Early voting turnout up in Gregg, Rusk counties

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Friday, Nov. 2, marks the close of early voting in the 2018 midterm elections and Election Day is fast approaching.

If you’re registered to vote in Texas but didn’t cast a ballot during the early voting period from Oct. 22 to Nov. 2, Tuesday, Nov. 6 is your only chance to vote.

Texas has seen very high statewide early voting registration and turnout for a midterm election year, according to reports from media outlets including The Dallas Morning News. In many cases, the turnout numbers are increasing among younger voters aged 18-29.

Rusk County Elections Administrator Kathie Wittner confirmed early voting numbers were up but not necessarily among young voters only.

“At the close of the day yesterday we’ve had 7,993 voting in person,” Wittner said Friday of the early voting turnout. “We’ve already run through 388 today. It’s been strong every day. We’ve had 900 almost every day the first week and it’s ticking back up again.”

Wittner said she had not noticed a particularly strong turnout among young voters or first-time voters.

“I’m not seeing a whole lot of that. We’re getting a good mixture and we’re really pleased. It’s probably equal. most everybody seems to be familiar with the voting machines. We will know more of that after we get through.”

Wittner said early voter turnout was very noticeably higher than in previous years, almost matching turnout numbers from the 2016 presidential election.

“If I go back and look at 2016, that was the last presidential election and we’re almost at that,” she said, adding that early voting numbers for 2018 are well above midterm turnout totals for 2014.

According to the Texas Secretary of State website, in 2016, 13,324 registered voters cast ballots early and in 2014, only 4,475 did so. These numbers indicate early voting has nearly doubled compared to the last midterm election.

Wittner attributes the increased turnout to more campaign publicity.

“I think there is more publicity. I think that’s what’s helping to stir interest in that,” she said. “I wish we had this turnout every election.”

Gregg County Elections Administrator Kathryn Nealy said the situation was similar in that county.

“The first week we had a huge turnout,” Nealy said Friday. “It’s been a lot slower this week but of course, today is the last day and we’ve got a long line.”

Nealy said she had noticed more young people and many voters were claiming to be casting ballots for the first time.

“We have seen a lot of people that are saying they voted for the first time and a lot of young people,” Nealy said.

She also confirmed the number of Gregg County voters showing up to the polls for the midterm elections was drawing close to the turnout totals for the 2016 presidential election.

“We are approaching the same number, yes,” she said.

In 2014, 12,628 registered voters cast early ballots for the midterm elections and, in 2016, 33,905 voted early.

Polling place locations for Nov. 6 are available at www.greggcountyvotes.com and www.Co.Rusk.TX.US/page/rusk.Elections.

KC students who want to watch the results of midterm voting be determined live can attend an Election Watch Party in the Devall Student Center Ballroom from 5:30 p.m. to midnight Tuesday, Nov. 6.

The watch party is being hosted by the KC Government department.

An announcement posted to KC’s website stated the event is free and open to KC students, staff and faculty and snacks and prizes will be offered.

A statement from Rick Moser, KC instructor and assistant department chair, claimed the event has become more popular in recent years.

“This election portends to be of historic importance and connecting what we do in the classroom to real-world events is important to the success of our students. Each time we have held this event, the number of student participants has grown from around 450 in 2012 to almost 1,000 students in attendance for the 2016 election. There will be free pizza, snacks, cookies, tea, lemonade and cakes provided for as long as they last,” the statement read.

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