AUSTIN — Statistics compiled by the office of the secretary of state show Texans cast ballots in record numbers during the early voting period before the Nov. 6 midterm general election.
Of the 12,255,607 registered voters in the 30 most-populous counties of Texas, some 4,884,528 individuals voted in person or by mail during the early voting period of Oct. 22 through Nov. 2. That comes to nearly 40 percent of registered voters for those counties. If not a record, that is unusually high in comparison to early voting in previous non-presidential elections.
Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, the state’s chief elections officer, on Nov. 2 encouraged the 11 million registered voters who did not take advantage of early voting to get to the polls and vote on Election Day.
“As you head to the polls, please be prepared to join the millions of Texans who are eager to cast their votes,” Pablos said. “I ask you to be patient and respectful as Texans celebrate this privileged event of civic duty to exercise their fundamental right to vote.”
Pablos addressed rumors that electronic voting machines might be inaccurately processing ballots. He assured voters that each of their choices on their ballots would be counted accurately and securely and that “every polling place in Texas is staffed by trained elections officials and personnel who are there to help you, are ready to assist and can ensure that you are able to successfully cast your vote.”
Abbott requests declaration
Gov. Greg Abbott on Oct. 30 sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting a presidential disaster declaration for counties especially hard-hit by severe weather and flooding that caused widespread damage across the state in mid-October.
More counties may be added to the declaration as local, state and federal agencies continue to assess damages, Abbott said.
“The magnitude of recent severe weather and flooding has taken a serious toll on Texans across the state. With such widespread flooding and devastation, additional resources are needed to help Texans recover,” Abbott said.
In addition to his request for a presidential disaster declaration, Abbott on Oct. 30 expanded his state disaster declaration to cover some 111 Texas counties. Abbott has authorized the use of all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions to aid in the response efforts.
TxDOT urges more safety
The Texas Department of Transportation on Nov. 1 announced that since Nov. 7, 2000 — a period of 18 years — at least one person has died on Texas roadways every single day.
To increase awareness, TxDOT called for Texans to post photo and video testimonials using the social media hashtag #EndTheStreakTX.
“We all have the power to end the streak of daily deaths on Texas roadways,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan. “Don’t drink and drive; put away the cell phone; buckle up; and obey traffic laws. Be the driver you would want next to you, in front of you or behind you. Together, we can end the streak.”
“It’s heartbreaking to know that every day for the past 18 years someone has lost a spouse, child, friend or neighbor on our state’s roadways,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “Ending this deadly daily streak is a shared responsibility. We will continue to engineer our roads to be more forgiving of drivers’ errors, but we all must work toward ending such preventable contributing factors as distracted driving, speeding and drunk driving.”
Revenue total increases
State sales tax revenue totaled $2.6 billion in October, an amount 7.3 percent more than the amount reported in October 2017, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said on Nov. 2.
Total sales tax revenue for the three months ending in October 2018 was up 12.6 percent compared to the same period a year ago. The sales tax is the largest source of state funding for the state budget, accounting for 57 percent of all tax collections.
However, revenue from other major taxes on motor vehicle sales and rentals, motor fuel and oil and natural gas production were mixed for the month, as follows:
• Motor vehicle sales and rental taxes, $438.4 million, down 2.6 percent compared with October 2017;
• Motor fuel taxes, $298 million, down 4.2 percent compared with October 2017; and
• Oil and natural gas production taxes, $439.9 million, up 52.4 percent compared with October 2017.
Ed Sterling is the member services director for the Texas Press Association. His column is a weekly aggregation of news about the state’s government.
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