Early voting begins Monday

Early voting in this year's general election — which features a heavily contested presidential race that continues to heat up — is set to begin Monday morning in the Howard County Elections Administration Office, located in the county courthouse.Polls will be located in the elections office — located on the third floor of the courthouse — and will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, until early voting wraps up Nov. 2.According to Elections Administrator Saundra Bloom, her office will be ready to help voters cast their ballots first thing Monday morning.“All of the work with the ballot and that sort of thing is done, so we're ready to go,” Bloom said. “The set up in the elections office will be a little bit different this year, since we're going to have 10 early voting booths set up. However, I feel like we're ready to get things under way.”In addition to the regularly scheduled poll hours, Bloom said her office will be offering several days with extended hours in hopes of giving everyone in the community a chance to cast their ballot early.“Early voting polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30 and Thursday, Nov. 1,” Bloom said. “We'll also be opening the polls Saturday, Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. We're hoping these extended hours will give residents who work from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. a chance to vote early and avoid the lines and waiting on Election Day. There are a lot of folks out there who simply can't leave work to vote, or don't have enough time on their lunch breaks.”Bloom said the deadline to request a ballot by mail is Friday, Oct. 26.“It takes a few day to turn these requests around, so if they request a ballot by Oct. 26, we should be able to make it happen,” Bloom said. “However, I'm really hoping our voters won't wait until the last minute. I'd hate to think someone didn't get to cast their ballot because they put it off.”Bloom and her election officers are bracing themselves for what is expected to be a large turnout, spurred mostly by the presidential contest, which has been heating up and grabbing headlines leading up to the Nov. 6 election.“Almost everyone who came in to register to vote said they were doing so because of the presidential contest,” Bloom said. “It's definitely driving this election. We've registered 427 new voters Since Aug. 1, which is really an astounding number.“Quite a few of the new voters are 18-year-old residents and their parents and grandparents are bringing them in and impressing upon them how important it is for them to vote. A lot of them are also new to Howard County, having just recently moved here. The one thing they all seem to have in common is a strong interest in the presidential election.”For more information on early voting, contact Bloom at 264-2273.