CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Despite weeks of preparation, the first day of early voting in the 2020 general election came with its share of headaches.
Frustrations were evident at the Nueces County Courthouse, as voters waited more than two hours to cast their ballots. Those long lines, combined with crowded conditions inside, have served to compound those frustrations.
“This is what we wanted to forewarn the county clerk’s office to be prepared for,” said Nueces Co. Democratic Chair Coretta Graham.
Shortly after KRIS Communications arrived at the courthouse Tuesday afternoon, a sheriff’s deputy started spacing voters out -- a stark contrast from what had been happening there since 8 a.m.
“When we walked in and saw the chaos, we knew right then we weren’t going to be here long,” said Vanessa Bell. “They were so close to each other; we knew we wouldn’t stay.”
Bell and her husband, Gerald, were shocked to find the voting line wrapped around the courthouse’s entry alcove, making social distancing next to impossible.
Bell and others, such as Libby Perales, decided to find somewhere else to vote.
“People are back-to-back on each other,” Perales said. “I kept trying to get people to back up, and they wouldn’t back up.”
“We have three weeks, plus Election Day,” Graham said. “The lines aren’t necessarily going to get any shorter.”
Graham braved the line on the first day of early voting, but said she heard reports of problems across the county.
“We should not have machines breaking down, we shouldn’t have people who want to do curbside voting not knowing what to do,” she said.
Nueces County Clerk Kara Sands told KRIS Communications that she received no reports of machine issues from poll workers, and that curbside voting is reserved for people physically unable to enter a polling place.
As for the lines, she said with 25 polling places available in Nueces County, it’s best to have more than one in mind.
That’s advice the Bells took to heart.
“We did; we said we would,” said Vanessa.
“Plan B,” added Gerald.
There were also reports of some polling places opening late Tuesday morning. Sands said that’s because come voters lined up before 7 a.m. thinking that’s when polling places opened.
Polling locations are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.