By Alaina Mencinger
BU News Service
Stephanie Gonzalez woke up three times the night before the election. A first time voter, Gonzalez said she felt a shared sense of nervousness about the election — however, unlike some over voters, Gonzalez had to travel over 1,800 miles to vote in Texas after facing delays receiving her absentee ballot.
Gonzalez, a Boston University student, lives in Boston during the semester but is registered to vote in Fort Bend County, Texas. When her ballot still hadn’t arrived less than a week before the election, Gonzalez decided to fly home to Texas and vote in person.
Gonzalez, who is originally from Venezuela, became a naturalized U.S. citizen last year.
“It’s my first vote as a citizen of the U.S., so it’s a pretty big deal to me,” she said. “There’s a lot at stake, I feel. I’m a woman. I’m part of the LGBT community. I am an immigrant.”
Emme Enojado, a friend of Gonzalez and fellow Texan, flew with Gonzalez to Houston. Gonzalez said she worried about traveling due to the COVID-19 pandemic and wore a face shield and N95 mask while traveling. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the time of publication, Texas has had over 40,000 new COVID-19 cases in the past week.
Unable to find a direct flight from Boston to Houston, Gonzalez and Enojado said they spent approximately eight hours traveling between the two cities. Gonzalez, who paid for her flight using frequent flier miles, said that the cheapest flight she saw was $345 round trip.
“It’s an election that I feel I couldn’t pass by on,” says Enojado, who voted in Harris County, Texas, earlier today. Enojado said she applied for an absentee ballot on Oct. 8, but had not received a ballot by the time she left Boston on Sunday.
Gonzalez said she applied for her absentee ballot over a week before the Oct. 23 deadline. However, her ballot didn’t arrive until Oct. 30 — just four days before the election. Texas accepts mail in ballots postmarked on Tuesday, Nov. 3, but all mail-in ballots have to be received before Nov. 4. The United States Postal Service advised voters to mail in their ballots a full week before mail-in deadlines.
According to the Fort Bend County voting statistics, over 40,000 mail-in ballots were issued, and approximately 70% have been returned. In Harris County, unofficial voting tallies on the county website list mail-in voter rates at about 68%.