DALLAS - Dallas County has officially broken its record for the first day of early voting.
As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says more than 59,809 people had cast early ballots. He says that number will likely go up.
The previous record for a presidential election was set in 2016 when just under 59,000 people voted.
Because of the pandemic, Gov. Greg Abbott added an extra week for early voting in Texas. It gives people more time to vote safely.
Dallas County voters have an interesting new option at the American Airlines Center. Up to 50 people can vote at one time with safety precautions in place.
Before voting, everyone at the AAC gets hand sanitizer. All voters are also given a sanitized stylist to mark their ballots. Plexiglass barriers are in place and individual voting booths are sanitized after each use.
“From entering the line to voting was 25 minutes. I felt very safe doing it,” said Gregory Pynes, a Dallas County voter.
“I was real nervous about coming down to the American Airlines Center thinking the lines would be too long that they would take forever. It took all of 30 minutes for us from start to finish,” said Dennis Coleman, another voter. “There are markers letting you know where to stand. There are sanitizers throughout the facility as well as additional masks if you need those.”
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did his civic duty and was spotted in line midday Tuesday.
“If you haven’t voted yet, come down to the AAC. The line is fast,” Cuban said in a short video he took outside the arena.
There were also throngs of people eager to early vote at other sites across Dallas County.
From Friendship West Baptist Church in Southern Dallas to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in North Dallas, where wait times stretched well-beyond the lunch hour.
“I was told two and a half hours when I pulled into my parking space,” said voter Warren Parham.
Many feel COVID concerns are adequately addressed with social distancing and additional sanitizing.
“For me I’m passionate about my right to vote. And then specifically during the pandemic, I didn’t have any qualms about coming in person to vote,” said voter Gregory Pynes.
New this year is no straight party voting. And for some, the ballot is longer than usual with some elections added after being postponed from May – like Dallas ISD’s $3.6 billion school bond package.
To help reduce wait times, voters were encouraged to print out a sample ballot, fill it out and even bring it with them.
“Had a lot of time to research with everyone being at home, so it was a lot easier this year,” said voter Beverly Ealy.
For those who had to wait, reading material, phones and conversations with new and old friend helped pass the time.
“I’m 62 and in my life I’ve never seen a vote that had this much import to it. Our democracy is at stake,” said voter Phyllis Williams.
Voter registration numbers are up in DFW, compared to the last presidential election, by roughly 10% in Dallas and Tarrant counties and by 20% in Denton and Collin counties.
Harris County voters shattered first day early voting records, with more than 115,000 turning out, and 97% of eligible voters are registered in Travis County.
Dallas County has an interactive map on its website that shows wait times for the early polling locations.
In Dallas County, early voting locations are open six days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m. Officials said typically the shortest lines to will be in the middle of the week or on Sundays.
Early voting continues until Oct. 30.