Early Election Voting Begins

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Whether they are for Republicans, Democrats or third parties, the first votes in the 2004 elections were cast Monday as early voting got underway.

"You never know what will happen on Election Day," said Brazos County Clerk Karen McQueen. "You may get tied up. You may have a family emergency. So why not go ahead and vote early and get it done if you know who you're going to vote for?"

McQueen says the second week of the early voting period is the busiest. "Everybody's still trying to make up their mind," she says. "They're still deciding who they want to vote for, so next week will be a big push."

"We're getting quite a few calls wanting to make sure they are registered to vote," said Kristeen Roe, the chief deputy of the Brazos County Tax Office, where voter registration forms have been streaming in.

Part of their job: to make sure there are no fraudulent votes cast. Voters are required to present identification at the time of registration or when voting. Because of the Help America Vote Act, voting multiple times is becoming harder and harder. But one concern lies with the deputized groups who are registering people, and if all the procedures are followed through with. While the possibility exists, the office has taken all precautions with the deputized groups, and Roe says she's seen no sign of fraud.

"We do try and spend time with each group that sign up and want to be deputies to make sure and go through each step and make sure they're very clear in the list of everything they're supposed to do," Roe said. "They're acting on our behalf, and we certainly hope they're taking all the correct steps."

A record number of people have registered in Brazos County for this election, and the ballot boxes are filling up.

"Last election, I didn't get a chance to vote, and I think I regretted that the whole four years," said one early voter, Stanley Holliman.

"It's so much easier to early vote than it is to vote on Election Day," said Celia Goode-Haddock. "You might get side-tracked or something come up and interfere."

The early polls will be open until Oct. 29, and will reopen Nov. 2 for the election. For more information on where early polling locations are and when they are open, call your county clerk or voter registration office.