By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
Today is the final day Central Texas residents can vote early in Saturday's municipal and school board elections.
With 26 candidates on the ballot and five city council seats and the mayor's race at stake, Killeen may exceed recent years' early voting totals. As of Friday, 1,400 people had cast ballots.
The early-voting period began April 30.
Early-voting totals in Killeen have created an exciting atmosphere for the city, said Hilary Shine, a spokeswoman for the municipality.
"The more voter involvement, the more educated the city populace becomes on city government," said Shine. "This is exciting to us as a city staff to have so many people excited about city government."
Killeen officials will know by the end of today if the city had a larger early turnout than in previous years. The number already has surpassed its 2010 year early-voting totals of 1,273 residents, but in 2008, more than 1,600 people cast ballots before election day.
Other area cities are experiencing a normal-to-high voter turnout for their contested city council and school board positions.
Lampasas Interim City Manager Stacy Brack said, "I would say that (early-voting turnout) is just slightly higher than normal; normally we run a hundred or so." She said the number is especially good because the total is generally higher when there is a bond election, which the city is not having this year.
Harker Heights is having an average year for early-voting turnout, said Patty Brunson, Harker Heights assistant city manager. She noted there is only one contested seat in Harker Heights, but more than 100 votes have been cast.
Residents in Harker Heights and Killeen also can cast ballots at their respective city's polling locations for the Killeen Independent School District election, which also has one contested position.
All the city officials wanted to remind residents that there was one more day to vote early.
"I think the advantage to early voting compared to election day is you don't know what is going to come up on election day," said Brunson. "It is a convenience to the voters to ensure their vote is cast."
Early voting allows flexibility to residents, said Dorothy Parsons, the Lampasas elections administrator who is running the Lampasas city elections. It helps people avoid lines and possible bad weather, and it provides a lot more hours for people to vote.
But if people can't get out and vote today, election day, May 12, is as good a time as any to cast a ballot, said Shine.
People should be interested in any election, and the candidates on the local level affect residents' everyday life, said Brunson. Residents should always voice their opinions and exercise their right to vote.
"Any increased involvement from the people in city government is a benefit to all of us," said Shine. "Whether a vote is cast early or on election day, it doesn't matter - as long as it is cast."
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474. Follow him on Twitter at KDHCoveEditor.
Killeen - 1,400 as of Friday
Harker Heights - 131 as of 5 p.m. Monday
Lampasas - 168 as of 1 p.m. Monday
Early-voting locations and times in your municipality and school board
Killeen and KISD
Killeen City Hall - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Killeen Independent School District offices - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Killeen Community Center - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Harker Heights and KISD
7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Harker Heights City Hall, 305 Miller's Crossing
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lampasas County Elections Office, 407 S. Pecan St.
9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Kempner City Hall, 12288 E. U.S. Highway 190