Pandemic, legal battles creating hurdles for Bexar County Elections Department

Elections administrator says department is ready for early voting, Election Day despite challenges

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: This content was created exclusively for KSAT Explains, a weekly streaming show that dives deep into the biggest issues facing San Antonio and South Texas. Watch past episodes here and download the free KSAT-TV app to stay up on the latest.

The year 2020 has been full of surprises and chaos for most of us, and it has been no different for the Bexar County Elections Department.

The elections department has had to await rulings in legal battles, juggle lawsuits against them and adapt to new COVID-19 safety protocols this year.

“The hurdles have just been popping up no matter where we go,” Jacquelyn Callanen said as she laughed. Callanen has been the elections administrator for 15 years.

She and her staff have had to implement a lot of changes at polling sites due to the coronavirus.

"You know, if anyone had told me as an election administrator that one of the supplies I would have to provide for an election would be a trash can and trash can liners, it would be like, it just doesn’t doesn’t compute,” she said.

COVID-19 has also made it harder to get people to work this election season.

“But again, because of social distancing, our training room that normally holds 80 people, we’ve cut it down to like 30. So, we take reservations,” Callanen said.

Callanen said out of the 30 reservations about half of the people show up.

Who is on the November 2020 election ballot for Bexar County

Staff is also staying busy with an increase of people hand-delivering their mail-in ballots due to concerns mail service will be delayed.

“We’re averaging about 500 a day that people were coming in when they delivered their ballot here,” Callanen said.

The voter themselves must deliver the ballot, present their photo identification and sign the ballot if they’re delivering it to the Bexar County Elections Department in person.

FAQ: How to make sure your mail-in ballot is counted in 2020

“So, once that process is complete, we date and time stamp it. We stamp it hand delivered and then they get their 'I voted’ stickers,” she said.

Despite the challenges and hurdles this year, Callanen said she and her staff are prepared for the extended early voting period, which runs through Oct. 30, and Election Day which is on Nov. 3.

“We’re here all day, every day. We’ve been here for the last six weeks. We’ve gone seven days straight. And we will continue to do seven days straight until the election is over.”

About the Authors: