by BRAD ROLLINS
When the city council voted in 2005 to move municipal elections to November from May, proponents argued the change ensured higher turnout for city contests historically decided by no more than a few thousand.
Opponents countered that city issues and candidates would be drowned out by federal, state and county campaigns and the accompanying money and malevolence that usually attends partisan races, especially in presidential election years.
Both proponents and opponents may have been right.
In the first city election to share a ballot with president on down, 16,384 people cast ballots at San Marcos polling locations during early voting, although any Hays County resident can vote at any Hays County early voting location. So certainly not all of those who voted in San Marcos were eligible to vote in San Marcos contests and, equally as certain, not all of those who do live here made it down ballot to cast votes for mayor, city council, a non-binding referendum on extending bar hours and 18 proposed amendments to the city charter.
Still, against the backdrop of record turnout countywide — 40,159 of 97,603 registered voters in Hays County have already voted — turnout in the city races is sure to dwarf anything San Marcos has seen. At the elections office, 6,317 voted; at the library, 6,946; and at the LBJ Student Center at Texas State University, 3,121. And election day isn’t until Tuesday.
Compare these figures to the last contested mayoral election in May 2004 when only 2,579 voted. Or to school board elections this May when fewer than 400 voters showed up for the first two contested trustee races in years.
Unprecedented turnout thus has candidates and political junkies reading early voting returns like tea leaves in an attempt to gain insight in an otherwise unpredictable political atmosphere.
With a heated contest between Commissioner Will Conley and challenger Steve Klepfer, Hays County Precinct 3 is saw 12,737 early votes cast out of a possible 28,700, or 44.4 percent turnout. On the other end of the spectrum, 6,449 out of 20,042 voters have been to the polls in precinct 1 where Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe is being challenged by chef Nick Ramus and write-in candidate Bill Wyatt.
Kyle- and Buda-centered precinct 2 has seen 36.3 percent turnout so far with 9,708 of 26,721 eligible voters casting ballots. In precinct 4, 10,054 of 22,140 registered voters, or 45.4 percent, have voted.