Central Texas voters will have to do a juggling act to keep their elections straight over the next two weeks.
The filing period just ended Friday for candidates seeking office on area city councils and school boards in the May 2 election. Meanwhile, early voting starts this week in the upcoming primary elections for county, state and national offices.
With all the political ads and yard signs, it may be hard to keep the players — and their respective elections — sorted out.
Polling places across the area open Tuesday for the March 3 election for races ranging from county constable to president.
Residents will find plenty of competition for offices in both major party primaries.
For example, the race for Bell County constable, Place 4, will feature three candidates in the Democratic primary and two on the Republican side. The race is wide open, as seven-term incumbent Edd Melton is not seeking reelection.
Vying for the Precinct 4, Place 1 justice of the peace seat in Bell County are two Democratic candidates and three Republican hopefuls.
The Republican primary also features a two-person race for the Bell County sheriff’s post and a three-way race for 426th District Court judge, a seat currently held by retiring Judge Fancy Jezek.
In Coryell County, the ballot is just as crowded at the county level — at least on the Republican side.
Six candidates are seeking the GOP nomination for the Precinct 3 commissioner’s seat, and two candidates are on the ballot in both the Precinct 2 and Precinct 3 constable races.
However, voters really have a large selection when it comes to national offices.
Longtime Congressman John Carter has drawn eight challengers for his District 31 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Three other candidates are running in the Republican primary, and five candidates are vying for the Democratic Party nomination.
District 25 Congressman Roger Williams will face a Republican challenger in the March primary, and two Democrats are vying for the right to face the winner in November.
The race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican John Cornyn has drawn an even more crowded field. Twelve candidates will square off in the Democratic primary, with a runoff election more than likely. On the Republican side, Cornyn is facing a primary challenge from four other candidates, though Cornyn is expected to advance without a runoff.
Of course, the presidential primary may be drawing the most interest — especially since Texas is one of 14 states voting on Super Tuesday, when more than 60 percent of the parties’ national convention delegates will be chosen.
Seventeen candidates for president will be listed on the Democratic Party ballot, though seven of those have dropped out of the race since the ballot was finalized.
On the Republican Party ballot, six candidates are listed as challengers to President Donald Trump.
With so many contested races and this being a presidential election year, the level of voter participation should be high — and Central Texans should make plans to cast their ballots during the two weeks of early voting or on March 3.
And voting has never been easier for Bell County residents.
Starting with this election, all voting will be on electronic touch-screen machines that print out a completed paper ballot when the user is finished voting.
Because the new machines create ballots specific to voters’ individual precincts, each polling place is able to accept registered voters from anywhere in the county.
That means that Bell County residents can vote at any county polling site, both during early voting and on election day. Hopefully, the new system will result in less confusion, shorter lines and higher turnout.
The Herald is doing its part to inform voters ahead of the primary election.
Inside today’s paper is an eight-page election guide, featuring articles on county races and state races of local interest, as well as side-by-side Q&A’s with the candidates in selected races. In addition, the section will offer a list of early voting times and locations.
But voting in the March 3 primary is just the first step in this year’s political process.
The fields are now set for local municipal and school board elections, which take place May 2.
In the next few weeks, the Herald will be covering those campaigns and asking candidates where they stand on matters of community interest.
The Herald also will be sponsoring two political forums next month to help acquaint local voters with the candidates who are seeking their votes in the May 2 election.
On March 9, the Herald will host the candidates running for three at-large seats on the Killeen City Council.
The March 16 forum will feature candidates running for two seats on the Killeen Independent School District board of trustees.
This is an excellent opportunity for residents to hear where the candidates stand on issues affecting them and their community.
For those who feel as if their voices haven’t been heard — whether at the local, state or national level — these upcoming elections offer a chance to change that dynamic.
Rather than being turned off by the political rhetoric surrounding the various campaigns, this is the time to tune in to what is being said and make informed decisions at the polls.
Certainly, there are a lot of races to keep track of, and there is a lot of information to process. But the Herald will help to sort things out, providing political coverage in print and online at kdhews/centerforpolitics, as well as via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Taking part in the electoral process is crucial to making our democracy work — at every level.
Take the time to understand the issues and learn about the people seeking your votes.
Then exercise your right to vote. You’ll be glad you did.