Nine constitutional amendments, two local option beverage proposals and a Chapel Hill school bond will be on ballots Tuesday.
Early turnout appears low, 1,571 votes have been cast as of Friday. Smith County has 122,698 registered voters. But Elections Administrator Karen Nelson said early voting numbers have eclipsed 2011 early totals and that expectations are for a bigger turnout. The final constitutional election ballot count that year was 4,093.
Constitutional amendment elections draw dismally low turnouts historically. Texas ranks near the bottom in voter turnout nationally but in 2012 presidential election 58.6 percent of the state's 13.6 million voters cast ballots. During the 2010 gubernatorial election, 38 percent of voters visited polls.
By comparison, the 2011 statewide turnout for the constitutional election was just above 5 percent.
Smith County voters have 33 precinct voting locations that will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
CHAPEL HILL BOND
Chapel Hill ISD voters will consider a $31.2 million bond proposal to pay for facility improvements, including the campuses, the football stadium and baseball/softball complex.
Projects include additional classrooms, along with a new gym and cafeteria/auditorium, at the middle school; additional classroom space and renovations at the high school's Career and Technical Education Building; and improvements to the football stadium and baseball/softball complex at the high school.
A new Disciplinary Alternative Education Program facility on high school property; replacing the sewer system at Wise Elementary School; and a new entry vestibule, reception/control office at Kissam Elementary School, also are included.
A new operations facility for maintenance along with transportation and child nutrition departments south of Kissam would also be included.
The bond is expected to increase the Chapel Hill property tax 14.1 cents to $1.394 per $100 valuation from $1.253 per $100.
This means the annual tax bill for residents with a $100,000 home would increase $141.
Tammy Humes, a concerned resident, and others, have raised concerns regarding the district's debt capacity and the bond's prioritized project list.
"I just don't think the time is right for this bond," she said. "Some of the priorities are questionable to me. I just want the voters to have all the information before they make a decision because the district is presenting one side of the story."
Superintendent Dr. Donni Cook said she would not jeopardize the financial future of the district. She said professionals assessed the facility needs and the board approved the bond as the most appropriate option to address campus needs.
Ms. Cook said the district would still have about 20 cents in borrowing capacity if the bond were approved. She said the 2001 debt is about to be retired and the school board decided now was the time for improvements and additions that would address overcrowding before portable buildings become a necessity.
Enrollment at Chapel Hill Middle School is driving the need to expand and add campus facilities. She said enrollment exceeds 820 students, and classrooms that were added on campus in a previous bond election already are overflowing.
The Chapel Hill School Bond Political Action Committee filed paperwork, which allows members to begin fundraising efforts in support of the bond.
Carrie Gentry, a local accountant, is the committee's acting treasurer according to campaign finance reports. Multiple attempts by the Tyler Morning Telegraph to reach Ms. Gentry for comment or other committee members' contact information were not answered. The committee reported $3,800 in donations, including $300 from Ed Thompson Construction, $500 each from the Chapel Hill Athletic Booster Club, EHRC Architects and HGR General Contractors and $2,000 from Don Simmons. Donations from HGR General Contractors, EHRC Architects, the booster club and Ed Thompson Construction were received before the committee assigned its treasurer on Oct. 15.
BEER AND WINE
Two local-option alcohol proposals also will be on November ballots.
Voters in Justice of the Peace precincts 1 and 4 will consider legal sales of beer and wine for off-premise consumption.
It will be the first time for Precinct 1 voters to weigh in on the issue. Most of Precinct 1 lies within Tyler's city limits.
Precinct 4 voters rejected legalizing sales twice.
Voters rejected alcohol in May 2009, 52.71 percent, or 1,461 votes, to 47.29 percent, or 1,311 of 2,772 total votes. They denied sales a second time in November 2010 by 50 votes, 2,350 to 2,300, or 50.55 percent to 49.45 percent.
Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 boundaries run north of Tyler on the east side of County Road 35 (Lavender Road) and on the north and east side of Loop 323 down the northeast side of Texas Highway 64 to New Chapel Hill, then runs east to the north side of Overton.
The Buy Smith County Committee, a pro-alcohol political action committee, circulated petitions via the same Austin consulting firm involved in other alcohol drives in Tyler and surrounding jurisdictions.
The group raised $109,441.55 to campaign beer and wine sales. Contributions came from Kidd Oil Co. ($50,000), which owns convenience stores in the precinct and developers, Donald Simmons (more than $12,500) and Robert Patterson ($15,776), the committee's chairman, and other development groups.
Patterson said alcohol would open Precinct 4 to development. He said a $30 million development near Loop 323 and Texas Highway 31 depends on a national retailer's ability to sell beer and wine at the location.
He has presented information about the economic benefits of alcohol for the Chapel Hill school district at recent school board meetings.
"We're presenting the economic side of it and the reaction has been positive," he said. "We're not changing much at this point (since Tyler went wet). It just levels the playing field for businesses in that area."
No organized opposition has filed political action committee paperwork or voiced opposing views regarding alcohol in either jurisdiction.
The nine statewide constitutional amendments include propositions to exempt spouses of veterans killed in action from property taxes; to create the State Water Implementation Fund to finance water projects and to expand the types of sanctions that may be assessed against a judge or justice following formal proceedings.
Much of the statewide attention surrounding the proposed amendments has focused on Proposition 6, which would effectively create the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas. The fund would free up $2 billion to provide low-interest loans for water projects.
The revolving $2 billion fund would help projects approved by regional water development boards and the Texas Water Development Board meet early financial needs. The $2 billion, which came from the state's Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day fund), would leverage about $50 billion for projects during the next five decades, he said. The loans would be paid back to the fund via revenues generated by projects.
Most state leaders, including the governor, lieutenant governor, Texas House speaker and around 150 of 181 state legislators support the proposition they believe will jumpstart needed projects and provide long-term answers to the most necessary natural resource. Not addressing the state's water needs could be detrimental to a state with population growth expected to increase by 6 million residents in the next decade.
However, opposition voices including conservative legislators and grassroots taxpayer groups are concerned the $2 billion fund creates more bureaucracy and gives prioritization powers to a three-person board appointed by the governor. They fear cronyism and the lack of a detailed long-term water infrastructure plan could allow projects to be driven by insider groups and metropolitan demand rather than statewide need and "best use" policies.
Mrs. Nelson said the new voter ID law has not caused problems.
An unexpired Texas driver's license, state identification card, Concealed Handgun License, U.S. passport, a military identification or citizenship certificate with photos, allows voters to access the polls.
But state and local election officials recommend residents with valid identification check the name listed on their preferred form against what is printed on their voter registration card to ensure names are the same.
Texas residents who are U.S. citizens and eligible to vote, but who do not have one of those forms of photo identification can apply for Election Identification Certificates, which are free and valid for six years.
To qualify, an applicant must prove U.S. citizenship and Texas residency. A certified copy of a birth certificate and two of 33 possible supporting documents, which include a Social Security card, W-2, an out of state drivers license, a voter registration card or pilot's license, are required to prove U.S. citizenship and identity.
Election Identification Certificates are available at local Texas Department of Public Safety offices.
Around 200 voters filed affidavits to correct differences in names found on identification cards when compared to names on voter rolls. No one has been turned away. Mrs. Nelson said there is misinformation circulating that people will be denied access to polls but she said the process has been quick and easy.
Precincts 1, 4, 81
Pine Springs Baptist Church
2155 County Road 334 Tyler, 75708
Precincts 2, 76
Douglas Elementary School
1525 N. Carlyle Ave. Tyler, 75702
Precincts 3, 21
Pollard Methodist Church
3030 New Copeland Road Tyler, 75701
Precincts 5, 17, 19
Lindale Masonic Lodge
200 Margaret St. Lindale, 75771
Precincts 6, 47
Red Springs Fire Department
16759 Farm-to-Market 14 Tyler, 75706
Precincts 7, 82
Winona First Methodist Church
206 Tyler St. Winona, 75792
Precincts 8, 46
Starville Church of the Living God
18396 Texas Highway 271 Winona, 75792
Precincts 9, 14, 66
Hopewell Valley Baptist Church No. 1
10572 CR49 Tyler, 75709
Jackson Elementary School
16406 FM2767 Tyler, 75707
Tyler Public Library
201 S. College Ave. Tyler, 75702
Boulter Middle School
2926 Garden Valley Road Tyler, 75702
Precincts 13, 18
Austin Elementary School
1105 W. Franklin St. Tyler, 75702
Hideaway Members Services Building
101 Hide-a-Way Lane Central Lindale, 75771
Orr Elementary Schoool
3350 Pine Haven Road Tyler, 75702
Bonner Elementary School
235 S. Saunders Ave. Tyler, 75702
Precincts 22, 23
Bell Elementary School
1409 E. Hankerson St. Tyler, 75701
Precincts 25, 59
Colonial Hills Baptist Church
7330 S. Broadway Ave. Tyler, 75703
Precincts 26, 31
Chapel Hill High School
13172 Texas Highway 64 E. Tyler, 75707
Precincts 27, 64
Rose Heights Church of God
2120 Old Omen Road, Tyler, 75701
Precincts 28, 30
Whitehouse Municipal Court
311 E. Main St. Whitehouse, 75791
Precinct 29, 45
Cameron Jarvis Library
102 S. Georgia St. Troup, 75789
Precincts 34, 39, 73
Jones-Brashear Elementary School
3450 Chandler Highway, Tyler, 75702
St. Louis Baptist Church
4000 Frankston Highway, Tyler, 75701
Precincts 36, 80
Tyler ISD Administration Building
1319 Earl Campbell Parkway, Tyler, 75701
Precincts 37, 41, 75, 79
Bullard First Methodist Church
204 N. Rather St. Bullard, 75757
Precincts 38, 54, 58, 71
Hollytree Country Club
6700 Hollytree Dr. Tyler, 75703
Precincts 40, 42, 74
Noonday Community Center
16662 CR196 Tyler, 75703
Precincts 43, 50, 70, 72, 77, 78
Birdwell Elementary School
2010 Talley Ave. Tyler, 75701
Precincts 44, 48, 65
Dixie Volunteer Fire Department
584 CR1143 Tyler, 75704
Precincts 49, 52
New Harmony Community Center
10586 FM 724 Tyler, 75704
Precincts 55, 56
Ornelas Activity Center
3402 Old Omen Road, Tyler, 75701
Precincts 60, 63
New Life Baptist Church
3575 CR384, Tyler, 75708
Gary Elementary School
730 S. Chilton Ave. Tyler, 75701