Early voting for the March 3 Republican and Democratic primaries appears to be on an equal pace as the last presidential election in 2016. As of noon, Tuesday, Feb. 25, the number of early voters was 3,400, and Elections Administrator Klint Bush expects that by the end of early voting on Friday, roughly 6,500 Liberty County residents will cast ballots.
Another 9,000 to 10,000 county residents are estimated to vote on Election Day, March 3, based on the turnout of prior years, and Bush believes those numbers, while much higher than mid-term elections, are still dismally low.
With only 15,000 of the 45,000 registered voters in Liberty County actually expected to cast a ballot in this election, the anticipated turnout equates to roughly 33.5 percent, much lower than the national average for a presidential election year of 55 percent. Bush hopes that some of the measures in the works for Liberty County in the future will address voter apathy.
“I want Liberty County to move to voting centers. Regardless of a precinct a person lives in, they will be able to vote at any voting center depending on what is convenient for them,” he said. “For example, I may live in Hardin but I will be able to vote at a voting center in Cleveland.”
According to Bush, the majority of Texas voters have already switched from precinct polling locations to voting centers.
“Seventy percent of registered Texans vote in voting centers,” he said. “Liberty County has come to a crossroads in many areas recently, some due to the growth and the logistics created by the growth, and the creation of the Liberty County Elections Office.”
Bush was appointed as elections administrator for the newly-created Liberty County Elections Office in January. Since then, he and his staff of Doc Sykes and Melanie Croker, as well as the precinct judges and party chairs, have been working through other issues that have arisen this election season. Last week, his office was called to resolve a sign war that erupted between two county commissioner candidates.
“One of the candidates didn’t think it was fair that the other candidate had a bigger sign, so we had to work through that. Then there was a problem when one of our cities wanted to limit the number of signs,” Bush said. “I think we got it all worked out for this election. I think after this election all the stakeholders are going to get together and figure out how we can appropriate signage that still protects the First Amendment.”
Bush said the “sign war” was the first he had seen in 15 years and it was a good test for his office.
“On our website it says, ‘How may we serve you?’ I think that says it all. I don’t like teachers who don’t like kids, and I don’t like public servants who don’t like the public. We, in this office, work for the public, and our job is to make sure we have good, free elections with integrity,” he said.
Early voting will end at 7 p.m. Friday at all four locations: the Jack Hartel Building in Liberty, the Dayton Community Center, Cleveland Civic Center and Hardin City Hall.
On Election Day, polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Here is a list of all Election Day locations: