By Sonya Campbell
Killeen Daily Herald
Callers to the Bell County Clerk's Office have voiced several concerns since early voting began Monday.
One of the calls came from the Texas secretary of state's office Thursday morning to notify local election officials that an unidentified group was reportedly handing out ballot-by-mail applications indiscriminately, Bell County Clerk Shelley Coston said.
The problem is that anyone submitting such an application must have a valid, documented disability. Voters who have children with disabilities and find it difficult to get to a polling site also are eligible, she said.
"The secretary of state's office takes that very seriously," Coston said. "If they determine an application is not valid, they will pursue the matter."
She said election officials do not want miscellaneous groups trying to garner new voters with the ballot-by-mail option.
If the group is local, Coston said her role is to advise members they are following incorrect procedures.
Callers wanting to vote on various city and/or school issues have said they were given ballots without the related propositions on them, such as the one involving the Harker Heights liquor option.
"We have 78 different ballot styles in the county for this election because several cities and schools with different issues joined our (general) election," Coston said.
Some people are registered in their precincts within the city limits of Harker Heights, while others are outside. She said those inside the city limits can vote on the liquor issue while those outside that area are ineligible to vote on that issue.
Election workers underwent training last week about the various ballot styles and were instructed to "pay close attention" to ensure voters get the right ballot.
Voters can help avoid problems by reading over their ballot before dropping them in the ballot box to ensure they have the correct one. Once they are deposited in the ballot box, it's too late, Coston said.
Voters who mark their ballots and realize they have the wrong one can go to an election worker, point out the problem and receive the applicable ballot, the county clerk said.
Coston said a change in state law is the root of the problems. She said the Texas Legislature changed the law in 2008 and allowed cities and schools to conduct their elections in conjunction with the general election. Coston believes that is the reason for the confusion.
Coston said the entity that orders the election - a school district or a city - is responsible for the wording on the ballots.
Precinct 404 in Killeen
Calls also have been received about road construction near Precinct 404 in Killeen.
The polling site, located at Fire Station 7 on Watercrest Road, is difficult to get to, but it's not impossible, Coston said.
Voters can access that polling location by entering Watercrest off Willow Springs. The other end of the road, off Clear Creek, is impassible, she said.
County officials contacted the city and were assured the road will be open Election Day, Nov. 2.
Relocating the polling place would have been difficult, Coston said.
Contact Sonya Campbell at email@example.com or (254) 501-7557.