancock said there are 122,679 registered voters in Brazos County — more than the 113,000 registered voters for the July runoff elections.
“It is only going to go up,” Hancock said. “I think [voter turnout] is going to be historical if the 8 a.m. lines [on Oct. 13 are] any indication of that.”
COVID-19 precautions are not going to affect voter wait times, Hancock said, though they have had to reduce the number of machines available at each polling location in order to social distance properly.
Marketing graduate student Hailey Motsenbocker said she saw most, if not all, of the voters at the Brazos County Administration Building following face covering and social distancing guidelines.
“They had hand sanitizer everywhere,” Motsenbocker said. “Then, there were only about 10 voting booths open, and that was because they had a volunteer cleaning down each station between uses and they were having people use the end of a pencil, the eraser end, to touch the screens.”
Motsenbocker said the COVID-19 restrictions at the polling place she visited did not seem to impede on the voting process.
“The entire process took about 35 minutes from the time I got there to the time I got back into my car,” Motsenbocker said. “It wasn’t super long. I didn’t feel like we had to wait longer for stations to be cleaned or anything like that. It was [a] very quick process.”
University studies junior Grayson Siske chose to vote early primarily to avoid any long lines. Siske said he was a little more nervous than normal to vote in-person considering the COVID-19 situation, but it was important to him to vote regardless.
“I need to feel represented in my country, and that can’t happen if I don’t vote,” Siske said.
Statistics junior Juan-Pablo Gonzalez said he was glad the university offered a convenient and easy way to vote on campus.
“It’s important to be represented, especially when we’re in a climate like this where everything is very political,” Gonzalez said. “I think that it’s important that — even if it’s in small ways — your voice is heard.”
Siske and Gonzalez both said they felt comfortable in the polling room in the MSC with the social distancing system that was set up.
“Everything was socially distanced. They let us use our own styluses, they were sanitizing the voting booths right after people used them,” Gonzalez said. “They seemed very well equipped to keep everyone safe.”