Roadwork may hinder early voting

Early voting in this year's municipal and school board elections remains slow and steady, according to county election officials, as voters look to decide a number of local contests.Howard County Elections Administrator Saundra Bloom said voting was fairly strong Monday, which marked the opening of early voting across the state.“We had 124 voters come in and cast their ballot Monday,” Bloom said. “It was a bit slower than I expected, but it's remained pretty steady. Things sort of slowed down a bit Tuesday however, but I think road construction going on around and near the courthouse may have something to do with that.”Major road demolition and construction has been happening on Third and Fourth streets — located on the north and south sides of the Howard County Courthouse — for some time now, causing some problems with the availability of parking, according to Bloom.“County employees have been warned not to park on the north or south sides of the courthouse, so you can just imagine what that's done to the amount of parking available to the public,” Bloom said. “Tuesday, it looked like they were laying asphalt on both sides. In the past, the construction was pretty much limited to one side or the other, but right now it's pretty well a mess on both sides. I imagine that's affected the number of people who have come in to vote early.”Despite the parking woes, Bloom said the voters who have made their way to the polls have had good things to say.“We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from the voters about the polls being moved to the first floor,” she said. “I think that has made it a lot easier on everyone. We haven't had any complaints or questions about the ballot, so things are moving along fairly smoothly.”Bloom said there hasn't appeared to be any confusion regarding one of the mayoral candidates who dropped out of the race, either.“Manuel Ramirez Jr., who was one of the mayoral candidates, withdrew from the race. Unfortunately, he withdrew after the deadline for us to make changes to the ballot, so his name is still on the mayoral ticket,” Bloom said. “That hasn't caused any obvious confusion as of yet, which I think is a really good sign overall.”Tuesday also marked the first day of extended hours for the early voting polls, according to Bloom. However, voters whop missed out on them will get one more shot Thursday.“Thursday, we'll have extended hours at the early voting polls,” Bloom said. “The polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. — the same hours the polls are open on election day. As always, our hope is the extended hours will give people who normally work during regular poll hours a chance to cast their ballots early.”Bloom said branch voting will be held for the Forsan ISD race Tuesday, May 7, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Forsan High School. Forsan voters are being asked to decide whether to approve a $24.8 million bond which would finance construction of a new building to replace Elbow Elementary and extensive renovations at the junior high/high school campus.According to Bloom, voters have until Friday to request a mail-in ballot.“Voters who are 65 and older, disabled or will be out of the county and unavailable to vote during early voting or election day can apply for a ballot by mail,” Bloom said. “If you want to apply, you need to contact the elections office so we can mail out the form. Voters must request this application, it won't automatically be sent out.”Early voting will continue through Tuesday, May 7, with election day slated for Saturday, May 11. For more information on the election, contact Bloom at 432-264-2273.