Central Texas residents will head to the polls today, casting votes for offices ranging from city council and county commissioner to president of the United States.
Early voting ended Friday, with Bell County voters casting 52,536 ballots, the second-highest total in history. Yet it was more than 10,000 ballots shy of 2008’s record total of 63,748 early votes.
That election drew more than 90,700 of the county’s 162,200 registered voters — a nearly 56 percent turnout.
While this year’s balloting has not kept pace with the 2008 figures, Bell County Clerk Shelly Coston said she is expecting a high-turnout election and is preparing accordingly.
Voters across Central Texas will decide several important contests at the ballot box — beyond the race for the White House between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Drawing statewide interest is the contest to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Vying for the office are Republican Ted Cruz, a former state solicitor general, and former Democratic state Rep. Paul Sadler.
Other statewide races on area ballots include a race for railroad commissioner, contests for three seats on the Texas Supreme Court and races for Places 7 and 8 on the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Central Texas voters also will elect four justices for the 3rd Court of Appeals.
In addition, area residents will choose between Republican Tom Maynard of Florence and Democrat Judy Jennings of Austin for the District 10 seat on the State Board of Education.
In Bell County, voters will select the county’s first new sheriff since 1984, because Sheriff Dan Smith is retiring after 28 years in the job. Seeking the office are Republican Eddy Lange and Democrat Frank Hernandez Sr.
Voters who live in Bell County Precinct 1 will decide the race for commissioner between incumbent Richard Cortese, a Republican from Little River-Academy, and Democratic challenger Irene Andrews of Nolanville.
Bell County ballots also feature a four-way race for a seat on the Clearwater Underground Water District board of directors.
In Killeen, voters will choose between two hometown residents for the District 54 state representative’s seat. Three-term incumbent Jimmie Don Aycock, a Republican, is being challenged by Democratic nominee Claudia Brown, a former Killeen city councilwoman. District 54 represents Lampasas County and much of south and western Bell County.
Far-western Bell County residents, along with voters in Coryell and Lampasas counties, will help select a U.S. representative for the newly drawn District 25. Republican Roger Williams, Democrat Elaine Henderson and Libertarian Betsy Dewey are vying for the seat.
Other area voters will choose a congressman for District 31. Incumbent Republican John Carter of Round Rock is being challenged by Democrat Stephen M. Wyman of Georgetown and Ethan Garofolo, a Libertarian from Round Rock.
Local races also are on the ballot in some Central Texas communities.
Both Nolanville and Copperas Cove will conduct city council elections, and Copperas Cove Independent School District residents will select a school board trustee. In addition, Copperas Cove voters will decide the fate of 18 proposed amendments to the city charter as well as a bond issue for a new fire station.
In Gatesville, voters will decide the fate of a referendum to allow alcohol sales, as well as elect two members to the City Council.
Florence school district voters will face a tax ratification election to support a tax swap. The tax swap would not change the district’s tax rate but would generate more state revenue.