Hidalgo County residents trickled in to cast their votes Monday, kicking off the early voting period for the July 14 primary runoffs amid a pandemic.

Poll workers help voters as they drive up to Hidalgo county elections annex to cast their ballot during early elections Monday, June 29, 2020, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Voters appeared to be slow in getting to the polls Monday, perhaps dissuaded by the growing number of positive cases across the Rio Grande Valley and the rest of the state.

In San Juan, Hidalgo County poll workers tried their best to keep highly touched areas and items clean. Voters placed IDs in a container so that election staff could verify their identity without handling their cards.

Staff also asked voters to place pens in a separate container so that they could be cleaned after a single use. And lastly, staff also gave voters cotton swabs so they could make their selections on the touch-screen machines without having to touch them.

Still, numbers appeared low, and unofficial voting tallies for the first day of voting will not be released until Tuesday.

Only 23 people had cast a vote at Fire Station No. 2 in San Juan within the first four hours of the poll’s opening. That, however, could be a result of many things, including voter apathy and the fact that only a handful of races are featured on the Republican and Democratic tickets.

Hidalgo County Republican voters will decide the frontrunner in two races: U.S. District 15 Representative and chairman for Precinct 96.

Candidates Monica De-La Cruz and Ryan Krause are running for the U.S. House seat. During the March 3 primary, De-La Cruz led with 56% of the vote, compared to Krause’s 30%.

The winner will face the Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, in November’s general election.

Meanwhile, Mayra Rivera and Laura J. Nunn are competing to become Precinct 96 chairwoman. Nunn led the polls in March with 40% of the vote compared to Rivera’s 34%.

Democratic voters in Hidalgo County will see no more than four races on their ballots.

Statewide, Royce West and Mary ‘MJ’ Hegar are vying to become one of Texas’ U.S. senators. Both were the top vote-getters in March, when there were a dozen candidates vying for a spot on the Democratic ticket. Hegar received 12% of the vote in the primary, compared to West’s nearly 10%.

The winner will face Republican Sen. John Cornyn in November.

All Democratic voters in Hidalgo County will also cast a ballot in the race for railroad commissioner, which features candidates Roberto R. ‘Beto’ Alonzo and Chrysta Castañeda. Catañeda led with 41% in March, while Alonzo received 48%.

Some Democratic voters will see one of the most hotly contested races in the county: state senator for District 27.

Incumbent Eddie Lucio Jr. is fighting to keep his seat against challenger Sara Stapleton Barrera. Lucio received nearly 50% of the vote in March, compared to Stapleton Barrera’s 36%.

And finally, some Democratic voters in Hidalgo County will also weigh in on the race for Justice of the Peace, Precinct No. 4, Place 1.

Incumbent Charlie Espinoza is fighting to keep his seat against challenger Jaime Rene Chavana. In March, Espinoza received nearly 50% of the vote, compared to Chavana’s 29%.

Those who have yet to cast a ballot have plenty of time to vote at any of the 28 early voting polling locations in Hidalgo County.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from June 30 to July 2. They will be closed July 3 and July 4 in observance of Independence Day, but they will reopen July 5 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Afterward, polls will once again open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from July 6 to July 10.

Election Day is Tuesday, July 14.