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October 24, 2004

Texas Votes: Breaking Records Across the State

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Much has been said of the the stunning early vote number pouring in across Travis County. This has been seen across the state's largest counties as reported by the Secretary of State's office. Though the latest numbers won't be up until Monday, it is very likely at this point that over 1,000,000 Texans have cast their ballots, over 10% of Registered voters.

So is it happening just in the urban core of Texas? A little research from the Texas Newspapers list shows that is most certainly NOT the case.

Something is different this year. Turnout is up across the state from the biggest cities to the smallest towns. There is something fundamentally different about the electorate. (I've overheard that here in Travis County, 17% of those who have already cast ballots have never cast one here in Travis County before: think students and inactive long time registered voters.)

First, from my Hometown of Fredericksburg in Gillespie County...

An unprecedented turnout marked the first two days of early voting here this week for the Nov. 1 general election as well as for City of Fredericksburg and County of Gillespie special property tax freeze balloting.

At the county courthouse both Monday and Tuesday, lines of voters spilled out of the county commission courtroom where early in-person voting was in progress and streamed through the adjoining hallway and even at times extending out through the building's front door. (picture)

"It's been really astonishing," said County Clerk Mary Lynn Rusche who is overseeing balloting for both the general election and the county property tax freeze election.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday when early voting ended for the day, a total of 1,304 ballots had been cast Monday (666 ballots) and Tuesday (638 ballots). (County Population ~20,000)

"We've been busy since early voting started here at 8 a.m. Monday," she said. "I could tell by the high number of mail ballot requests that we had received here through last week that early in-person voting was going to be heavy, but this is far beyond what I imagined. It's really great!"

She added that many of the voters there so far this week are new voters who in the past had not voted early...

Mrs. Rusche said this week's voting is far beyond anything she has seen since 1979 when she began working in the county clerk's office as a deputy clerk and especially since no-reason early voting was allowed around 20 years ago.

More below the fold...

From Kerr County: The first day of early voting for the 2004 General Election was described as “heavy,” with 1,451 Kerr County citizens marking their ballots before the polls closed at 5 p.m. Monday, according to the county clerk’s chief deputy, Nadine Alford.

Voters lined up “out the door” throughout the day, waiting for a turn to cast their votes, she said.

With long lines that began at 8 a.m. Monday, poll workers had little time to break during the day, even for lunch, said Kerr County Clerk Jannett Pieper. Both the county clerk’s office and the voter registrar’s office reported busy phones and steady streams of traffic throughout their offices all day.

Also in Kerrville..In the last two weeks, 1,148 Kerr County citizens registered to vote or updated addresses, Rector said.

Impressive for a County with about 40,000 people. And by Wednesday, over 4000 had voted in Kerr County.

From Longview News-Journal:

Upshur County: "We've had a tremendous turnout," Upshur County's assistant elections clerk Glenda Cox said late Monday afternoon. "We've had 419," Cox said. "We've never had a first day like this; it's really been good today. It's really unusual for Upshur County to vote this much on the first day."

Rusk County: In Rusk County, where voters are deciding on a new sheriff and choosing a district attorney, first-day balloting was "very, very heavy," said Diana McKey, elections clerk. "We had 656 votes by 3:30," she said. "We've never had that many on a first day."

Gregg County: "The line has been from the voting table out to the door all day long," said Kathryn Nealy, Gregg County deputy voter clerk. "The election has been highly publicized and people are interested in this election."

Also, she said, her office has received three or four calls coming in at the same time all day Monday. "We've had calls all day long," she said. "The majority of the calls have been 'where do we go vote?'”

From Brazoria County: On Monday, 3,288 people cast ballots, by far the highest opening day total in the county since early voting by appearance began in 1992. In 2000, 2,950 people voted on the first day....

Brazoria County Clerk Joyce Hudman was almost giddy Tuesday talking about the turnout. She said north-end voters are coming out in the greatest numbers, creating the need for more voter sign-in sheets than usual. “In Manvel, they vote one sheet, maybe,” she said. “They voted six sheets (Monday).”

Hudman said early voting usually doesn’t peak until the second week. “I think it will pick up next week,” she said.

Hudman said she’s also getting a lot of phone calls from people asking about limited ballots.

People are so motivated they are asking to vote even with limited ballots. Here in Travis County, the clerks office has told a tale about in past years, those that call asking where they need to vote if they forgot to change their registration to Austin gave up after learning they had to vote back home. This cycle, they are saying "OK" and heading out across Texas to go vote.

From Anderson County: "Lines were long during the opening day of early voting at the Anderson County Courthouse, with more than 650 people casting ballots in next month's general election...

Brown said she believed Monday's turnout was a record for the first day of voting in Anderson County.

From Lamar County: "Marlowe said she expects a record turnout both at the early voting box and in the election in general.

“We’ve had 1,246 ballots cast in the first three days,” Marlowe said, explaining that 420 voters cast ballots on Monday; 475 Tuesday and 351 Wednesday."

From Erath County: Early voting for the Nov. 2 general election is off to a strong start according to Erath County Clerk Gwinda Jones.

“People are standing in line to vote today,” Jones said on the first day of early voting. “We expect it to be pretty heavy today.” In fact, as of late Monday afternoon, nearly 500 voters had cast their ballots early at the courthouse.

In Comal County: Comal County elections worker Cynthia Jaqua said 7,731 had cast ballots in the county elections as of Friday afternoon. Jaqua said 4,739 ballots were cast in the first week of early voting in the presidential election four years ago.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at October 24, 2004 08:58 PM | TrackBack


From Nolan County (pop ~15,000):

Nolan County (Sweetwater pop ~12,000), is a Democratic leaning county in the sea of Panhandle red. Redistricting cut Sweetwater from Stenholm's district, but not the rest of the county. MANY Republicans in this area are still fuming about redistricting (inability to vote for Stenholm and save the farm). A total of 913 people voted during the first week and many more are expected this coming week.

County Clerk Pat McGowan said that during the last Presidential election, a total of 1,000 people turned out early. She added that during the past regular elections, the county tallied 5,000 total ballots.

"We are anticipating a better outcome than the last Presidential elections," McGowan said. She also said that she has not heard any confusion regarding redistricting, but noted that there have been complaints from early voters about the matter.

Posted by: David Hall at October 24, 2004 09:26 PM

I voted in Dripping Springs on Saturday. We arrived at the polling location about an hour after it opened and found the wait at about an hour and a half. We decided to come back later in the day, hoping the crowds would have died down but I still ended up waiting in line over an hour. I can't recall ever seeing this kind of turnout anywhere. I won't speculate as to what the party makeup of the voters was, but I would not be surprised to see record voter turnout this year.

Posted by: SMurph at October 25, 2004 10:34 AM


We have been hearing about voting issues with the electronic machines. Complaints have come in from Houston, Austin and San Antonio that when "straight ticket" Democrat is selected, the machines are automatically substituting Bush/Cheney in the Pres/Vice Pres choices.

We encourage everyone using the electronic machines to proof-read their choices carefully and ask the clerks to fix any erroneous selections prior to resetting the machine for the next voter.

For Anyone of any Party having voting problems, please note that there are many places to report your problems. We need to collect this information to improve the security and validity of our voting process in Texas. Information that you need to provide is as follows:
Your name:
Your contact information:
Location where problems occurred:
Time of day:
What kind of equipment was it? (get the make, model and manufacturer as well as when it was purchased)
Persons who may have seen or assisted you: (i.e. witnesses or involved parties)
What happened?
What were you doing when the problem occurred?
Was there an error message from the machine?
If there was an error message, what was it?
What did you do to try to remedy the problem?
Were you sent to several people?
What were their names and functions?
What did they do?
What did they say?
Was the problem resolved?
Did you feel that your vote was correctly recorded?
Did you get a transaction number or anything that would denote which of the voting records is yours (this is for checking the outcome from the data dump)
Did they let you vote again?
Did this happen to anyone else?
You can place your report by emailing me at: benet_gesserit@yahoo.com and I will enter it in the EIS.com site for you (for those who don't have Internet access). You can also contact:

1-800-OUR-VOTE and report the problem

Visit Electionwatch or Votewatch on the Internet and leave messages.

Report the incident in writing (keep a copy for yourself) to your local voter registrar, tax agency or other government agency responsible for voting in your area.

Report the incident to your local political party

If you feel that there is a pattern based upon race, gender, country of origin or other indicators of bias, contact MALDEF (Mexican American Defense League), the OUR VOTE number listed above, the ACLU, the NAACP or the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

Should you decide to contact any of the groups listed, it is best to contact them in writing with all the information indicated in the questionnaire included in this post. Always keep copies of the letters with the dates that you mailed them. This will help you to follow the progress of your complaint.

If you have questions, you can reach me at the email provided above.

Gina de Miranda

Posted by: Gina de Miranda at October 25, 2004 11:13 AM
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