The preliminary numbers for the first week of early voting are in across Hidalgo County.
Overall, voter turnout between Monday, April 22 and Saturday, April 27 has been slightly higher than the most recent comparable election in May 2017, according to Hidalgo County Elections Administrator Yvonne Ramón.
“It’s going very well,” Ramón said Monday, adding that 500 more people cast ballots in the first week of early voting this year compared to 2017.
The county is administering nine of the 11 elections taking place this spring. New this year is district-wide voting, a point Ramón stressed as a boon to voters.
With district-wide voting, voters can show up in person to any polling place in the county and cast their ballots for their local races.
“You can vote at any poll location,” Ramón said.
“For example, if you live in San Juan, but you happen to work in Edinburg, guess what? You can go to the poll locations here in Edinburg and your San Juan ballot will be there,” Ramon said.
She added that district-wide voting will also be available on Election Day.
The county is administering elections in the cities of Donna, La Villa, Mercedes, Peñitas, San Juan, Sullivan City and Weslaco. It is also administering the Edinburg school district bond election and the McAllen school board elections.
The cities of Pharr and McAllen are administering their own elections.
In Pharr, two incumbents are running unopposed — Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez and Place 5 Commissioner Ricardo Medina.
Meanwhile, Place 1 incumbent Eleazar Guajardo faces challenger Daniela Zuniga. Two newcomers are vying for a spot at Place 6, which was vacated by former Commissioner Mario Bracamontes. They are Itza Flores and Lorena Singh.
In McAllen, voters will cast their ballots for two seats on the city commission.
Running for District 4 are Joe Califa and Tania Ramirez. Vying for Place 5 are John Ingram, Mark Murray and Victor “Seby” Haddad.
McAllen voters will also decide on four school board seats in an election administered by the county.
Juan “Johnny” Cano is challenging incumbent Marco Suarez for Place 1. Place 2 incumbent Conrado “Ito” Alvarado faces challenger Lynse Guerra, who formerly ran an unsuccessful bid for Place 7 in 2017.
At Place 4, incumbent Tony Forina faces challenger Gina Karam-Millin, while Place 5 incumbent Daniel Vela is running against Don Delaney.
A total of 2,807 voters had cast their ballots at the county’s three McAllen polling stations as of Monday morning.
McAllen ISD isn’t the only school district holding an election. Residents in nextdoor Edinburg are being tasked with deciding on a $220 million bond election this May.
Should the bond pass, district leaders are hoping to use the funds to construct a middle school, high school, two career technology centers, and fund classroom additions and renovations.
As of Monday, 3,869 people had voted at Edinburg’s various voting locations.
While early voter turnout has been slightly higher countywide, some sites in the Mid-Valley have seen low turnout.
In Weslaco, for example, where voters are being asked to decide on a $10 million bond proposition meant to fund drainage system improvements, only 100 people cast ballots at the Business Visitor & Event Center in the first six days of voting.
According to county officials, Weslaco has nearly 20,000 registered voters.
Meanwhile, in La Villa — a town with 1,358 registered voters — where three seats on the board of aldermen are up for grabs, 529 ballots have been cast as of Saturday.
In Donna, where 11,522 people are registered to vote, 344 voters had made their voices heard at Amigos Del Valle in the first week of voting. There, voters are deciding on three proposed amendments to the city charter.
And in Mercedes, a town with 8,443 registered voters, a total of 535 people had cast their ballots to fill two hotly contested slots on the city commission.
Voters in Peñitas are casting ballots in a municipal election to elect a mayor and fill two seats on the city commission.
Incumbent and mayor Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez is facing challenger and previous mayor Marcos Ochoa.
Running for Place 2 are Osiel Ramos and J.R. Flores, while Esmer Medina and Ramiro Loya are running for Place 4.
Sullivan City Councilmember Adirana Rodriguez and Julian Peña are running unopposed. However, voters there will need to decide on a proposition to dissolve the city’s economic development corporation in favor of forming a municipal development district in its stead.
And finally, San Juan voters will decide who will fill two seats on the city commission.
At Place 4, incumbent Leonardo “Lenny” Sanchez faces challenger Erasmo “Eddie” Guerra, while Place 5 incumbent Pete Garcia faces two challengers: Fernando Castillo and Marco “Markie” Villegas.
Meanwhile, voters in the Edcouch-Elsa school district who had been gearing up to vote now have no ballot to cast after the school board of trustees cancelled a proposed $24.2 million bond election there less than a week before early voting started.
EEISD taxpayers will still be on the hook to pay some of the costs of the now-cancelled election.
“There will be a cost, because, like I said, we were already prepared to deliver,” Ramón said of the now-cancelled election. “We were delivering, in fact, that Thursday and they advised us that Wednesday, and so we didn’t deliver, although everything was ready to go,” she said.
However, the county election administrator expected the cost to be minimal — a benefit of the newer voting equipment now in use.
“With our new voting equipment that is so much more advanced technologically, we were at a point where we are able to shut those machines off. We wouldn’t have been able to do that with the old equipment,” Ramón said.
Voters have one last chance to cast their ballots by personal appearance during early voting as polls are set to close today at 7 p.m. in most locations. Election Day is Saturday, May 4, when polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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