Vote early in the runoff

I know, I know, everyone including me bombarded you with Vote Early! messages during the primary. The reason for that as we know was because of the high turnout that we expected, which turned out to be even higher than we thought it would be. The runoff isn’t going to be anything like that – you’ll be in and out in a couple of minutes no matter when you vote. So why vote early? Because your regular polling place very likely won’t be available on Runoff Day.

Forget about returning to a March 4 primary polling place to cast a ballot on April 8 — unless you live in southeast Harris County and plan to vote Republican.

Elsewhere in the county, GOP voters can vote only at a single polling station designated for their precinct — and the number of locations has been drastically reduced from March 4.

In most cases, the April 4 locations will be the buildings used for early voting. For instance, Bellaire residents will have to vote on election day at Bayland Community Center in southwest Houston.

On the countywide GOP ballot are runoffs for the nominations for district attorney and a felony court bench. Southeast Harris County is the exception because of Republican runoffs there for a U.S. House seat, a state House seat and a justice of the peace position. Most, if not all, of the polling places used March 4 will be open for voting in those areas.

Democrats countywide will have to go on April 8 to the polling stations used in early voting. On the party’s runoff ballot are a statewide race for a Railroad Commission seat, a countywide race for a civil court bench and a justice of the peace contest.

On March 4, Democrats used 367 polling places to serve the county’s 874 precincts. On April 8 they will use 35, according to party chairman Gerald Birnberg.

Democratic turnout on March 4, with the presidential race on the ballot, exceeded 400,000. Birnberg said the party will be lucky to attract 10,000 for the runoffs. Runoffs were needed in each race where no candidate got a majority of the vote in the first round.

With far fewer voters expected by both parties, polling places have been reduced to save public money. The state subsidy was about $700,000 for the Democratic primary and is expected to be about $100,000 for the runoff, Birnberg said. Republicans are expected to reduce costs by almost as much.

For early voting, which starts next Monday and runs through April 4, voters can cast ballots at any of the 35 locations in the county. They can vote at only one location on election day.

“My advice: Vote early,” said County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, whose staff runs the elections.

That’s my advice, too. Remember that early voting for the runoff is only five days long – basically, Monday through Friday of next week. There won’t be much in the way of reminders to vote – I doubt any of the Democratic candidates will be sending mail or doing robocalls – so mark your calendars now and don’t forget.

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