High turnout reported among rural South Plains voters despite lack of polling places

High turnout reported among rural South Plains voters despite lack of polling places

BROWNFIELD, TX (KCBD) - As some rural South Plains counties face challenges to open up early voting locations, turnout numbers suggest voters are doing everything they can to get to the polls, even if it means driving as far as 60 miles round-trip.

Cheryl Smart, Hockley County Elections Administrator, said her office strives to provide early voting in the area towns in Hockley County. However, she tells KCBD she could not find anyone to work the location in Anton.

“As it would not be fair to remove early voting in only one location, the Commissioners’ Court made the decision to have only one early voting location here at the Elections Administrators Office (in Levelland),” Smart said. “I would be willing to go back before Commissioners’ Court and ask to reinstate early voting in the area towns if I could get a commitment from each town to provide election workers during early voting.”

Krystal Valentin is the Elections Administrator in Terry County. Her office in Brownfield also serves and the only early voting location in that county. She said when counties have less than 100,000 voters, the law allows for just one early voting polling place. She tells KCBD her office would also face issues of finding workers along with the funding to operate more early voting locations.

The Terry County Courthouse Annex serves as the early voting location in the November election. (Source: KCBD)
The Terry County Courthouse Annex serves as the early voting location in the November election. (Source: KCBD)

“Smaller, rural counties have a problem with budgeting,” Valentin said. “An election does cost a lot. If we’re not prepared for something like that, definitely budget is a part of it. Finding workers can also be a big issue."

As they haven’t received any complaints about the lack of early voting locations, Valentin said she welcomes input by voters to their needs.

“You can have temporary branch voting locations,” Valentin said. “We could open for a day or for a few hours in the smaller communities if the Commissioners' Court approved it and said to go ahead and do that. Unless voters come and say, ‘This is what we want,’ it’s probably not going to happen. We’ll have voters ask to do extended hours or extended days, so we’ll get approved to do a half a day on Saturday. We may not do a full day but a half a day. If they come and say, ‘Hey, can you stay open late?’ and we have several voters interested in it, we may do a day or two of extended voting. Voters just need to tell us what they want and we will see what we can do.”

As of Monday, October 29, Hockley County says 2,491 voters have cast ballots early in the November election. In the 2016 Presidential Election, 2,643 people voted.

Terry County reports 1,153 people have voted so far this election. The county compares that to the 2014 General Election when 1,380 people cast ballots early.

Valentin said many of those people are voting for the first time. She suspects they will be involved in the election process for years to come.

“Any time there is a big interest in an election, you notice more people become interested in just the office,” Valentin said. “We like that. We like people to call and ask questions or come in and ask questions and wonder about the process.”

More polling places will open in various communities in both counties on Election Day.

“I would like to remind the voters in the area towns that they will still be able to vote in their respective towns on Election Day,” Smart said.

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