Months of campaigning ends today, as voters in Tarrant County and throughout the state go to the polls to choose leaders to serve on city councils, school boards and water districts and weigh in on multi-million dollar bond issues.Already, more than 37,000 Tarrant County voters have cast their ballots.Today is the last chance to vote and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.Texans who are concerned about the quality of life in their city, the functioning of their public schools and the amount of property taxes and local fees they pay should do their homework on the candidates running for office and then turn out to vote, said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.Dozens of races in Tarrant County are on todays ballot, including contested city council and school board races in Fort Worth, Arlington and countless other communities and a heated battle for three seats on the Tarrant Regional Water Districts board of directors.Other top issues believed to be drawing voters to the polls include proposals that would authorize millions of dollars in bonds for school districts stretching from Birdville to Weatherford in Parker County and even a proposal to impose term limits on elected officials in Grapevine.Officials say weather shouldnt keep voters away today.Cloudy skies should clear throughout the day and temperatures should start out in the upper 50s in the morning, warming to around 80 degrees during the day, said Dannis Cavanaugh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn said he expects about eight to 10 percent of locally registered voters to cast ballots in this election, although some areas such as the Birdville school district and Grapevine may see a higher turnout.Last May, 39,545 Tarrant County voters cast ballots in the local and school election, compared with 73,622 in May 2011 and 37,286 in 2010, local election records show.Voter turnout for local and school elections in May is traditionally smaller than primary or general elections, which Jones said is too bad because officials chosen in these elections have a big impact in their communities.Public officials who will be elected [today] have a profound impact on the quality of life in many Texas cities and on the functioning of many of the states [school districts], he said.But a small turnout isnt necessarily a bad thing, said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.I want informed voters, not just high numbers, Saxe said. My theory is that local government usually stirs little interest because local governments operate so well garbage is picked up, ... waste water disposed of, fire and ambulance and police work well.So people dont care because they have become so accustomed [to the] predictable workings of local government, he said. If local governments did not work well, then the voting public would be mad and turn out in larger numbers.Photo identification requirements are not in effect in Texas because they have not received federal approval. So to vote, take your voter registration certificate, a drivers license, utility bill or other mail from a governmental entity to the polls.For sample ballots, go to www.tarrantcounty.com/elections.For more information, call the Tarrant County Elections Center, 817-831-8683.
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley