Mayoral questions and national selections will be made at Wharton County polls Tuesday in the final day of General Election balloting.
More than half of Wharton County’s registered voters had already cast ballots by the time early voting polls opened for the last time Friday.
“We’ve already had 50.4 percent of our voters vote,” Elections Administrator Cindy Richter said Thursday, “I would think that’s a record, and we’re still going.”
Of Wharton County’s 25,573 registered voters, in excess of 12,000 in-person votes had been cast by press time in addition to about 1,200 returned mail-in ballots.
“It’s a lot of people. It’s a heavier turnout in early voting than normal,” Richter said. “In 2016, we had almost 14,000 voters in person. We have almost 14,000 now, and we could see another 3,000.”
During 2016, the last presidential election year where Donald Trump faced Hillary Clinton, 14,871 Wharton County voters cast ballots out of 25,225 possible. Of those, 10,854 votes were cast early.
Total Wharton County votes cast in 2012 were 14,212. Of those, 8,722 were cast early. The county’s registered voters that year numbered 24,645.
The year President Barack Obama first claimed office, total ballots in Wharton County tallied 14,576 of which 9,762 were cast early. There were 25,063 voters that year.
In the past three decades, Wharton County’s highest November General Election voter turnout came in 1992 when 67.3 percent cast ballots. That year Democratic presidential challenger Bill Clinton ousted Republic incumbent George H.W. Bush.
Early polling ended at 7 p.m. Friday and all ballots are sealed until Election Day sites close Tuesday. Early voting returns will be posted by Richter’s office first.
“We’re very pleased with the turnout. It’s been more than we expected, but we’re very happy,” Richter said.
The National Weather Service calls for sunny skies on Election Day with highs in the low 70s, a forecast that could encourage additional voters to head to the polls.
Those wanting to cast ballots on Election Day, however, are urged to do so early in the day to avoid standing in the traditionally long lines in the last hour of voting.
A Wharton County voter can cast their ballot at any poll site in the county too, an option which may help with waiting times.
“I think we were well prepared (for early voting). I’m hoping we are as prepared for Election Day,” Richter said.
Aside from anticipating a high turnout, Richter said she could not predict which polls would have lighter traffic. Even the Precinct 3 polling site may be busy with a the Louise ISD election.
Overall, voting has been running smoothly, she said, aside from minor machine breakdowns. An issue with duplicated El Campo mail-in ballots at the start of balloting was quickly resolved.
Participating municipal voters will decide whether the city’s mayor selection will be determined indirectly by voters. A charter amendment on the November 2020 ballot asks voters if the mayor should be the top vote-getter among at-large representatives and the mayor pro tem the second place finisher. If voters approve that amendment, it will go into effect when November’s winners are sworn into office.