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Voting off to a strong start in Travis County

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 by Mark Richardson

The Associated Press reported that voters turned out in record numbers from Houston to El Paso on Monday in what many believe will be a vote of unprecedented proportions in Texas. And Travis County was no exception.

 

Whether it’s a win for the Democrats or the Republicans, this Nov. 4 will be groundbreaking. It’s also going to be very busy. A total of 32,607 people cast ballots on Monday, the first day of Early Voting for the Nov. 4 General Election. That means 5 percent of registered voters in Travis County waited in line on Monday to cast their ballot in the presidential election, among others.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said she expects twice the turnout she saw in the primaries, when Texas was considered to be the possible tipping point in the fight between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Interest in the election remains high, DeBeauvoir said.

“We are expecting double the turnout of the Primary election, when 227,778 votes were cast,” she said. “We are thrilled about the prospect of so many voters. Normally, about half of Travis County‘s voters cast a ballot during Early Voting and half on Election Day.”

She said that given the fact that as many as half of the Election Day voters show up at the polls after 3:30 in the afternoon, her office may process more than 100,000 voters in the final three hours of the election period.

The largest number of early votes showed up in the mail. Officials reported that 8,400 mail-in ballots were received on Monday. The largest number of voters to walk in to an early polling location was 1,144 at the Randalls in Westlake, though a cumulative total of 1,771 votes were cast at mobile voting locations.

Other locations drawing large crowds of voters included the Randalls at Ben White and Manchaca with 1011, and the HEB at Four Points with 1,005. Only one location, the Juvenile Municipal Court Office, show no votes at the end of the first day.

All in all, 5.35 percent of the 609,224 registered voters cast a ballot on Monday, 4.14 percent voted in person and the rest were mail-ins. If early voting continues at that pace, more than 250,000 early ballots could be cast by Oct. 31.

As a comparison, in the 2004 General Election, a total of 355,708 voters cast ballots from among 553,565 registered voters. That was 64.26 percent of registered voters. Slightly more than 40 percent of those ballots were cast early, with more than 24 percent cast on Election Day.

DeBeauvoir reported only one problem during the day on Monday. A person at one of the Early Voting polling places was apparently providing misleading information to voters.

 

Election workers were busy processing voters at the Randalls on West Ben White  when an Early Voting Deputy overheard a man giving misleading instructions to voters regarding straight-party voting in language similar to an email that has been circulating on the Internet.

 

“One report to the Clerk’s office said that some voters thought the

man had entered the area as a voter, but hung back and began to offer ‘advice’ to voters as if he were an election worker,” she said, adding that the man left the area quickly when confronted by an election official. The incident was reported to police.

 

“Looks like we had a pole cat in the polling place,”  DeBeauvoir  said. “Voters can really help with this kind of shenanigans — they can quickly call attention to this kind of misbehavior.”

 

For information on early polling places, contact the Travis County Elections Office at 238-VOTE or online.

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