by Elsa Maxey 

A historic ballot listing with a large number of candidates for Fort Bend County communities will generate a long ballot for the Nov. 3 general election.

The number of candidates on the ballot will depend on where you live. There will be propositions, too. So the ballot will be long for some and even longer for others. The outcomes at this point are not really all that predictable, and that makes this election even more exciting because of the many surprises we may see or have to live with, depending on your personal views.

Fort Bend County Elections Administrator John Oldham, who has headed the election process in this area for over a decade, said we’ve grown by 200,000 registered voters. That’s a 40 percent growth.

“We have between 474,000 and 475,000 registered voters and that’s changing every minute,” said Oldham, who has spent his entire career in the elections business in both the government and private sector.

He’s about to add on to his career accomplishment as his office will be handling 28 jurisdictions at one time due to election postponements attributed to the pandemic.

We have known that the turnout this go-round will probably bring out a substantial number of voters, even new ones registering through the last day, Oct. 5, when you can also take care of updates. You could say that overall, gearing up to the general election has been discordant with disturbances also due to COVID-19. Some even say the times have brought to light a more subtle divisiveness among us and we probably need to bring this to mind in the election booth.

There are political and non-political candidates on the ballot from the federal level on down to our locals in what may turn out to be tight wins between those embracing very different strategies for the right to represent us. And their personalities, no doubt, will factor into our personal choices, too.

So what else are we to expect?  The guy who administers our elections, maintains Fort Bend’s voter registration database, trains and supervises precinct judges and other personnel, and also prepares the final canvassing reports, responded not even without a twitch. Sixty-eight to 70 percent of the registered voters, Oldham said, are expected to turn out here. Wowzur!

Oldham also expects challenges, like social distancing in a room of what he said could accommodate 10 voting booths will now have five or six, reducing the number of people that can vote at one time. But many voters have been applying for vote-by-mail ballots, easing that challenge a bit. It appears that the largest vote-by-mail ballot applications over the past six years has been exceeded. It went from 17,000 to last week’s total, 27,000, which is still growing. Also add another 4,000 Oldham’s office received in the last few days to process.

Two-thirds of the applications for vote by mail were duplicates. So, if you’ve already sent one, don’t do it again. And, if you received one and are thinking about casting it at a polling site on election day, give it more thought. The poll workers will have to cancel the mail-in ballot in order to issue another one at the voting site. That’s the difference between a 30-second voter check-in time as opposed to 5 minutes, the estimated time to rescind the other ballot to allow the on-site voting. The good news is that you can take it to the elections administration on Election Day unless other sites for a drop-off will be available as is presently being considered.

It’s a given that it will take longer to vote on Nov. 3 at the 85 polling sites throughout Fort Bend County because of the ballot length, social distancing and the use of the voting machines to many of the electorate…could average to be seven minutes.

The fact that voters are no longer assigned to specific polling places and can vote at any polling location is accommodating since you are no longer tied to your precinct location. Be advised. The polls will still close at 7 p.m. There’s a long ballot in Sugar Land and also in Pearland and Rosenberg.

And as voters, your job is to educate yourself about the candidates, review a sample ballot found on the Fort Bend County website and keep yourself safe. Exercise smart options by either voting by mail, if you qualify, voting early from Oct. 13- 30 or by picking a polling location on election day with shorter wait times, also on the county’s website on Election Day with red, yellow and green color coding. This will make a big difference. I think I’ll pick one that’s green. I’m told you should be able to walk in and vote fairly quickly.

For more information on voting, polling locations and the upcoming election, interested persons are asked to visit fortbendcounty.gov.

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