Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

November 4, 2013

Tuesday election attracts a moderate amount of early voters

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

CHEROKEE COUNTY — The modest early voting turnout for today's proposed Jacksonville ISD school expansion and statewide constitutional amendment elections is difficult to put into perspective, officials said Monday.

A total of 811 early voters cast ballot in the Jacksonville ISD election while 1,006 turned out for the state constitutional issue, voting records show.

But quantifying those numbers in terms of “good turnout” or “bad turnout?” Not that easy. Even when comparing it with other elections.

Even controversial, impassioned elections can result in only a moderate turnout.

For instance, in Jacksonville, a city with a population of 14,544 as of the 2010 census, the heated, high-profile May 11 mayoral election brought in 389 votes for Mayor Kenneth Melvin, 426 votes for challenger Rob Gowin and 147 votes for challenger William Igbokwe, voting records show.

Then, in the subsequent June 11 mayoral runoff election, only 586 voters cast ballots for Melvin and 510 for Gowin, according to records. Comparing the amount of voters to the actual population of Jacksonville doesn't seem to jibe with what was clearly a very visible election.

"Every election is entirely different," explained Dr. Joe Wardell, superintendent for the Jacksonville Independent School District. "Since this time we only have amendments and bond elections taking place, there wasn't any kind of controversial issue to draw people in. But I'm pleased at our 811 votes. That's still a healthy turnout.”

The polls will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today for the proposed $22.8 million Jacksonville ISD bond election as well as the election for nine proposed statewide constitutional amendments.

If approved by voters, this Nov. 5 JISD bond election could finance the construction of a new West Side Elementary School as well as eight new classrooms and a band hall at Nichols Intermediate School.

Constructed in 1951, West Side Elementary currently has 46 outside entrances, making it difficult to keep secured. It also is overcrowded because it is built for 399 students but houses 473, JISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Wardell has said. There are as many as 11 different buildings on the campus, and are unsecured and unsafe, he has said.

The bond election is designed to address certain existing problems such as Nichols Intermediate School being built for 651 students but having 723 currently enrolled. As many as 133 band students are having difficulty crowding into the band hall at its current size.

The proposed bond, if passed by voters, would cost the average Jacksonville ISD homeowner an additional $5.16 per month in property taxes. Senior homesteads should be unaffected because their taxes are frozen.

The proposed statewide amendments, according to the office of Texas Secretary of State John Steen, include:


1. Proposition 1 – (HJR 62) The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action.


2. Proposition 2 – (HJR 79) The constitutional amendment eliminating an obsolete requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is operational.


3. Proposition 3 – (HJR 133) The constitutional amendment to authorize a political subdivision of this state to extend the number of days that aircraft parts that are exempt from ad valorem taxation due to their location in this state for a temporary period may be located in this state for purposes of qualifying for the tax exemption.


4. Proposition 4 – (HJR 24) The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization.


5. Proposition 5 – (SJR 18) The constitutional amendment to authorize the making of a reverse mortgage loan for the purchase of homestead property and to amend lender disclosures and other requirements in connection with a reverse mortgage loan.


6. Proposition 6 —(SJR 1) The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources.


7. Proposition 7 – (HJR 87) The constitutional amendment authorizing a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less.


8. Proposition 8 – (HJR 147 and SJR 54) The constitutional amendment repealing Section 7, Article IX, Texas Constitution, which relates to the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County.


9. Proposition 9 – (SJR 42) The constitutional amendment relating to expanding the types of sanctions that may be assessed against a judge or justice following a formal proceeding instituted by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.