Early Voting Ending May 25
|Smith County voters can go to five locations including, the Election Office inside the Courthouse Annex Building, 200 E. Ferguson St.; and Heritage Building, 1900 W. Bellwood Road; the Noonday Community Center, 16662 County Road 196 in Tyler; the Lindale Masonic Lodge, 200 Margaret St. in Lindale, and the Whitehouse Municipal Court, 311 E. Main St. in Whitehouse. |
Voting locations will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Friday; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 1 to 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through May 25.
The primary election is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 29.
By ADAM RUSSELL
The message to the state's 13.5 million registered voters is "early voting has begun, get out and vote," statewide and county election officials said Monday.
Mother-son duo Cindy and Jason Gregory said the same thing Monday after casting their votes. They said early voting is the best time to cast ballots in important races, including Smith County sheriff, state House District 6 and U.S. Senate.
Much like state and local officials, the Gregorys blame multiple changes to the March primary date for voter confusion. Anytime there are changes, there is opportunity for confusion, Gregory said.
They said friends were confused by the date changes, the municipal races occurring so close to the primaries, what would be included on ballots and even what they already voted on May 12. It's not time to be confused, it's time to vote early, Gregory said, because it's the quickest, most convenient way.
"If you wait until the last minute to vote something always happens and you don't go (vote)," Mrs. Gregory said. "There's two weeks (during early voting) to find time."
Gregory said early voting is an opportunity to beat crowds and avoid lines as the primary, May 29 this year, nears. He and Mrs. Gregory make it an election tradition to vote on the first day of early voting.
On Monday, hours into the first day of the two-week early party primary voting schedule, it was evident confusion and misinformation could spell low voter turnout numbers, election officials said. That is unless the word gets out and voters feel compelled to go to the polls, said Karen Wilkerson, executive secretary for the Smith County Democratic Party.
It's a light year for Democrats, she said. There are relative unknowns challenging a sitting president and only one local contested race (Constable Precinct 1) for party voters to decide, she said. Confusion still abounds, whether voters doubt their primary voting participation's effect on their November choices or the "what," "when" and "where" basics of this year's primary, she said.
The No. 1 question on Monday from prospective voters for a beleaguered Smith County Elections Department is regarding primary versus general election voting, Elections Director Karen Nelson said.
In simple terms, Mrs. Nelson said, primary voters can only vote for one party. Voters must choose a ballot featuring Democrats or Republicans. Voters who participated in either party's local convention must vote for that party by law.
The question regarding possible crossover voting has surrounded two races, Mrs. Nelson said. Democratic voters want to vote in the Democratic primary Constable Precinct 1 race, featuring long-time incumbent Henry Jackson and challenger Reginald "Reggie" Wilson, and the GOP primary for sheriff, which features four candidates, Bobby Garmon, Chris Green, Donn Rust and Larry Smith, she said.
"You can't do that," she said.
Because there is no Democrat running for sheriff, the GOP primary will decide the nominee and eventual winner.
Voters would not be eligible to vote in the likely July 31 run-off in that (or any) race if they vote in the Democratic primary.
But the primary affiliation, casting a Republican or Democratic ticket, does not limit a voter's choice in the November general election, she said. On Nov. 6 voters can vote for whomever they want from either party, she said.
Republican voters have more races to decide in the primary and therefore more enthusiasm, Smith County GOP Chairman Ashton Oravetz said. The county sheriff's race seems to be peaking voter interest, he said.
It features charismatic candidates, energetic voter bases amid a too-close-to-call field, Oravetz said.
The sheriff's race is why the Gregorys came to vote.
They said it is the most important local race in more than 35 years, referencing Sheriff J.B. Smith's tenure in office.
"It's as important race as there is," Gregory said. "I would say 'just vote when or where you can.'"
House District 11 incumbent state Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, and two opponents, Nacogdoches Attorney Travis Clardy and Alto farmer Tony Sevilla, have dealt with a protracted primary and now must face the prospect of getting voters to the polls.
Aside from campaign blitz basics such as robo-calls, phone banks and block-walking, Hopson said his focus is making voters aware early voting has begun. Instead of flyers campaigning for votes, the new campaign information is designed to press participation.
"It will likely mean low (voter) numbers but we're doing everything we can to increase participation," Hopson said.
The Secretary of State is pushing for primary participation as well, spokesman Rich Parsons said. He said the state has worked hard to quell voter confusion with its voter education program and by updating its website, votetexas.gov.
"We've worked very hard to provide tools to voters to make them informed of the changes and promote the primary date with emphasis on early voting."
There have been conversations regarding Texans' vacation schedules and how those plans could affect an election day directly following Memorial Day.
Oravetz said it will be a "wait and see" scenario as to how the date change will affect the turnout and race outcomes.
"We're entering unprecedented territory because of the timing changes," Oravetz said.