First-time voters cast ballots in Sugar Land

Fort Bend County had over 200,000 early votes cast in the 2016 general election.

Fort Bend County had over 200,000 early votes cast in the 2016 general election.

First-time voters made their way to the polls in Sugar Land on Tuesday to cast their first presidential ballots.

Texas voter registration hit a new record this year, with more than 15 million people registered as of Oct. 13, according to the Secretary of State’s office. That represents 78 percent of the state’s voting age population, compared to the 2012 presidential election when Texas had 13.6 million registered voters, or 75 percent of the voting age population.

University of St. Thomas senior Nicole Fahmy said she was excited to cast her first presidential ballot.

“There were a lot of websites I found [with election information],” she said at the Randalls grocery store in New Territory. “So I just kind of went from there.”

Aly Jamal, a nurse at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, came to the store before his night shift to cast his first vote.

“It feels good,” he said. “I feel like I’m part of something bigger.”

Robert Stone, senior at Stephen F. Austin High School, turned 18 years old in October, just in time to vote. He said the election has been heavily discussed in school, and he voted for the candidate he felt more closely aligned with the principals of the Constitution.

“I was kind of nervous,” he said.

Among Fort Bend County’s 83 countywide vote centers, the store was the only site with a projected wait time longer than 40 minutes by mid-day Tuesday, officials said. But when the first-time voters went to cast their ballots around 4 p.m., the line had only about 10 people.

Stone’s mother Diane said she came to the Randalls store around 1:30 p.m., and the line extended down aisle No. 9.

“It was about a 25-minute wait,” she said.

Fort Bend County counted 200,066 early in-person votes and 11,868 early ballots by-mail between Oct. 24 and Nov. 4. The number of early provisional ballots cast were not included in the county’s online statistics as of Election Day.

The sites with the highest in-person early turnout were the Cinco Ranch Branch of the Fort Bend County Library with 24,115 votes cast, Tompkins High School in Katy with 15,052 votes cast, First Colony Conference Center in Sugar Land with 14,806 votes cast, Missouri City Community Center with 13,541 votes cast and Four Corners Community Center in Sugar Land with 12,571 votes cast, according to the county’s elections website.

Polls will close at 7 p.m. Live election results for races in the Greater Houston area will be posted on http://www.communityimpact.com