SAN ANGELO — Residents living in Santa Rita and College Hills will decide who will represent them on City Council during a special election Saturday, but their visit to the polls will be slightly different than in years past.
Four candidates — two women and two men — filed to run for office after Lane Carter resigned his Single Member District 5 council seat in a bid to become Tom Green County Judge. He faces several challengers during the March Republican primary.
Early voting for the special election took place Jan. 12-25, in which the Tom Green County Elections Office reported 462 people out of 9,298 registered voters (4.9%) in SMD 5 arrived at the polls to cast ballots.
Elections administrator Vona Hudson appeared pleased by early voter participation.
"That's a little bit higher than I expected," Hudson said during an interview with the Standard-Times. "I didn't think we'd do much more than four percent, so I'm glad we had people turning out."
Hudson said Saturday's election will look slightly different after Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1 into law. Despite sharp opposition from Democratic lawmakers, the Republican-backed voting bill was signed in September, which led to several sweeping changes in how Texas will hold its elections. Among them include:
SB 1 bans drive-thru voting or casting a ballot from inside a vehicle unless participating in curbside voting due to sickness or a disability.
Poll watchers, who monitor elections on behalf of candidates or political parties, must be allowed to observe, without obstruction, election activity inside polling places and vote-counting centers to call attention to "any observed or suspected irregularity or violation of law." Watchers also cannot be denied "free movement" where election activity is occurring.
Those who help a voter cast a ballot due to language or physical needs must fill out a document listing their name, address and relationship to the voter. Assistants also have to sign an oath, under penalty of perjury, stating that the voter is eligible for help due to a physical disability or is unable to read the ballot language.
Candidates may sue an election opponent to collect $1,000 for each violation of election laws such as illegal voting, illegal delivery of a mail-in ballot or providing a false statement on a voter registration or vote-by-mail application.
In addition to changing how Texans vote by mail and expanding early voting hours, Hudson said election officials set up "converted voting equipment" at polling locations to provide an auditable paper trail.
"We had a lot of good feedback," Hudson said. "Everybody was appreciative of having the paper trail, for the most part, and so I hope everybody enjoys it and is comfortable using it."
Similar to previous elections, voters will arrive at their polling location, check in, and receive a label and an access code issued from poll workers.
"Once they get to the ballot station, they're also going to be handed a piece of paper," Hudson said.
The piece of paper will be inserted into the voting machine after a registered voter enters their access code, and follows the prompts to vote. After making their selection, Hudson said voters will have the option to print the results.
The voting machine will "pull the paper in and print the office title and the name of the person they voted for, or 'no selection' if they didn't make the selection," Hudson said.
"Once that paper is through printing, it will give them an opportunity to look at it and say, 'Yep, that's what I meant to vote,' and then they'll go over to a scanner and they'll scan that piece of paper, and that's going to be what will actually count the votes."
On Election Day, Jan. 29, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at three SMD 5 locations. The winner will need to secure at least 50.1% of the total ballots cast in order to avoid a runoff election, which Hudson said could tentatively happen in late March.
"We're really, really hoping we don't have a runoff election," Hudson said, adding that the election calendar in Tom Green County was stacked already due to the March primaries, as well as City and school board elections happening in May.
"One more election in the mix can make it hard on the voters," Hudson said, "so we're hoping we don't have a runoff."
Who's on the ballot for SMD 5
The candidates will appear on the ballot in this order:
Karen Hesse Smith
John Austin Stokes
Bryan Neil Angle
The winner will serve an unexpired term until May 2023.
Where to vote on Election Day
On Election Day, January 29, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations:
Angelo Bible Church, 3506 Sherwood Way
MHMR Services of the Concho Valley, Administration Building, 1501 W. Beauregard Ave.
St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 2506 Johnson Ave.
Texas voter ID requirements
Texas is one of 31 states that require photo identification when voting. Acceptable IDs include:
Texas driver's license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS
U.S. military identification card containing the person's photograph
U.S. citizenship certificate containing the person's photograph
Registered voters who can't meet any of the photo ID requirements can still vote by signing a declaration stating their identity and that they have a reasonable impediment or difficulty for having an accepted photo ID. They must also provide one of the following documents:
Valid voter registration certificate
Certified birth certificate (must be an original)
Copy of or original current utility bill
Copy of or original bank statement
Copy of or original government check
Copy of or original paycheck
Copy of or original government document with their name and an address (original required if it contains a photograph)
If you have questions about your voter-registration status, or acceptable forms of ID, call the elections office at 325-659-6541.
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John Tufts covers enterprise and investigative topics in West Texas. Send him a news tip at JTufts@Gannett.com. Sources on how SB1 changed Texas voting law are attributed to coverage provided by the Austin American-Statesman.
This article originally appeared on San Angelo Standard-Times: SPECIAL ELECTION: Voting in San Angelo will look different Saturday