Trickle of voters cast early Texas ballots

Early voting starts for 2016 Texas primary

AUSTIN -- Early voting season always begins with trickle.

"I'm coming out to cast my one vote," Williamson County resident Bruce Lockwood told KVUE Tuesday morning. Among the first to cast his early ballot, an unprecedentedly ugly presidential campaign season has left the naturalized Texan with a bitter taste.

"It just doesn't speak highly of the kind of country I think we really have," Lockwood said slowly. "I'm just very disappointed with the way things are going right now."

Like many this year, he'll hold his nose and do his duty.

"I'm going to do what I can for the people that they've got running," Lockwood sighed. "But I wish we could find somebody else out there in the bushes that would come forth and be able to lead our country a little better than I think most of these candidates can."

Yet Texas could play a significant role in the decision process. Texas Politics Project director and University of Texas Professor James R. Henson explains in the Democratic race, "Democratic elites and the media will be looking to see whether Clinton can 'right the ship' in a state where she is thought of as having historical relationships and a certain amount of a base."

"On the Republican side, the big question is just how strong will Ted Cruz be?" said Henson, "And will the other candidates, in particular Donald Trump, be able to make inroads? I think you have to give Cruz the advantage here, but the key question in a proportional representation primary where the delegates are not winner-take-all is just how strong is Cruz? And how big a delegate haul can he get out of when he comes to Texas?"

"It's more than just the presidential election. We have local races that are very hot," said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, pointing to a ballot that includes a competitive Republican Texas Senate seat as well as a Democratic battle to represent central Austin in the House. The full ballot is available on the county's website. The Texas League of Women Voters has details on the races and ballot initiatives online.

"I actually think we're going to have a very good turnout," said DeBeauvoir. "We may not hit our previous record breaker, which was the 2008 primary, but I think we're going to be very close. Our previous high turnout was close to 41 percent. I think this time around we're going to see about a 35 percent turnout overall. I think about 25 percent will turn out on the Democratic side, and I think about ten percent, maybe a little bit more is going to turn out on the Republican."

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at most locations, but budget considerations have forced some locations to truncate their hours. DeBeauvoir suggests checking the county website for hours. She's also tracking changes in campaign tactics that are causes additional confusion this cycle.

"Well we are seeing a lot of by-mail balloting," said DeBeauvoir. "Campaigns are sending out by-mail ballots especially to those that are over 65. If you get more than one application for a by-mail ballot, please pick the one that you want. Don't send in several applications because it gets confusing. So send in only one to the county clerk and you'll have until Feb. 19 to vote by mail if you're qualified. The last day to vote early is Feb. 26."

Of course more turnout is always better. Texas has a record 14.2 million registered voters, but fewer than a quarter are expected to participate.

"We don't have traditionally very big turnout, so it's just a few people that are determining the life for all the rest of us," said Lockwood. "It'd be nice if more people would get out and cast their vote."

Then at least no one can complain.

Go here for KVUE's primary election voter guide.


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