If it's July, there must be an election.
Actually, that normally doesn't follow – yet Travis County Democratic and Republican voters are being asked to return to the polls Tuesday, July 31, for the run-off of the May 29 primaries. (Early voting will be held July 23-27.) Although Travis is generally considered a "blue" territory, the Republicans may draw more voters this month, simply because there are more and higher-profile contests on the GOP ballot – especially the bitter battle between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former State Solicitor Ted Cruz to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Nevertheless, party officials on both sides – as well as Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir – are doing their best to get the word out and fill all the precinct judge positions for election day. The centralized "vote centers" can't be used for partisan primaries, and paradoxically, staffing has been made somewhat easier because some 20 AISD schools that were used in the first round are now undergoing summer repairs or maintenance and will also not be available. That means fewer judges to recruit to staff the polls – but more confusion for voters who may find their regular polling places have moved. DeBeauvoir says she's happy with the preparations thus far, but adds: "I am concerned we're going to have low turnout. It's an unusual time to vote, and people will be on vacation, will be taking care of their kids, or will just be out of town." She urged voters to double-check the county website (www.co.travis.tx.us/county_clerk/election) or to call 238-VOTE for voting info.
Democrats will have two races on the county ballot – the U.S. Senate runoff between Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough, and the Precinct 2 Constable race between Michael Cargill and Adan Ballesteros. The latter race may actually be better-known locally because of its unusually bitter constabulary politics. (There are also a half-dozen contested precinct chairs.) On the GOP side, in addition to the senate race, the ballot features a U.S. House race (District 25, Roger Williams vs. Wes Riddle), run-offs for two Railroad Commissioner nominations, Place 4 on the Texas Supreme Court, District 10 of the State Board of Education, and the battle between incumbent District 25 state Sen. Jeff Wentworth and Donna Campbell, plus several contested GOP precinct chairs.
County Democratic Party Chair Andy Brown said he expects "full staffing at all the election sites" and that his main concern has been getting out the word to encourage turnout. "People are just not used to voting in the summertime," he said. "Beyond that, the biggest strain has been on the candidates – the primary would normally have been held in March, and now they've had to continue campaigning through May and now into July. I hope I'm wrong, but I expect the turnout will set a low record." County Republican primary clerk Mike Dominguez said there have been some "obstacles" in planning – like the short turnaround for approving the run-off ballots – but in terms of getting the word out to GOP voters, "the candidates have been doing a pretty good job of that." As for the election itself, including the new district lines and the shifting polls, Dominguez said, "We just needed to bone up on the new boundaries and procedures and keep the process moving."
The registration deadline for this election has already passed, but DeBeauvoir urged voters to contact the county – once again, 238-VOTE – with any questions about polling stations, ballots, early voting, or anything else they need to know.
Early voting in person: Monday-Friday, July 23-27
Early voting by mail: Application must be received by Tuesday, July 24
Election day: Tuesday, July 31
Sample ballots and more voting info are available on the Travis County Clerk's election website, www.co.travis.tx.us/county_clerk/election.
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