By Olga Pena
Killeen Daily Herald
It's a busy time at the Bell County election office in Belton.
With service members sending in loads of absentee ballot applications daily, Election Clerk Jana Henderson is anticipating a very big general election.
"We're really planning on an even larger turnout than in the primary," Henderson said.
The Nov. 4 general election will not only determine the next president of the United States, but also will feature a very high-profile local state House race.
The District 55 seat is just one of 150 in the Texas Legislature, but it's drawing a lot of attention following a primary with very high voter turnout.
The race features Republican Ralph Sheffield and Democrat Sam Murphey fighting to fill the seat long held by Dianne White Delisi.
"The primary was good. Unfortunately, we ran low on ballots," Henderson said.
Voter participation hit a recent high for both Republican and Democratic primary races.
In the 2000 presidential primary election, 3,726 of 128,578 total registered voters (2.9 percent) cast ballots in the Democratic primary.
In the 2004 presidential primary election, 3,229 of 139,475 total registered voters (2.3 percent) cast ballots on the Democratic side.
This year, 23,301 of 146,690 total registered voters (15.9 percent) cast ballots in the Democratic primary.
Likewise, voter participation in the Republican primary election spiked. In 2000, 16,187 voters (12.6 percent) cast ballots in the Republican presidential primary.
In 2004, 8,314 voters (6 percent) cast ballots in the GOP primary.
And this year, 17,800 residents (12.1 percent) voted in the primary.
Henderson said historically more people vote in the general election, though it's hard to determine how many more may show up following such a big primary.
"We're really going to prepare ourselves for a quantity of ballots," Henderson said.
Currently, the election office is receiving 25 to 50 military absentee ballot applications daily, Henderson said, and she's expecting to start receiving many civilian absentee voting applications soon, since the day to begin filing those was Friday.
Henderson said election officials are waiting for official certification for ballots from the secretary of state and expect to mail out ballots in late September or early October.
With such a historic presidential election and heated local races, Henderson and the election workers are bracing themselves for high voter turnout and do not fear running out of ballots like in the primaries.
"What happened was to our benefit – at least now we're prepared," Henderson said.
Besides being prepared for large numbers, Henderson is adamant about reminding voters to be proactive in getting to the polls early.
"The last day to register to vote is Oct. 6, little less than a month away. Do not wait to the last minute," Henderson said.
Henderson also hopes to get more people out to early voting.
"The lines are so long on Election Day. It will benefit everybody (to vote early)," she said.
Early voting runs Oct. 20-31 and includes weekends.
Contact Olga Pe?a at email@example.com or (254) 501-7555.