Everyone is talking about the upcoming election.
You can’t open a newspaper, turn on the TV or get on Facebook without being exposed to it.
Anticipation for the midterm election is keen and the stakes are high, with both major parties focused on flipping seats in the U.S. House and Senate.
It’s also election day for many state and local officials, with seats in the Legislature, the governorship and several county races on the line.
Needless to say, Nov. 6 is circled on calendars across Texas, as well as across the nation.
But there’s another date that is every bit as important — and it’s coming up this week.
Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election — and that’s a hard and fast date.
That means area residents have just two days to get registered if they want to take part in the upcoming election.
It’s not a difficult process. It’s just a matter of filling out a simple form at certain governmental offices — such as driver’s license offices, courthouse annexes and post offices. However, be aware that Monday is a federal holiday.
Forms can also be downloaded from the Texas Secretary of State’s website, voteTexas.gov. They must be mailed and postmarked by midnight Oct. 9.
But on Tuesday — the deadline to sign up — registering to vote can be as easy as having a cup of coffee.
That’s because Starbucks is teaming with the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature for Voter-Palooza, a 12-hour blitz to register new voters.
Just remember the number 9.
From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Oct. 9, outside all nine Starbucks locations in Bell County, volunteer deputy registrars will be available to sign up residents and add them to the voter rolls.
Anyone who is at least 18 years old or will be 18 by Nov. 6 is eligible to register. People can also register their spouses, any eligible children and parents.
And with all the important issues facing our nation and its elected leaders, voting should be something residents of all ages are anticipating.
Indeed, registering to vote should be viewed as not just a right but a responsibility. Voter registration should have the same level of cache as obtaining a driver’s license.
However, it’s unfortunate that registering and voting aren’t always high on the list of priorities.
At the recent Senior Expo at the Bell County Expo Center, voter registrars were on hand to help sign up seniors for the upcoming election. One registrar recounted the story of a couple, both in their 60s, who admitted they had never voted in their lives. They wanted to register, they said, because they were concerned about the events in Washington and wanted to change things for their grandkids.
While it is laudable that the couple wanted to get involved in the democratic process, it is hard to conceive that they had gotten to this point in their lives without ever casting a ballot. It means that they have skipped at least 11 presidential elections, 22 congressional elections and countless city and school board races. Did they never once want to have a say in the outcome?
Fortunately, the voter registration trend has been positive in Bell County. Since the last midterm election in 2014, more than 25,400 people have been added to the county’s voter rolls.
As of Friday afternoon, the county had 194,177 registered voters, a new record for the county and a 15 percent jump from this point four years ago.
Granted, part of the increase in registered voters is attributable to population growth in the county, but county Elections Administrator Melinda Luedecke says growing interest in the Nov. 6 election is also a factor.
The growth in voter rolls is also reflected statewide.
More than 15.6 million people are registered to vote — up from about 14 million last midterm election.
Part of the increase likely can be attributed to Texas’ steady growth, but a hot political race doesn’t hurt — the spirited U.S. Senate campaign between incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso.
Area residents are encouraged to join the party, which is about to begin.
Early voting begins in just over two weeks. Starting Oct. 22 and continuing through Nov. 2, voters will be able to vote at any of six county locations. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. the first week and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. the second.
Weekend hours also will be offered, including Sunday afternoon.
In an effort to provide the information voters need to make informed decisions at the polls, the Herald will provide an election guide to preview the races of interest to Killeen-area residents.
The guide will publish Oct. 21 — the day before early voting begins.
But before you can vote, you must make sure you’re registered.
It’s not just about first-time voters, either.
Residents must register if they have had a change of address since their last registration, name changes due to a change in marital status, or if one has not voted in the last two elections.
If you haven’t registered to vote yet, please take the time to do so.
Whether you drop by the DPS office, stop by Starbucks on Tuesday or go online, it’s essential to get the process started.
Your vote is your voice.
Make yourself heard this fall.