Pandemic impacts new voter registration activity in Texas

Voter registration down in Texas and 11 other states

SAN ANTONIO – In recent months, the pandemic has impacted new voter registration activity after seeing a record number of registrations at the beginning of this year.

According to the Center for Election Innovation and Research, voter registration slowed down in March and April across 12 states, compared to 2016.

“As the pandemic hit, we were concerned that that might have a huge impact on new voter registration activity. A lot of which is driven by people going to motor vehicles agencies, or third party groups going to college campuses and shopping malls and going door to door. And obviously, people aren’t doing that anymore,” David Becker said, executive director and founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research.

Voter registration activity was strong in January and February, but when most stay-at-home orders went into effect, numbers declined.

“By April, it declined drastically. It was about 70% less new registrations in those states than we had seen in April 2016. And in states like Texas, for instance, we saw over 100,000 fewer new registrations in April 2020 than were in April 2016,” Becker said.

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According to Jacquelyn Callanen, the elections administrator for Bexar County, there has been a dip in the number of new voters since the pandemic. Callanen said it was likely because classes to deputize volunteer deputy registrars were halted.

But there’s a renewed call to action as activists across the nation join protests demanding change.

“It’s more important now than ever, because if we want to see real actionable change, we have to start with the local, the people locally who are making decisions for our everyday life,” Valerie Reiffert, a volunteer deputy registrar, said. Reiffert and her group have registered hundreds of people at recent protests in San Antonio.

It is crucial for voters to register months ahead of the November election because it allows local election officials to provide voters with important voting information.

“As things are changing due to the pandemic, more and more people are going to think about voting by mail and have more expanded options, perhaps to vote by mail,” Becker said.

Reiffert knows that getting people registered to vote is half of the job. The other half is up to the voter to show up to the polls come November.

“We see the uptick, you know, when the political environment is as heated as it is right now and we see that, but we rarely see that translating into people voting. So, that’s what we’ll have to still find out,” Callenen said.

The deadline to register to vote in the July primary runoff is June 15. Click here for more information.

MORE: June 15 is the last day to register to vote for July primary runoff election in Texas


About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Before starting KSAT in 2017, Lee was a photojournalist at KENS 5, where he won a Lone Star Emmy in 2014 for Best Weather Segment. In 2009 and 2010 Lee garnered first-place awards with the Texas Association of Broadcasters for Best Investigative Series in College Station, as well as winning first place for Staff Photojournalism in 2011 at KBTX.