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.Email | Print