By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Let them come, says the Bell County Clerk's election staff. They are ready.
Despite the staggering voter turnout expected today countywide, the election staff said what happened in the March Primary will not happen again.
Early voting totals will be released at 7 p.m. on monitors at the Bell County Expo Center in full view of the candidates. That could be it for some candidates, as a record 61,713 of the 161,000 and they will not be caught off guard by ballot shortages, which caused extensive backup issues in March when lines stretched beyond the front door for more than hour.
Bell County Clerk Shelley Coston said Monday that it's going to run smoothly, and they have prepared for every contingency.
"I have 25 staff members including myself, who will show up at 6:30 at the Expo Center in anticipation of the 7 o'clock returns," Coston said.
First things to go out Monday morning were the voting machines, which were delivered in six county vehicles to each of the 49 polling locations.
It's good to note your polling location, as Commissioner John Fisher said Monday at the Bell County Commissioners' Court. Polling location is the most common question the clerk's office will receive today, if tradition holds. There will be a full staff of workers who will be able to look up the precinct location for an individual based on their name.
And what about possible voter fraud? Check.
For every vote cast in Bell County during the past two weeks, Coston said the staff verifies that name with an online database, which serves as a backup, so that someone can't vote early and do the same on election day.
As of Monday evening, the early voter ballots were being tabulated by the computer at the Expo Center. There's no chance of tampering, said Coston, who holds the only keys for the machine.
While that will certainly be running well into tonight, registered voters should remember that if you get to the polls before they close, you are guaranteed a ballot. An elections officer sits at the end of the line when the poll officially closes, but no one is turned away until after 7.
One quirk in the election this year deals with the 580 provisional ballots in Bell County, and 200 or so on Fort Hood and Coryell County.
Election Clerk Jana Henderson said Monday that the 580 ballots are provisional for soldiers on Fort Hood who didn't file the correct paperwork.
"A officer at Fort Hood was getting people registered to vote, but gave them the wrong voting application," Henderson said. "The secretary of state is allowing these people to vote provisionally, but their votes won't be counted (in tonight's numbers)."
Tax Assessor-Collector Sharon Long did allow exceptions to these men and women to get registered, but there is a 48-hour window until their registration becomes valid and their vote can count.
But it will count – just not right away.
Henderson said it will not likely make the difference in the final outcome of any of the races, but will be reflected in the official numbers, which won't be presented to Commissioners' Court until the middle of the month.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568.