Expensive choice: Fly home to Texas or your vote doesn't get counted
Carson Bryant, a junior at the University of Washington, joined a surge of college students and others who have descended upon their home state of Texas to vote.
From California, Indiana, Ohio, Washington, and even Switzerland, Texans have traveled home to vote in person.
That's because Texans living out of state have had trouble getting absentee ballots, forcing some to choose between not voting and a long, expensive trip to the polls.
“With corona and stuff, I was like, I'm not sure if it's worth actually flying all the way out to Texas,” said Bryant. “Also, it's kind of expensive, and I'm a broke college kid.”
Bryant, 20, is an informatics major from Fairview, Texas. She said she spent a month trying to get an absentee ballot, to no avail.
“Legit voters suppression,” Bryant called it on TikTok.
So she made the pricey choice: Go to Texas in person. She bought tickets on Halloween, flew home on Monday, and voted in person on Election Day.
Bryant said she mailed in a request for an absentee ballot two times, the first time in October, well before her county's deadline.
She said she telephoned twice to follow up, but the Collin County elections department never got a ballot to her.
On October 12, an elections official told her to wait a week, and that her ballot would arrive. On an October 21 call, she was told the election department never received her form.
Despite her initial hesitancy, Bryant decided she had to vote after learning how many of her peers were facing similar roadblocks.
“There's just so many stories I've heard from people I know personally that just never got an absentee ballot,” Bryant said. “I was like, this is so widespread.”
“This election is way too important to miss out on,” said Travis Xanders, a 24-year-old nurse from Seattle.
Xanders flew home to Texas, as did his sister from California, after being unable to obtain absentee ballots.
“Just for everything—the environment, for science, for racial justice, all these things that are at stake right now—it was definitely something that I felt like I needed to do,” Xanders said. “Having the means, I just felt like it was just kind of a no-brainer.”
Xanders said he had no problems absentee voting in Texas four years ago, when he was a student at Gonzaga University.
The emergency room nurse said flying in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic was “very terrifying.”
“I understand how much this pandemic weighs on our country, and I didn't want to create or cause any more spread,” Xanders said. “I wanted to make sure I was doing it in the safest way possible, but also kind of having to take that risk, for the future of our country.”
Bryant said she was less worried about Covid-19 and more about traveling in the midst of possible post-election social unrest when she flies back to Seattle later this week.
She said seeing her University of Washington friends vote remotely, with comprehensive voting guides mailed to all, made her appreciate the Washington state system.
At her polling place in the Dallas suburbs, Bryant sat in her car for 20 minutes, Googling candidates to study her choices, before getting in line to vote.
“Just knowing how well-informed voting is in Washington, it was just upsetting to come to Texas and it not being that same level,” Bryant said. “That comparison for me just really showed how voting in Texas could be improved.”