McAlester voter Carol Kirkhart joined other Pittsburg County voters in going to the polls for today’s special elections.

“I wanted to get out and have my say,” Kirkhart said.

Special elections were set today on a proposed three-quarter cent Pittsburg County sales tax, on changes to the McAlester City Charter and on a $1 million bond issue for an event center and storm shelter in the Hartshorne school district.

All regular polling places were to remain open until 7 p.m.

The county sales tax question and the charter changes sparked Kirkhart’s interest in today’s elections. She said she’s trying to become more informed about the issues.

“I’m getting more involved in knowing,” Kirkhart said. “I’m trying to do my part.”

Another McAlester voter, Jan Grubbs, got out early to vote in today’s elections.

She said the county sales tax question brought her out this morning. If the tax proposal passes, money from the tax will be used to expand and renovate the Pittsburg County Jail and the county courthouse, as well as to build or acquire a county animal shelter.

A small portion of the tax would be set aside for operational funds for the jail and animal shelter.

“It’s badly needed, all of it,” Grubbs said.

“The courthouse is in dire need of repair. We keep getting fined, over and over,” she said, referring to the $29,000 in fines already assessed against the Pittsburg County Jail.

Grubbs said she also supported most of the City Charter changes — but not the one calling for four-year terms for the city council and mayor.

Currently, the terms are set for two years.

“If you get somebody in who’s not doing a good job, you don’t want to have to wait for four years,” she said.

The proposed sales tax proved the main issue for Sally Thrasher, another McAlester voter.

“I’m very much against it,” she said.

“I know there are a lot of needs out there, but our taxes are already high enough.”

Thrasher supported all of the proposed changes to the City Charter.

“With the past problems, it seems they need to have a little more clear-cut rules,” she said.

Meanwhile, election officials were getting mixed signals on how heavy the turnout might be.

A total of 164 voters cast early in-person absentee ballots on Friday and Monday in the Pittsburg County Election Board office at the county courthouse.

“That was a decent turnout, but it’s been light this morning at the polls,” said Pittsburg County Election Board Secretary Carolyn Morris.

At Precinct 7, which is the First Assembly of God Church, only 30 votes had been cast near 9 this morning.

Even fewer ballots had been cast at that time at Precinct 3, which is the George Nigh National Guard Armory. Only 15 votes had been cast near 9 a.m.

Thrasher said she makes it a point to vote in every election.

“It’s one of our greatest freedoms, to be able to vote,” she said.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.