San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 24th, 2008
Early voting could lead to county poll records

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

The first three days of early voting in Hays County not only predict that a record turnout of raw numbers is almost certain, but also suggest that the county may reach its record percentage of participation by the county’s registered voters.

Through Wednesday, taking in the first three days of early voting, 10,137 citizens exercised the franchise. The county has 97,606 registered voters.

“Within the first three days, we have voted ten percent of the registered voters,” Hays County Elections Administrator said. “I think that 50 percent or more of the voters in this election will be early.”

Cowan said 50 percent of Hays County voters turned out early in 2004, the last presidential election year. Cowan added that the county had 20,000 fewer registered voters then.

The general election will take place on Nov. 4, with early voting scheduled at several Hays County locations through Oct. 31.

The election this fall has a little something for everybody, headlined by the presidential election between Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Throughout Hays County, the ballot includes a state representative election between incumbent Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) and challenger Matt Young (R-Wimberley), as well as a county road bond referendum for $207 million.

Within San Marcos, incumbent Mayor Susan Narvaiz is up for re-election against challenges from David Newman and Daniel McCarthy. In addition, Councilmember Chris Jones is running for his return against Lisa Marie Copoletta.

Two Hays County Commissioners seats in San Marcos also are up for grabs. In Precinct 1, which covers the eastern portions of San Marcos and reaches north into Kyle, incumbent Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos) is up against Nick Ramus (R-San Marcos) and Bill Wyatt (I-San Marcos). In Precinct 3, which covers western San Marcos and reaches north to Wimberley, incumbent Will Conley (R-San Marcos) is running against Steve Klepfer (D-Wimberley).

San Marcos voters also will weigh in on a non-binding resolution that would extent bar hours to 2 a.m. every day. The San Marcos City Council is expected to approve the extension if voters say they want it. All three mayoral candidates have spoken in its favor.

Cowan has predicted a 70 percent countywide turnout for this election, which would come to just fewer than 70,000 voters. However, she said, the developments in early voting could push that up to 75 percent, which would match the countywide record set during the presidential election of 1992, when the county was half as large as it is today.

According to the Texas Association of Counties, the population of Hays County now is 141,480, up from 97,589 on the 2000 Census. The 1990 Census put Hays County’s population at 65,614.

Tuesday was the biggest day of early voting, with 3,063 voters going to four locations. On Monday, 2,481 people voted at four locations. Another 1,786 voted Wednesday and 2,807 ballots have arrived by mail.

The largest numbers have turned out to single locations in Kyle and Dripping Springs. Turnout also has been unusually heavy in San Marcos, though the load in the county seat has been shared by multiple locations each day.

The biggest number of voters in one location on one day was 1,048 Tuesday at the Hays CISD Performing Arts Center in Kyle, followed closely by 1,030 at the Dripping Springs ISD offices the same day. The largest turnout in San Marcos was 810 at Texas State’s LBJ Student Center on Wednesday.

The Hays County Elections Office and the San Marcos City Library, the only two locations that will be open for every day of early voting, both handled about 500 voters each day, said Cowan, who added that voters who wish to avoid long lines at other occurent locations throughout the county might consider the San Marcos locations.

Monday at Kyle City Hall, where 814 people voted, the lines ran two hours long. But the San Marcos locations tend to run lines for about 15 minutes, Cowan said.

“Nobody likes to stand in line,” Cowan said. “But people have been very pleasant and the days have been beautiful. In Dripping Springs, we were having an hour and a half or two hour lines, but they’re forming before we get there.”

Of the 97,606 registered voters in Hays County, Cowan said, about 16,000 are suspense voters, mostly Texas State students. Such registrants are voters for whom the elections office doesn’t have a current address. Such voters are eligible if they fill out a statement of residency.

Cowan also said some of the county’s registered voters may actually have moved elsewhere, or might be deceased, but she said her office has done a pretty thorough job of scrubbing the roles to remove those names.

The early voting turnout reflects a national trend, though Hays County caught on to it a bit earlier. Across the country, the New York Times said 33 percent of the voters are expected to cast their ballots early. The Times said 16 percent of the voters went early for the 2000 presidential election, and 22 percent went early for the 2004 election.

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4 thoughts on “Early voting could lead to county poll records

  1. I recently moved to Wimberley from El Paso where I had been used to popping in to early vote in about a ten minute span. It was incredible to see a 2-hour line at Wimberley’s Community Center when I voted yesterday. I met many wonderful residents and exchanged email addresses, too. Congratulations, my new home town. I’m proud to be here.

  2. I voted today at the central early voting station in San marcos. A peculiar thing happened. I was not able to find on my ballot the City of San Marcos races and charter amendments. I summoned an election official who checked the machine. Then he went back to an electronic device (the one that provided the number that I had to enter into the machine to begin voting. From that device, he cleared my ballot and brought me another number to enter into the machine and restart the voting process. This time, the San Marcos ballot was available on the machine and I re-voted all the national and county ballot before finishing up with the city ballot.

    This all caused me to ask who or what machine has control over these voting machines? If someone can remotely cancel my ballot, what is to keep someone from doing so for nefarious purposes? I have never trusted the security of these machines because they leave no paper trail, and my experience today gave me no comfort. I have yet to find a local or county public official who shares any concerns about the security of this system that he or she is willing to resolve. Having a reliable voting system that can be verified and checked to make sure there is no fraud is a prerequisite to giving voters confidence that the electoral system is honest and above board. It is essential, if we are to maintain a democracy, that our voting system yield accurate results. I have no confidence that this system does so.

  3. Obviously you vote had not been cast yet. Once it has been cast, it can not be deleted or altered. Before it is cast, it is just a ballot, not a vote. Just like if you went to a paper voting machine and punched the chads and the realized that you messed up. As long as you have not put it in the box, you can request a new ballot and start over. Once it is in the box, it is a vote. Seems pretty simple to me.

  4. I’ve recently retired from a long career in computer software and computer operations. When I hear “computer experts” telling us that the new electronic voting machines are doomed to be hacked, I know they are right. There is no excuse for election officials and the rest of us to be accepting of the new electronic voting machines that have no audit paper trail. Those machines may be cheaper and easier to deal with than paper trail machines, but in the case of American voting, cheaper is not smarter. To buy those machines is stupid, stupid, stupid. As I left the San Marcos polling place yesterday afternoon I was feeling very disappointed that our election officials had bought the “affordable” machines. Think about the security of our voting system the next time you see in the news that another financial or government computer system has been hacked. Those systems are supposed to have the best security available and yet dozens of millions of our citizens have had their financials & credit information sold on the net to whoever wants it.

    As you have seen, if you don’t tell your election people that we must have only voting machines that produce a paper trail, then they will choose the cheaper option. The cheaper option is worse than stupid.

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