Special to the Journal
Early voting for the November 8, General Election is now under way, and the Bell County Election Department would like to offer a few suggestions to voters as they make their way to the polls.
The first thing a voter should know is when and where they can vote. Bell County voters have the chance to cast their ballots in any one of seven locations around the county.
Again, during Early Voting and on Election Day, Bell County voters can use any voting center they want.
On Election Day, that means choosing from any one of 42 locations.
Of course, the closest location might not be the fastest. Especially on Election Day, voters at more popular sites will likely experience longer wait times. To help voters navigate that decision, the county has created its wait times app, which is available at BellCountyTx.com/voting. This portal not only shows every possible location but also communicates estimated wait time at each location.
Another thing that might surprise some voters is how accessible voting can be. Every vote center has the capacity to offer curbside voting to individuals with mobility problems. A placard near each center will display a cell phone number that can be called to request assistance.
Beyond choosing where and how to vote, voters need to be aware of some laws that are specific to polling places in Texas.
“A Voting Center is a unique place,” Elections Administrator Dr. Desi Roberts said. “There are some otherwise ordinary behaviors that people may not realize could get them in trouble within 100 feet of a polling site.”
One rule that may surprise some voters is that carrying a firearm is strictly prohibited.
“Obviously, in Texas we have a lot of citizens who practice Constitutional Carry,” Dr. Roberts said. “Normally, that law would allow them to carry a gun. However, we have laws related to elections that make it illegal to do so near a voting center.”
Section 46.03 of the Penal Code states that a person commits an offense if they carry a weapon on the premises of a polling place, either on election day or during early voting. Only Election Judges and law enforcement officers are exempt from this law.
Another activity that some voters may be surprised to learn is prohibited within 100 feet of voting centers is the use of cell phones, cameras, tablets, laptops, sound recorders, or any other device that may be used to communicate wirelessly record sound or images.
“We have gotten used to always having our phones out,” Dr. Roberts said, “and it’s understandable that some folks may want to use it as a reference and look up some races while they vote. However, you cannot have your phones or devices out in the polling place.”
Instead, Roberts encourages voters to do their research in advance, and know who they want to vote for before they ever enter the voting center.
“We publish a sample of every ballot in the county to our website,” Dr. Roberts said. “Voters can bring it paper notes or even print our and complete their sample ballot to use as a guide.”
Sample ballots are available online at https://www.bellcountytx.com/departments/elections/ballot_samples.php and are divided up by precinct number. If voters are unsure of their precinct, they can find them using an interactive map at . Users can input their address to find everything they need to determine which of the sample ballots in right for them.
Another behavior that is carefully monitored is the display of campaign materials. No political signs or literature related to a candidate, political party, or measure appearing on the ballot is allowed within 100 feet of the voting center. Critically, this rule can extend to political t-shirts or apparel. Individuals violating this policy may be asked by the presiding Elections Judge at the site to cover the offending apparel before entering the building.
“I know this could be frustrating for some voters,” Roberts said. “I would recommend that people avoid any apparel or signs containing political statements of any kind. That way, there is no risk of them getting confronted about it.”
Bell County is divided into a number of voting precincts, and voters can cast their ballots during the Early Voting period regardless of where they live in the county.