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McLennan voters weigh in on 8 new state constitutional amendments

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Posted at 1:23 PM, Oct 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-24 20:21:53-04

WACO, TX — Early voting for the upcoming Nov. 2 Joint General Election picks up at 8 a.m. Monday, at five early voting locations in McLennan County.

While there is no early voting this weekend, voters in McLennan County are able to cast their ballots at specified times through Oct. 29.

You can find early voting dates, times, and locations in McLennan County here.

From Monday through Thursday, little more than 1,000 voters participated in early voting, according to McLennan County Elections Office.

When some voters cast their ballots, they'll be deciding on local school bonds or school board and city races.

However, in Texas, every voter will see eight amendments to the Texas Constitution.

They'll be able to vote yes or no when they head to the polls. A majority of Texas voters must approve an amendment before it can be added to Texas Constitution.

In 2019, enough Texas voters approved nine of the ten proposed amendments put before them for the changes to be added to the State Constitution.

Among the eight propositions, voters are deciding on this year include a ban on the state prohibiting or limiting religious services and changes in eligibility requirements for state judges.

Each proposition was passed as a bill during this year's legislative session.

The Texas Tribune has a breakdown of the eight proposals voters weigh in on, which you can find here.

Vietnam Veteran and Waco resident Joe Blais participated in early voting on Wednesday. He said the eight proposed constitutional amendments he found on that ballot were difficult to comprehend at first glance.

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Scene outside McLennan County's Elections Administration Office in Waco.

"Had to read them two or three times to kind of figure out what they were actually asking," he said. "But other than that, it went pretty good, and I was able to understand them clearly."

Several of the eight proposals on this year's ballot are constructed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which Blais said made them easier to understand.

For example, proposition six on this year's ballot amends the State Constitution to allow residents of assisted living facilities to name one essential caregiver for in-person visitation. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on nursing homes kept some residents from seeing family for months.

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Screenshot of State of Texas Proposition 6 on November 2, 2021 Constitutional Amendment Election Sample Ballot.

Blais said he voted in favor of the amendment.

"When a person may not make it three or four days," he explained. "What's the point of not allowing their family to visit them?"

Speaking with several Waco residents at Cameron City Park on Wednesday, most were unaware of Nov. 2 Joint General Election or what was on their ballot.

"Did you know we have an election underway?"

I asked one Waco resident enjoying a sunny day at the park with his family.

"No, I did not."

He explained the last time he voted was in Nov. 2020's Presidential Election.

The mention of possible amendments being added to the State Constitution garnered the curiosity of this Waco resident. And it's understandable there's a lack of awareness about what's on the ballot compared to the Nov. 2020's Presidential Election and even the local elections held in May earlier this year.

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Scene outside the McLennan County Elections Administration office from April 2021. Campaign signs for candidates running in May's local city and school elections colored the street corner.

There's no state elected seats on the ballot this Nov., and you're not seeing the same colorful mosaic of signs dawning candidate names you saw in May 2021. Nor the dramatic speeches full of bombast or extravagance blaring on the TV screen like in Nov. 2020.

Jared Goldsmith is the McLennan County Elections Administrator. He has years of experience working in elections as the County's Assistant Election Administrator, took on the county's top job following Nov. 2020's Presidential Election.

"This election typically is a lower turnout election," Goldsmith explained. "So far, it's following the trends as usual."

While the first week of early voter participation aligns with previous trends, Goldsmith does hope to see a change in the number of voters ahead of election day on Nov. 2.

"Hoping for a bigger turnout," he explained. "We want our voters to come out and make sure their voice is heard."

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McLennan County Elections Administrator Jared Goldsmith explains early voting turnout has matched pace with previous constitutional amendment elections in years past.

It's a sentiment Waco resident and Vietnam Veteran Joe Blais agrees on.

"There's a lot of countries in this world where you don't get the right to explain your feelings or how you think they should be treating you," he explained. "So as a free person and free country, your legal right is to vote. Express your opinion. Why not?

"Look at your sample ballots, get educated on what issues you know affect you," Goldsmith explained. "Take advantage of the fact that you have a voice in how your government is run."

Texas Voters can find out what's on their ballot by visiting their county's website.

For a full list of the eight proposed amendments in this year's Constitutional Amendment Election, you can find a sample ballot on the Texas Secretary of State's website here.