Some won’t wait until Election Day

Texas allows and even encourages early voting. It has permitted it for a long time, but it used to be less easily available. As I recall, there was just one location in Austin, across from the Travis County courthouse in the Stokes Building. In those days, the intention was that early voting should be used by those who knew that they were likely to be out of town on Election Day. Now people may vote early for any reason. Early voting is offered for extended periods, including weekends, and at many accessible locations. Our household preference is for the courthouse itself, where spirits are always jolly and familiar faces are everywhere. Sometimes we vote at one supermarket or another close to where we live; here, too, the faces are likely to be familiar, because Austin is still in many ways a small town.

Whenever possible, I vote early and have done so this time around. It’s because I wouldn’t want to take the chance of being for some reason unable to vote on the day itself. When I do vote on Election Day, I always do so within the first quarter hour that the polls are open at the precinct. They open at 7:00 in the morning. In Austin, most voting locations are centrally located within a precinct and easy for able-bodied people to get to on foot or by bus. Schools and churches are favored locations.

It appears that many people are voting for the first time ever or for the first time since the eSlates were introduced. Some people seem not to know that their precinct number appears on their voter-registration card. Some are not even sure whether they’ve maintained a current registration. Both kinds of information and much more, including the location of and maps for precinct polling places, can be checked at the Travis County voter information page.

Those who have voted early in Travis County are recorded as having done so on a West Austin Democrats search site. Some regard this site as revealing disquieting information, but it is information available under the provisions of the Texas Public Information Act, as was the more extensive information visible at this site up until recently. Others look upon it as a way to learn who needs reminding to get to the polls today.

Both the Travis County G.O.P. and the Travis County Democrats have freshened their websites for this election season. The Democrats have staked out the Driskill for the big post-election get-together and the Republicans will be at the Stephen F. Austin.

Many remember all too well the days when voting was made difficult or impossible for certain citizens. Gender disqualifications, poll taxes, age disqualifications for those under 21, and extremely restrictive residency requirements were just some of the bars to casting a ballot. In honor of all those who have struggled to extend and safeguard the franchise, we should be proud to vote.

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