Safety measures to be enacted for in-person voting
By Wesley Gardner
Early voting for the Nov. 3 General Election is a little more than a month away, and this year, special precautions will be taken to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
According to Caldwell County Elections Administrator Pamela Ohlendorf, county officials will follow protocol laid out by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.
According to the Secretary of State guidelines, voters will be required to maintain at least six feet of space from one another when feasibly possible. Voters should also wash or disinfect their hands prior to entering their polling location. Masks will not be required for voters, though they are still encouraged to wear face coverings when entering the polling place.
The guidelines also state that voters experiencing any symptoms related to COVID-19 should consider utilizing curbside voting, which will be available at all polling locations. These voters are encouraged to contact the county election office with questions about curbside voting and eligibility requirements.
Ohlendorf noted that staff members will consistently be cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment throughout the day.
“We’ll be doing constant cleaning,” said Ohlendorf. “We’re taking every precaution we can on our end.”
Additionally, Ohlendorf said rubber fingertips will be provided to all voters to reduce contact on screens.
According to Ohlendorf, the additional costs of providing masks for employees and other measures taken due to COVID-19 will be covered by federal funding.
New to this year’s election, voters will no longer have the option to vote on a straight-party ticket, meaning voters will need to go through each race individually to choose their candidates.
Ohlendorf said this new process shouldn’t have much of an effect on the voting process.
“It’s going to be the same amount of time,” said Ohlendorf. “Even if they chose a straight party ticket, they still had to go through contest to make sure that the correct party was selected.
“It won’t take more than maybe five, six minutes max.”
Federally, the election will decide a slew of race, including the presidency and many House and Senate seats.
For the Democratic party, Mary “MJ” Hegar will run against incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in November.
On the Republican side, Jenny Garcia Sharon will face incumber U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-35).
At the state level, Chrysta Castaneda will challenge republican candidate James Wright in November.
Lani Popp will face incumbent democratic Rebecca Bell-Metereau for Texas State Board of Education District 5 seat.
Candidates for of the local elections were decided in March.
The most heavily contested race in Caldwell County was also the closest, with Mike Lane edging Ray Chandler by a margin of 1,587 votes to 1,546 to nab the Republican nomination for sheriff, according to unofficial results. Lane will face off in November against Democratic challenger Hector Rangel, who defeated Alberto Luna 1,558-1,275 in Tuesday’s primary.
Only one constable position was contested in this year’s race, with incumbent Precinct 2 Constable Tom Will overtaking Jeffrey Alexander 726-400 for the Republican nomination. Because there were no challengers for the Democratic nomination, Will is set to automatically retain his position in November.
Incumbent Precinct 1 Constable Victor “Smitty” Terrell, incumbent Precinct 3 Constable Michael Bell and incumbent Precinct 4 Constable Arthur Villareal each ran unopposed and thus will also retain their positions come November.
Incumbent Caldwell County Tax Assessor-Collector Darla Law ran unopposed for the Democrat’s nomination, leaving her to face off against GOP challenger Debbie Cortez Sanders, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.
There will only be one contested race for a seat on the Caldwell County Commissioners Court in November. Incumbent Republican B.J. Westmoreland, who ran unopposed for his party, will take on Democratic challenger James “Jimmy” Bertram, who also ran unopposed, for the precinct 1 commissioner position.
Republican incumbent Precinct 3 Commissioner Edward “Ed” Theriot didn’t have any challengers on either side of the aisle, so he will automatically retain his position on the commissioners court.
In Lockhart, Incumbent Mayor Lew White will face off against John Castillo, Juan Alvarez Jr. and Andrew Cardenas. District 3 Councilmember Kara McGregor and District 4 Councilmember Jeffry Michelson are running unopposed.
In Martindale, Place 1 Councilmember Sonja Gonzales Villalobos and Place 3 Councilmember Lisa Shell-Allan are running unopposed. Incumbent Mike McClabb and Kimberly Smith are running against each other for the Place 4 position, though McClabb resigned from his post earlier this year.
A special election will be held to the Place 5 position that was vacated by former councilmember Mary Paul earlier this year. Sam Houston Clinton will run against Ross Purcell to fill the position.
Additionally, Martindale voters will have the opportunity to vote for the dis-annexation of Butterfly Meadows and a portion of Hopson Ranch Estates from the city of Martindale.
Several trustee positions Lockhart school district will also be decided in November.
Lisa Goerlitz is running against Barbara Sanchez to fill the Place 1 position, while Nicholas “Nick” Metzler will face off against Samuel Lockhart for the Place 3 position. Place 4 Incumber Warren Burnett is running unopposed.
Early voting for the Nov. 3 election begins on Oct. 13. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 5.