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The 2020 election will be the first time more than 100,000 Bell County residents vote.

The big question: How high will the county’s final turnout figure be? That will be revealed on Tuesday, which is Election Day.

Already 102,961 residents have voted — eclipsing the 94,551 ballots that were cast in the entire 2016 election. And that was just during early voting, which ran from Oct. 13 to Friday. This year’s turnout likely was boosted by Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to tack on an additional week of early voting.

This year’s early voting turnout is by far the highest in the county’s history, according to Texas Secretary of State data. The previous record was set four years ago when 66,820 residents voted early.

So far, 47.7% of the 215,974 registered voters in Bell County have cast a ballot. Percentage-wise, that is the highest early voting turnout in Bell County since the 2000 election when a Texan, then-Gov. George W. Bush, sought the White House against then-Vice President Al Gore.

The leaders of Bell County’s political parties were blown away by the early voting figures.

“It has been a joy to see so many people exercising their constitutional right to vote, in what is the most important election of our lives,” Bell County Democratic Party chairman Chris Rosenberg said.

Her Republican counterpart, Nancy Boston, said she expected this election would have a “tremendous turnout, unlike what we have ever seen before.” She was right.

The county is in uncharted territory this election. There is no way to truly tell how early voting will affect the outcome of the election.

It could mean Democrats are excited. It could also mean Republicans are highly motivated. Both are probably true.

Pamela Ann Cleveland, a member of Black Ladies Advancing Qualitative and Quantitative Change, a local group that registered more than 7,700 new voters, said she does not expect a blue Bell.

“As a county? I don’t see Bell County turning blue,” the Temple resident said. “I see the numbers moving towards Democrats. I don’t see it turning blue.”

But there is potential for local Democrats to pull off two victories on Tuesday. They want to flip Texas House District 54 and Texas’ 31st Congressional District.

In the state House race, state Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Salado, is hoping to earn a second term while Harker Heights Democrat KeKe Williams wants to deny him that chance. The winner will represent West Bell County and all of Lampasas County.

In the congressional race, Austin Democrat Donna Imam is challenging nine-term U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock. Williamson County, the other half of District 31, had 263,020 residents vote during early voting. That is a turnout of 69.8%.

One possible good sign for both Democrats is that counties with large black populations have seen “unprecedented turnout,” including Bell County, according to a new release from the state Democratic Party.

But don’t count out the Republicans.

The man leading state races for the GOP — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn — visited Bell County Saturday in an attempt to bolster his chances — as well as down-ballot Republicans — of winning on Tuesday. Cornyn’s opponent is a familiar face to Bell County voters: Air Force veteran and Democrat MJ Hegar, who challenged Carter in 2018.

“I think that voter turnout has been excellent … and I think that the Republicans have a lot of support here,” Boston said.

Other counties

Early voting numbers in Coryell and Lampasas counties shattered the totals from 2016.

Including mail-in ballots, Coryell County election officials reported 19,218 total ballots cast for early voting this year.

In 2016, the early voting total for Coryell County was 13,509.

The polling location in Copperas Cove had 796 voters Friday, and the polling location in Gatesville had 434 voters Friday.

Lampasas County only reported the number of in-person voters who had cast their votes.

In 2020, the county saw 7,687 in-person voters, more than the 5,260 who voted early in 2016.

There were a total of 497 voters in the county on Friday.

Herald writer Thaddeus Imerman contributed to this report.

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