Where are all the voters?

With two days left in the early-voting period for Saturday’s municipal election, just 542 voters had cast their ballots at Killeen’s three early-voting locations — City Hall, the Killeen Community Center and the Lions Park Community Center.

With three district races on the ballot, that averages out to just over 180 votes cast per district seat.

By comparison during the last district election in 2017, 1,837 voters cast ballots during the seven-day early voting period.

It seems pretty likely that this year’s number will fall far short of that, given that 128 voters was the highest single-day vote total during the current early-voting period.

Why does any of this matter, you ask?

For one thing, the number of registered voters in Killeen is about 74,000. That means the early voting turnout number for 2017 was just 2.5% of the city’s eligible voters. Unless the last two days of early voting draw extremely high numbers of voters, this year’s turnout number is likely to be less than half of the 2017 percentage — and that is unacceptable.

Residents in the three districts with district races should view this election as a chance to weigh in on the city’s future — at least for the next two years.

With Killeen dealing with a tenuous city budget and facing challenges in the areas of infrastructure repairs and public safety staffing levels, this election isn’t just about choosing a candidate. It could very well be about choosing a direction.

Issues such as citywide recycling, street maintenance fees, impact fees, water rates and the level of programs and services all may hinge on the makeup of the council for the coming two years.

Will the city raise taxes, incur more debt, embark on ambitious infrastructure projects or change its spending priorities?

Again, the answer to many of these questions depends on who takes office after the May 4 voting.

Residents should be aware that the decisions made at the local level have the potential to impact their lives to a far greater degree than do the laws coming out of the nation’s capital.

The same holds true for the Killeen Independent School District election, where voters are being asked to choose three board members.

As of Thursday evening, just 775 voters had cast ballots in the board election, compared to 1,975 for the same four-day period last year. To be fair, there was a $426 million construction bond issue on the ballot last year, so residents’ interest was understandably high.

But considering the size of the school district and the geographical area it encompasses, this year’s vote total is extremely low. This is especially true, when compared to 2017, when there was no bond issue before the voters. That year, 1,256 KISD voters cast ballots in the first four days of early voting — nearly 500 more than the current total.

The three board members elected will be asked to oversee how the school bond money is spent, as well as determine the best use of district residents’ tax money and federal funds.

Will teachers get a raise this year, and if so, how large will it be? What will the board do to address the chronic shortage of bus drivers? What new programs will be approved, and which administrators will be hired to guide them? How will the district work with other area governmental entities to ensure the road leading to the KISD’s new high school is upgraded to accommodate the new campus before it opens in 2022?

These are a few of the questions residents should be asking as they consider casting their ballots in the coming days.

In the case of the both the city and the school district, the consequences of how residents vote are considerable. But the fallout from failing to vote is even more consequential.

By staying away from the polls, nonvoters essentially put the choice of city or school district representatives in the hands of a select few residents. Additionally, the smaller turnout increases the likelihood that some races will be decided by a handful of votes.

That’s not good for democracy — and it’s not good for our community.

If you haven’t voted yet, it’s not too late to step up and do your part.

The first step is to become informed. The Herald published an Election Guide in the April 21 edition. If you didn’t receive it or didn’t keep it, copies are available at the Herald’s offices during business hours. The information can also be found online at kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics, where prospective voters can also find biographies of the candidates plus video interviews on questions of interest to the community.

Then take advantage of the opportunity to vote. With two more days of early voting — including extended hours Tuesday at Killeen’s three locations — plus 12 hours of polling on Saturday, you can still have your say at the ballot box.

If you haven’t already been to the polls, take a few minutes of your time and cast your ballot. Make your choices for your city and your school district.

This opportunity to speak up is too important to waste.

dmiller@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7543

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