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Thanks to many highly contested and contentious races up and down the ballot, voters in Burnet and Llano counties came out to the polls like never before for early voting, which ended Friday, Oct. 30.
The number of ballots cast in these two counties through the three-week, extended early voting period this year eclipsed the entire vote total for the last presidential election four years ago even as polls will be open today, Tuesday, Nov. 3, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day.
In Burnet County, a total of 20,589 early and absentee votes have been cast, shattering the previous early and absentee voting record of 14,029 votes cast in 2016 and marking the first time ever that more than 20,000 ballots had been cast in Burnet County.
The 2020 total includes 17,794 ballots cast during early voting from Oct. 13 through Oct. 30 and 2,795 mail-in ballots received as 61 percent of the county's 33,739 registered voters have exercised their constitutional right to vote.
This includes 6,7873 votes cast at the Marble Falls Courthouse Annex, 5,997 votes cast at the Burnet AgriLife Auditorium, 2,741 votes cast at the Bertram Library and 2,183 votes cast at the Granite Shoals Community Center.
“If you look at what happened on election day in 2016, we had a pretty calm day then and it was not like election days in the past,” said Burnet County elections administrator Doug Ferguson. “Trying to forecast what tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 3) is going to look like is impossible, though.”
If the county sees its normal election day turnout of about 5,500 voters, then nearly 26,000 Burnet County residents will have cast their ballots — a number never before seen locally.
In 2016, a total of 12,218 out of 28,938 registered voters (42.22 percent) cast their ballots during early voting in the 2016 presidential election, while the county received 1,811 mail-in ballots. That election had a total turnout of 67 percent as 5,488 votes were cast on election day in the 2016 election.
“We have worked hard for this year's turnout and we are really excited about that,” said Burnet County GOP chair Kara Chasteen. “We haven't stopped yet trying to encourage people and we're still calling people who haven't voted yet. We can't wait to see what happens tomorrow. Our goal is to beat Llano County in our turnout percentage.”
Burnet County Democratic Party chair Mel Hazlewood said he believes the high voter turnout is “because so many people —Democrats, Republicans and independents — see this as being a high stakes election.
“This is not just one party showing up, but both parties as well as independents. And this is good for the country,” Hazelwood said. “We are seeing a good number of first-time voters, too. I hope this means that more people will get involved and stay involved. …
Find the rest of this story in the Tuesday, Nov. 3 issue of The Highlander.