Houston resident Chris Weaver waits for his ballot to vote Tuesday morning.

With a presidential election and hotly contested gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races on the ballot, a big turnout is expected today as Texas County voters travel to precincts.

Three local contests are also on the ballot, and voters will decide several measures — ranging from voter identification at the polls to two measures that will increase taxes on cigarettes. Polls opened at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. The Texas County clerk’s office was open Saturday for absentee balloting. 

The Texas County clerk’s office reported 1,149 absentee ballots were received before the deadline Monday. (1,210 had been requested). That’s up slightly from four years ago.

By shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday, more than 550 votes had been cast at the Houston Storm Shelter.

The centerpiece for the election is a presidential contest that features Republican businessman Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and First Lady.

In the governor’s race, Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, is opposed by Eric Greitens, a Republican. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, is opposed by Democrat Jason Kander, the secretary of state, in a race termed too close to call.

In other statewide races, Missouri Sen. Mike Parson, a Republican, and former U.S. Congressman Russ Carnahan, a Democrat, are seeking the lieutenant governor’s office. Robin Smith, a Democrat, is opposing John “Jay” Ashcroft for secretary of state. On the ballot for state treasurer are Republican Eric Schmitt and Democrat Judy Baker. The attorney general’s race features Democrat Teresa Hensley and Republican Josh Hawley.

U.S. Congressman Jason Smith, a Salem Republican, is challenged by Democrat Dave Cowell and Jonathan Shell, a Libertarian. Rep. Robert Ross, a Republican from Yukon, is opposed by Bobby Johnston Jr. of Houston, a Democrat.

Locally, there are three races on the ballot: County Commissioner John Casey, a Republican, is opposed by Democrat Scott McKinney for the District 1 seat that is a four-year term. Both live at Houston.

County Clerk Kris Neal, a Democrat, is challenged by Laura Crowley, a Republican. Both are Houston residents.

County Coroner Thomas Whittaker of Cabool, a Democrat, is opposed by Marie Lasater of Licking, a Republican.

Incumbents running unopposed are: Mo. Sen. Mike Cunningham, Circuit Judge John Beger, Recorder of Deeds Lindsay Koch, Sheriff James Sigman, Assessor Debbie James, Collector-Treasurer Tammy Cantrell, Public Administrator Connie Thompson and Surveyor Charles “Chuck” Manier. All are Republicans except Cantrell.  Set to fill the District 2 county commissioner seat is Republican Doyle Heiney of Summersville. He was unopposed in August and in next week’s balloting. He fills the seat of retiring commissioner Linda Garrett of Licking.

The only area issue on the ballot is a 4 percent lodging tax at Mountain Grove.

There are five constitutional issues on the ballot:

•Amendment 1 – Renews a one-tenth of 1 percent soil and parks tax.

•Amendment 2 — Would establish limits on campaign contributions.

•Amendment 3 — Increases taxes on cigarettes through 2020, when the total tax will be 60 cents for a pack of 20. Funds go to early childhood health and education.

•Amendment 4 — Would prohibit state or local taxes on services.

•Amendment 6 — Would require additional identification at polling precincts.

Another cigarette proposition also appears on the ballot — It would increase taxes to a total of 23 cents per pack of 20 by 2021. Funds would go to transportation infrastructure.

Voters also will be asked whether to retain Richard B. Teitelman to the Missouri Supreme Court.

A sample ballot appears on Page M12 in today’s Messenger.

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