Harrison County has had an impressive voter turnout for the first week of early voting in the Nov. 3 General Election, with 20 percent of registered voters casting ballots.
“Wow… That’s a total of 9,255 check-ins,” Elections Administrator Donald Robinette reported Saturday, noting that was the turnout for four full days — Tuesday, Oct. 13, through Friday, Oct. 16.
To accommodate the heavy turnout, Robinette said he’s ordered additional paper ballots and is printing more to have available at the various early voting branch locations.
“My original plan was to have residents of Marshall to vote here in the main office, therefore (I) didn’t send but a few of Marshall ballots to the branch locations,” he explained. “I’m seeking to remedy that just as soon as possible.
“More city ballots will be going to branch locations,” he said. “Obvious now, we should have had more than one polling location within the city. However, we were running low on early voting equipment, which is part of the reason why there’s only the one location.
“We must still have enough equipment to do Election Day voting,” Robinette explained.
Nevertheless, he said voters can still cast their ballots on electronic machines.
“Even though it is old technology, it does give the voter a summary of their selections before actually casting their ballot, and it also allows you to go back and change anything you want to,” he said. “It’s just that rotating a wheel to make selections is hard to get used to after nearly everyone is used to touch screens.
Touch screen voting equipment is in the works, he said, but the county just couldn’t make it happen in time for this election.
Robinette said when voters have issues he typically likes to personally address it with them, but unfortunately can’t be available all the time. Although he’s not able to personally address all issues, he said poll workers are able to assist where needed.
“Practically every poll worker has had training and should know how to appropriately handle any problems,” he said. “We try to be sure that everyone is given the same instructions and training, but can’t be at every location to monitor what is going on.
“Yet we cannot have elections without all the people who are willing to work,” he said.
He expressed his appreciation to all the poll workers, who are working diligently to ensure a successful election.
“It does take a lot of commitment to do this important though temporary work,” said Robinette. “It is not for the faint-hearted nor the easily angered person.”
Attempting to address all concerns regarding the election, Robinette noted that the process has been a busy journey this cycle. He explained the need for several ballots to accommodate the various local, federal, state and school elections that are going on simultaneously.
“It seemed appropriate to add all the local elections onto the federal and state ballots, that way everyone in the county could receive a single ballot,” he said. “For most people, that would entail a simple one-page front and back ballot. For most of these ballots, the only difference from one to the other would be the county precinct number, which is from 1 to 26. The only other difference would be any local races where a voter resides.
“After spending many, many hours studying the voters lists from all 26 county precincts and also the voter registration lists for each ISD and each city, it was clear that there were many variations that needed to be considered,” said Robinette. “That is five schools and three cities, with the city of Marshall having a very complex ballot, due the number of possible splits.”
He said his office strived to give every voter the opportunity to vote on everything they qualify to vote for, considering their residency voter registration, but not allow anyone who was not in those same jurisdictions to vote on anything they were not eligible to vote for.
“It was a very long tedious process to figure out,” said Robinette. “Then once the local races were added to the national and state and county races, there was also the need to figure exactly which county precinct each voter resides in. Due to the fact that the national election will require precinct by precinct reports, it was necessary to number every ballot with a title number that matches the county precinct where they live — also a lengthy endeavor.”
To simplify the process at the polls, he urges voters to look at their voter registration cards for their precinct number.
“It is still confusing to people, because no one hardly ever pays attention to their voter’s card. It will tell you which ballot you need, as will our poll books,” said Robinette.
ABSENTEE BALLOTS BY MAIL
Robinette said another big issue they’ve been tackling is absentee ballots by mail.
“People do have the right to vote by mail,” he said. “Currently the reasons are over age 65, disabled, or being out of the county the entire voting period, or in jail but with the right to vote.”
The elections administrator said while he’s not on social media nor does he pay attention to complaints in the news, he wants to encourage voters to have faith in the election process.
“Since I’m not into the social media or even the news media, I don’t hear nor see all the ‘noise’ that may be going on in the public arena. I have to keep my nose to grind to get things done,” said Robinette. “That said, whatever is going on, people seem to be acting out of fear, instead of having faith.”
The elections administrator said his office has had an overwhelming amount of new registrations that has taken quite a while to process. The overwhelming requests for applications by mail have also taken many man hours to fulfill, he said. The Texas Supreme Court’s decision to order the restoration of Green Party candidates to the ballot just days before the mailing deadline for overseas and military ballots also caused a delay in delivery, he noted.
Nevertheless, all the annual ballot-by-mail requests by the county’s registered senior citizens were finally fulfilled on Wednesday, he noted. As of Thursday, they were still working, however, on approximately 200 new requests that were expected to be all mailed Thursday.
“But new applications can still be received through Friday, Oct. 23,” Robinette informed.
EARLY VOTING SCHEDULE
Early voting continues today through Oct. 30, with a weekend option as well at the main elections office.
The seven early voting polling places for Harrison County are: Waskom sub-courthouse, 165 W. Texas Ave.; Harleton Community Center, 4335 Community St.; Hallsville’s Gold Hall Community Center, 101 E. Elm St.; ESD No. 9 in Elysian Fields, 130 Farm-to-Market Road 451; Woodland Hills Baptist Church, 2105 E. Loop 281; Karnack’s T.J. Taylor Community Center, 15642 Farm-to-Market Road 134; and the Harrison County Main Elections Office at 415 E. Burleson St. in Marshall.
Early voting will take place at all of the early voting sites from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. now to Oct. 16, Oct. 19-Oct. 22 and Oct. 26-Oct. 29. Extended early voting hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, which are both on a Friday. The weekend option at the elections office, only, will be Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 25, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.