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February 22, 2014

Official: First week of early voting ‘average’

CHEROKEE COUNTY — The first week of early voting for a March 4 primary election attracted 792 Cherokee County voters who cast their ballots in person, according to a county official.

“That's pretty average for voting in general. That number is less than it would be in a presidential year, but more than in a non-primary year,” said chief deputy voter registrar Connie Quine. “Next week it'll be higher; the last day is always higher.”

In a primary election, voters choose which candidates they want to represent their political party in a November general election.

Each party holds its own primary, explained John Ross, president of the Cherokee County Democratic Club, and “even though the Democrats and Republicans may be in the same room, they are holding what are legally two separate elections with separate ballots and separate budgets.”

Which is why, when a voter goes to cast a ballot, he or she “must tell which ballot they want to vote on in a primary. In Texas, the only two parties holding a primary are the Democrats and the Republicans,” said Quine.

In Cherokee County, the Republican primary – which has several contested races – has received more publicity than the Democratic primary, whose candidates are uncontested at this level.

“But, there are other races at the state level that people will be voting for a single Democratic candidate to go on the November ballot or even a primary run-off, if that happens for some reason,” she said.

In Texas, the primary season consists of a general primary, held traditionally on the first Tuesday of March; candidates must receive a majority of the vote. If no one candidate gains more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates participate in a run-off primary, said Ross, adding that this is “normally held on the second Tuesday in April.”

The candidate winning the majority vote is declared the party's nominee and his or her name is placed on the ballot for the November general election.

In this particular election – “a public election run by the government, not the parties,” Ross said – voters can cast ballots for candidates of their choice, regardless of what political party that candidate represents or which primary the voter cast a ballot earlier in the year.

Early voting for the March primary continues through next Friday. Voters can cast ballots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during this period. Additional opportunities are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23.

Early voting locations include the Cherokee County Elections Department, 138 W. 5th St. in Rusk; the Jacksonville Public Library, 502 S. Jackson St.; and Alto First Baptist Church at 235 E. San Antonio St.

Quine said any registered voter may cast a ballot at one of these sites as long as he or she has not voted by mail.

Individuals must provide a photo identification when voting in person: Approved forms of ID include a Texas driver's license or personal identification card; a Texas Election Identification Certificate; a state concealed handgun license ; a U.S. military photo ID card; a U.S. citizenship certificate containing a person's photograph; or a current U.S. passport.

Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry encouraged people to get out and vote.

“I encourage all Texas voters to take advantage of the convenience of early voting, when you can vote anywhere in your county and at a time that works for you,” she said.

Election day for the primary is slated Tuesday, March 4, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Individuals can visit www.co.cherokee.tx.us or call 903-683-1400 for more information about early voting.

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