Record High Early Voter Turnout - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/20/04-East Texas

Record High Early Voter Turnout

After 11 years of experience in Smith County elections, Paula Patterson, says this year, without a doubt is unlike any other.

"This will probably be the largest election we've ever seen in Smith County," says Patterson, Elections Administrator of Smith County.

Her elections office, like most others, across Texas and the nation, is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people casting their vote early.

"The first two days we have already made it over sixty-three- hundred people. So the number is greatly increased," says Patterson.

Workers are earning their keep, just trying to process the votes, not to mention the nearly 4000 ballots they've mailed out to citizens and military personal.

"Our workers are working exceptionally hard on this election. We do put in a lot of long hours," Patterson.

So why the huge jump in voter turnout? Some say it's so they can avoid an even longer line, November 2.

"I think it's going to be very, very crowded November 2, and it's going to be more convenient for me as well," says Mary Williams, an early voter in Smith County.

Others say the polls are packed because more realize the power of their vote, after the 2000 Presidential Election.

"A lot of the voter turnout now, has a lot to do with what happened in Florida. We know 500 votes, they say, changed the whole Presidential Election outcome and the Supreme Court. People remember that, they haven't forgotten it on both sides. So they know that their vote counts now," says Bobby Mims, another early voter.

Another reason voters are standing in line on their lunch break? Big issues on the ballot.

"I it's think the Presidential race. Also, the TISD Bond Election. I think that's an issue that's bringing a lot of people out within the city. Then of course you've got a Congressional race between Gohmert and Sandlin," says Mims.

Whether it's put in early or at the last minute, it seems, people are taking the slogan, 'every vote counts,' to heart.

"If you are concerned with the issues that are going on in your state or in your country, get out and vote. That's your duty to do so. If you want to sit around and complain about things, then get out and say something," says Williams.

There are 116,550 registered voters in Smith County this election year. In the 2000 Presidential Election there were 101,184.

Counties all across East Texas have reported dramatic increases in the number of early voters.

If you want to early vote, there's still time to do that. Call your County Courthouse Elections Office for poll times and locations.

Reporting: Braid Sharp bsharp@kltv.com

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