By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
With the polarizing nature of the District 55 state representative's race grabbing the attention of voters throughout the county, this could be an unwelcome reminder to many readers: only those who voted in the Republican primary on March 4, or those who didn't vote at all, may cast a ballot for Martha Tyroch or Ralph Sheffield during early voting this week.
Also, most of Killeen is not eligible to vote in the race, as it is located predominantly in District 54, represented by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock.
Bell County Election Clerk Jana Henderson said Monday that 450 votes were cast during the first day of early voting which runs all week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. That's a big number in a runoff, she said, which historically drops anywhere from 25 to 50 percent in comparison with the primary vote.
Tyroch held the advantage after the end of primary voting March 4, living up to her billing as the recognized frontrunner in the race. She received 5,136 votes, or 36.1 percent, to Sheffield's 4,420 votes, or 31.1 percent.
Challengers Mike Pearce of Harker Heights and John Alaniz of Temple trailed in the balloting with 2,899 votes (20.4 percent) and 1,758 votes (12.37 percent), respectively. Not long after the election, Pearce and Alaniz both endorsed Sheffield.
Pearce said he believed Sheffield to be the better candidate because of shared philosophies, noting that he believed Tyroch to be more adversarial. Alaniz said he endorsed Sheffield because his views on lowering property taxes were more closely aligned.
The Democratic primary runoff has only one race on its ballot as well, that of railroad commissioner.
Based on a directive from the secretary of state, the county has whittled its polling locations down for the runoff to include 19 spots in Bell County for the election April 8.
For the early voting this week, voters have four locations to vote, compared to six before. Those spots in District 55 include the Temple Annex, the Belton Annex and Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Center. In Killeen, visit the Bell County Annex on Priest Drive.
"On election day, we've consolidated it down to 19 polling locations as opposed to 49, and the state rep race applies to only 34 precincts, 15 of which will be in District 55," Henderson said Monday.
"Most people are going strictly to vote for the state rep. We've had a few people complain about that since they didn't realize you have to vote in the same way. It's just because in the primary, the law is that you have to choose a party.
"If you choose to vote Democrat, you have to stick with the party. The voter has to take a portion of the responsibility."
Henderson said the Republican Party prepared well so that there is little chance of running out of ballots, as officials ordered the same amount they did for the election March 4.
Bell County Republican Party Chair Nancy Boston, who put those numbers together, said she expects a lot of voting this week because so many people want a piece of the action.
"Generally there is a great fall from 25 to 50 percent, but this is an unusual election because there has been so much interest," Boston said Monday. "There is just one election on the ballot. I expect a fall-off. We provided a sufficient number I believe, and we can adjust our number if we need to. We were looking at a pretty good turnout. We have 15 locations for District 55. That further complicates it for the voters. I would encourage people to vote early this week."
Boston said she doesn't think the negative campaigning will have an adverse effect on the voting totals, but did add that a voter has to feel strongly for a candidate to vote for them in a runoff.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568