Early voting turnout totals up over 2011

Published on Thursday, 31 October 2013 00:03 - Written by By Adam Russell arussell@tylerpaper.com

While constitutional amendment elections such as the one Tuesday don’t bring out voters in droves to the polls, this year’s election at least is bringing out more than turned out two years ago.

The two-week early voting period ends 7 p.m. Friday.

Nine constitutional amendments, two local option beverage proposals and a Chapel Hill school bond are on ballots.

Early turnout appears low, with 95 votes cast today with a running total of 994, or less than 1 percent of Smith County’s 122,698 registered voters. But Elections Administrator Karen Nelson said early voting numbers already eclipsed 2011 early total of 894. The final constitutional election ballot count that year was 4,093.

“It just feels slow I guess,” she said. “Maybe it was that 2012 was so big and so busy, but (turnout) just seems low.”

Constitutional amendment elections draw dismally low turnouts historically. Texas ranks near the bottom in voter turnout nationally, but in 2012 presidential election 58.6 percent of the state’s 13.6 million voters cast ballots. During the 2010 gubernatorial election, 38 percent of voters visited polls.

By comparison, the 2011 statewide turnout for the constitutional election was just above 5 percent.

Mrs. Nelson said requests for mail-in ballots may be an indicator that final turnout will follow 2011 when a majority of voters cast ballots on Election Day. More than 50 requests for mail-in ballots were received in her office in 2011 while more than 110 were received this year.

“There’s no way of knowing what will happen on Election Day,” she said.

Controversial local propositions can have an impact on turnouts.

Chapel Hill ISD voters will consider a $31.2 million bond proposal to pay for facility improvements, including the campuses, the football stadium and baseball/softball complex. The bond is expected to increase the Chapel Hill property tax 14.1 cents to $1.394 per $100 valuation from $1.253 per $100.

This means the annual tax bill for residents with a $100,000 home would increase $141.

Two local-option alcohol proposals also will be on November ballots.

Voters in Justice of the Peace precincts 1 and 4 will consider legal sales of beer and wine for off-premise consumption.

It will be the first time for Precinct 1 voters to weigh in on the issue. Most of Precinct 1 lies within Tyler’s city limits.

Precinct 4 voters rejected legalizing sales twice.

Voters rejected alcohol in May 2009, 52.71 percent, or 1,461 votes, to 47.29 percent, or 1,311 of 2,772 total votes. They denied sales a second time in November 2010 by 50 votes, 2,350 to 2,300, or 50.55 percent to 49.45 percent.

Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 boundaries run north of Tyler on the east side of County Road 35 (Lavender Road) and on the north and east side of Loop 323 down the northeast side of Texas Highway 64 to New Chapel Hill, then runs east to the north side of Overton.

The nine statewide constitutional amendments include propositions to exempt spouses of veterans killed in action from property taxes; to create the State Water Implementation Fund to finance water projects and to expand the types of sanctions that may be assessed against a judge or justice following formal proceedings.

For information on how to register, go to the Smith County Elections Department website at smith-county.com or to the Secretary of State’s website at votetexas.gov.

Mrs. Nelson said the new voter ID law had not caused problems. Around 200 voters have filed affidavits to correct differences in names found on identification cards when compared to names on voter rolls. No one has been turned away. Mrs. Nelson said there is misinformation circulating that people will be denied votes.

The process of correcting the names is quick and easy, she said.