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Record turnout greets first day of early voting

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Voting on the first day of early voting in Travis County shattered previous records, with 35,066 voters casting ballots at polling locations throughout the county. An additional 11,020 mail-in ballots were received, bringing to 46,086 the total number of voters who have cast ballots so far – more than double the first-day total from 2012, which was 20,942.

Noting the record turnout, political consultant David Butts – who is working to win voter approval for the city’s transportation bond, Proposition 1 – told the Austin Monitor that he thought a lot of people “just wanted to get it over with,” referring to the national election.

Travis County has 728,806 registered voters, representing 90 percent of those eligible, according to Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant, whose office is in charge of voter registration.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir set up four voting megasites throughout the city and also enlisted the aid of grocery stores, such as Randalls and Fiesta, to accommodate voters.

Around 4:30 p.m. Monday, DeBeauvoir said that she was expecting at least 30,000 voters on the first day. “I am worried that people love the grocery stores so much that they’ll go to those” even though they can vote more quickly at other locations, she said.

DeBeauvoir urged voters to check out the county’s new early voting website to find out which early voting locations might offer the shortest lines. The website uses green, yellow and red lights to indicate whether locations have long lines or not.

At 5:30 p.m. on Monday, the site showed red lights for the Randalls in West Lake Hills and the Fiesta on I-35 in Central Austin. Several other Randalls locations – including stores on Ben White Boulevard, Brodie Lane and MoPac Expressway – as well as the Flawn Academic Center at the University of Texas had yellow lights. The remainder of the early voting locations had green lights.

North Austin’s Ben Hur Shrine Center at 7811 Rockwood Lane, one of the county’s megasites, had the highest first-day total: 2,789 ballots cast. The ACC Highland Mall megasite at 6001 Airport Blvd. came in second, with 2,570 ballots cast. The third-highest vote total was at the Randalls at Research Boulevard and Braker Lane, with 2,130 votes cast there.

Nearly 2,000 voters cast ballots at the University of Texas Flawn Academic Center. Randalls stores in West Lake Hills and Southwest Austin accommodated more than 1,100 voters each, and more than 1,000 people voted at Austin City Hall, according to numbers supplied by Travis County. More than 950 voters cast ballots at the Fiesta at Stassney Lane and I-35.

East of I-35, there was markedly less activity, with only 206 ballots cast at the Dove Springs Recreation Center and 418 ballots cast at the Little Walnut Creek Library. However, there were 645 ballots cast at the Carver Branch Library. These figures do not mean, however, that the people who live in those areas are not voting, because Travis County voters can cast their ballots at any location.

DeBeauvoir predicted an overall turnout for the election of 66 percent in Travis County. Butts said he is hoping for a 70 percent turnout. News reports from Williamson County and Bastrop County indicate that they will have a very large turnout also.

Photo by Jo Clifton

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