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Runoffs, special election draw high turnout

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During this year’s primary runoff and special election, Bastrop County produced high voter turnout compared to past similar races in the midst of this unusual time for an election.

This year’s Democratic and Republican primary runoff elections, as well as a special election for Texas Senate District 14 to replace resigning Senator Kirk Watson, were postponed to July 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Early voting in Bastrop County spanned from June 29 through July 10.

In the special election for Texas Senate District 14, which includes Bastrop County, Democrat Sarah Eckhardt took the lead with 49.66% of the votes statewide, with Democrat Eddie Rodriguez and Republican Don Zimmerman earning 33.84% and 13.04% of votes, respectively, according to the Texas Secretary of State website. Waller Thomas Burns II, Pat Dixon and Jeff Ridgeway earned the remaining votes. In Bastrop County, Zimmerman took the lead with 38.95% of votes, with Eckhardt and Rodriguez earning 31.41% and 22.64% of votes, respectively.

In the statewide Democratic primary runoff for the U.S. Senate seat, Mary “MJ” Hegar led with 52.13% of votes, while Royce West earned 47.87% of votes. In Bastrop County, Hegar took 74.1% of votes, while West took 25.9%.

Find the rest of the results for this election, including multiple runoff elections for federal and state positions, at www.sos.state.tx.us/elections, or visit www.bastropvotes.org to see how Bastrop County voted in these races.

Bastrop County turnout this year, both with mail-in ballots and in-person voting, was higher than it has been for the past three similar elections, according to Bastrop County elections administrator Kristin Miles. During the 2015 special election for state representative in district 17, a total of 4,124 votes were cast; in the 2016 primary runoff, a total of 3,929 votes were cast; and in the 2018 primary runoff, a total of 4,172 votes were cast. As of last week, during this year’s election, 3,858 votes were cast during early voting, 2,037 people voted on Election Day and 3,041 absentee ballots have been returned.

Miles said the numbers for in-person voting may increase slightly, but not significantly, once provisional ballots are counted. The deadline to receive ballots from mail and voters overseas was this Monday. There is a potential for a runoff in the District 14 special election, Miles said, but that won’t be known for sure until the deadline has passed to receive the military and overseas ballots.

This year, the Bastrop County Elections Department implemented special procedures at the polls to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These steps included providing hand sanitizer and masks, requiring election workers to wear masks when near others, sanitizing pens and equipment between voters and encouraging six feet of separation between each election worker and voter.

Looking forward to the election in November, Miles said the current plan is to keep these safety measures in place, unless the public health situation changes significantly by then and requires a modified response.

“We had a good response from voters, indicating that they were happy with the safety measures in place and that they felt comfortable coming into the polling location to vote,” Miles said. “Most all of the things that we implemented can be implemented long-term. We plan to continue using the barriers at the early voting locations and Election Day sites and continue cleaning for as long as we need to.”