Voting starts today in Texas
Dust off your voter cards.
It's time for Texans to head back to the polls, starting today, to finally choose presidential, U.S. Senate, congressional, legislative and other candidates on the ballot this November.
And while election officials say they aren't sure how large the turnout might be, they are prepared for record-breaking numbers similar to those seen four years ago in the last presidential race.
"We're prepared for a 2008 turnout ... so we aren't caught off-guard," Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn said. "I don't know if we will get that, but we are ready for that if it comes."
Early voting begins today for the Nov. 6 general election and runs through Nov.2.
Four years ago, 66 percent of Tarrant County's registered voters headed to the polls for the presidential race -- with most casting their ballots early. That year, 431,799 locals cast their vote early, in person, 29,798 mailed in ballots and 173,671 showed up in person at the polls on Election Day, local records show.
"I think it's going to be slightly lower this year," said Tom Marshall, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. "In 2008, all the good energy was among Democrats. Now, in 2012, most of the energy is among Republicans who are unhappy with the White House.
"I'm expecting Republican turnout to be about the same as it was four years ago, but I think the Democratic turnout will be moderately lower," he said. "I think Barack Obama has the George W. Bush fatigue going on."
Top of the ballot
At the top of the ballot, of course, is the hotly contested presidential race between incumbent President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are also on the ballot.
"The interest in the presidential contest is not nearly as intense as in 2008," said Allan Saxe, an associate professor of political science at UTA. "A bit of the bloom is off the flower with President Obama."
Near the top of the Texas ballot is the race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate between Republican Ted Cruz, Democrat Paul Sadler, Libertarian John Jay Myers and Green Party candidate David B. Collins.
And there are a slew of congressional and legislative races, statewide races, judicial races, state Board of Education races and local races ranging from sheriff to county commissioner.
Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade recently announced that a record number of Texans are registered to vote -- more than 13.6 million.
"I want to thank all Texans who registered to vote this year and all Texans who are already registered voters," Andrade said. "The next step is getting to the polls during early voting or on Election Day."
The Justice Department announced last week that it will monitor part of the early voting period in two Texas counties -- Dallas and Harris. Justice Department workers will monitor polling place activities in those counties.
Early voters may go to any of Tarrant County's sites. They should bring identification -- their voter registration certificate or alternate ID, such as a driver's license, birth certificate, passport, U.S. citizenship papers or a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or other government document.
"We are encouraging people to vote early, even early during the early voting period," Raborn said. "We will be busiest during the last few days of early voting.
"If you are ready to cast your ballot, go ahead and do it."
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610