Find stories like this in The Highlander, the newspaper of record for the Highland Lakes. To offer a comment or news tip, email email@example.com. Subscribe to our e-Edition online or call 830-693-4367.
During early voting, Burnet County officials remedied a number of issues which streamlined the progress of long lines and new check-in technology at polling sites for the Nov. 3 general election, showing signs of becoming an historic turnout.
Early voting is underway and goes through Oct. 30 for presidential, state and judicial races as well as a handful of local elections. (See Granite Shoals story, Page 1).
"It has to be impressive just because we know our numbers are just about double they were four years ago," Burnet County Elections Administrator Doug Ferguson said.
"In person we're way up," he added. "We were at 2,500 in person voters at the end of day two in 2016.
"Now we're almost double the turnout half a day of day three."
By mid-week in the first of three weeks of early voting, the elections office kept pace with up-to-the-minute turnout results.
As of 12:20 p.m. on the third day of early voting, the number of in-person votes received was 4, 136.
The number of mail-in ballots received was 1,858, Ferguson reported.
"The mail-in ballots are way ahead ofwhere we were in 2016," he said.
In 2016 the last presidential election, the county received 1,686 mail in ballots total for the entire two weeks of early voting.
In the current election with mailin ballots included, the day-three, early vote count in Burnet County was 5,994, which, so far, reflected a 17.8 percent turnout.
As of Oct. 5, Burnet County reported 33,796 registered voters pending the submission of potentially more application approvals by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, Ferguson explained.
Ferguson shared how the growing turnout posed a few initial struggles for election poll workers and voters.
“We’ve had a couple of growing pains. It was such a bottleneck yesterday (Oct. 13.),” he said. “They stood in line two hours at the AgriLife building in Burnet and saw only one check-in station.
“(Election workers) saw that caused the bottle neck there,” he added.
As a result of long wait concerns at the AgriLife location and the courthouse annex site in Marble Falls, officials added two more entry checkin points at the Burnet polling site and one additional checkin station in Marble Falls.
Two-hour wait times in some instances transitioned into nearly “inconsequential” delays in movement of the lines, Ferguson explained.
“It seems to have made a big difference,” he said. “They definitely have been a lot better of a flow.”
The county also featured two additional voting locations in addition to Burnet and Marble Falls for early voting.
In Burnet County early voting locations are:
• AgriLife Extension Auditorium, 607 N. Vandeveer #100, Burnet;
• Marble Falls County Courthouse Annex, 810 Steve Hawkins Pkwy;
• Granite Shoals Community Center, 1208 N. Phillips Ranch Road;
• Joann Cole Mitte Memorial Library, 170 N. Gabriel, Bertram.
Residents are eligible to vote at all four locations.
Election officials received their first hint of a sizeable turnout, when the numbers showed “the biggest second day” of early voting to date.
In 2008 and 2012, on day two, the the tally showed just over 1,000 to 1,100 votes – both in person and mail-in ballots – on the first day.
In 2016, poll workers had more than 1,300 total.
On the first day of early voting this election, officials counted 1,385 in-person early voters and 1,818 mail-in ballots, bringing the total to 3,203.
Aspects of the current election include more non-Bertram residents choosing the library as their polling site.
In Granite Shoals, election workers temporarily suspended a voting device after receiving a concern from a voter, Ferguson explained. After a test to determine proper functionality, the device was put back in service, he added.
Ferguson offered recommendations to avoid issues such as voters having their photo identification ready at check-in and considering voting on the upcoming Saturday time.
Early voting is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays (with special hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, and Thursday, Oct. 29 and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24).
Also, election workers have overcome adjustments related to mitigating the spread of COVID-19, Ferguson said.
While masks are not required at locations to cast ballots, workers have implemented expanded sanitation measures to offer a level of comfort and safety to those coming to the polls.
“With the distancing, keeping things clean and because there are longer lines, there’s a level of pressure that people don’t realize,” he said. “The dedication of the people who are working (at the polls) is exceptional.
“It’s moving steady,” he added.
For more information about local procedures, go to www.burnetcountytexas. org. Also, find a comprehensive voter’s guide in the Tuesday, Oct. 20 issue of The Highlander.