Election officials make voter predictions

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

May 9, 2013 at 12:09 a.m.
Updated May 10, 2013 at 12:10 a.m.

For Victoria voters who cast their ballots early, the election has come and gone. But the show isn't over until the last vote is tallied Saturday night.

Elections Administrator George Matthews anticipates voter participation in the race for mayor and three City Council seats could reach as high as 18 percent of the city's 33,853 registered voters. However, he does not believe it will outnumber the early votes.

When early voting closed Tuesday evening, 2,271 residents, or 10.5 percent of the voting population, had made their picks for city councilmen and mayor.

"I had originally anticipated a 7 or 8 percent turnout for early voting and a 14 or 15 percent total turnout, but we're already at 10.5 percent," Matthews said

Kathy Hunt, president of the League of Women Voters, said she is encouraged by the turnout of early voters this year.

"A lot of times, when there is a bond issue or a particular referendum on the ballot, it does seem like that piques voter interest," she said. "This race will be very interesting just because there's quite a few folks that have stepped forward."

She hopes the mix of incumbents and new faces draws in more voters.

With Saturday being a big day for college graduations and the day before Mother's Day, many took the opportunity to vote early this year, Matthews said.

"It's much more convenient," he said. "I've seen people stand in line longer for early voting than they're willing to stand in line on Election Day."

Over the past decade, the highest early vote turnout was in 2006, when voters decided on the $8.4 million youth sports complex bond and the public ban on smoking. Early voters counted for more than half of that election's total votes.

While the smoking ban was a major issue, Matthews said, the city's highest voting turnout brought in 9,345 voters for the 1995 city mayoral election between Jim Wyatt and Gary Middleton. Early voting for that race brought in 3,068 voters.

Whether this year's election tops that is yet to be seen.

Although the new location for the county elections administration office at the Dr. Patti Dodson Public Health Center had the potential to negatively impact voter participation, preliminary counts stayed steady for this election. Matthews said the publicity about the move helped curb voter confusion.

Voting will not take place Saturday at the elections office, which serves only as an early voting site.

Presidential election years can also negatively impact local races as voters become oversaturated with elections, Matthews said.

"This year, we have so many candidates doing a lot of work to get people aware," Matthews said. "There are signs everywhere, forums at KAVU, The Advocate and with Victoria College and the League of Women Voters. We're getting more and more publicity."

Earlier this year, the county considered countywide polling locations, which would allow voters to cast ballots from any site, rather than their assigned voter precinct. However, county commissioners court, which has the ultimate say about any changes to city or county elections, voted to not make any changes.



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