It’s time for Texans to head back to the polls, this time to weigh in on nine constitutional amendments and issues including alcohol sales and city and school bond packages.But voters need to make sure they bring one extra thing this time: a photo ID.Early voting today Monday for the Nov. 5 election, the first statewide election for which the state’s voter ID law will be in full effect.“Early voting is a way for Texas voters to cast a ballot at a time and location that may be more convenient than waiting for Election Day,” Texas Secretary of State John Steen said. “I encourage all Texans to check now to make sure they have the required photo ID if they plan to vote in person.”Two years ago, less than 4 percent of Tarrant County’s registered voters headed to the polls for the constitutional amendment election, about one-third voting early. Four years ago, nearly 7 percent of local voters cast ballots, nearly 30 percent of them early, local election records show.Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn said that there aren’t any firm projections about turnout this year but that he believes such hot-button issues as bond packages may drive a turnout similar to that in 2009.“We’re not expecting [turnout] to be heavy,” Raborn said. “But it may be higher than we expect as people discover how convenient it is.”Tarrant County voters may go to any of the county’s 40-plus early-voting sites. Early voting runs through Nov. 1.On the ballotOn Nov. 5, Texans will vote on nine proposed constitutional amendments that touch on such issues as creating a State Water Implementation Fund and authorizing reverse mortgages. Proposition 6, on financing the state water plan, has drawn the most attention, as supporters and opponents have traveled the state trying to get out their message.The measure would make $2 billion from the state rainy-day fund available for the Texas Water Development Board to use in financing projects in the water plan, with input from leaders in each region.Supporters say this measure will help solve the state’s drought problem and prepare for population growth in coming decades.“If Texas is to remain the best place to live, work, grow your business or raise your family, we must ensure adequate supplies for generations to come,” Gov. Rick Perry has said. “We stand at a historic crossroads, with a prime opportunity to meet our water needs for ourselves and generations of future Texans.”Opponents say the proposal gives too much control to the board and would fund unneeded projects. They say more should be done to conserve existing water supplies. Some say Texas already has billions of dollars in bonding authority for water projects approved two years ago that have yet to be used.“It's a boondoggle for people who want to make a lot of money on real estate speculation and to build the reservoirs,” Jere Locke, president of the executive board of the Texas Drought Project, has said. “It guarantees no money to conservation, which is our best bet.” Other issues on the ballot vary by city.Voters in Arlington will weigh in on whether the city should allow alcohol sales outside of restaurants and grocery and convenience stores. In White Settlement, they’ll vote in two City Council elections. In Bedford, they’ll vote on a $3.2 million park bond proposal.And in Fort Worth, they’ll decide an estimated $490 million bond package to will pay for such projects as new classrooms, technology, security upgrades, two magnet schools and replacement of aging school buses.The Fort Worth package comes in three propositions: One earmarks $386.6 million to expand the pre-kindergarten program and pay for new classrooms and high-tech tools; another uses about $73.3 million to create specialized campuses for grades six through 12 — a proposed performing and fine arts academy and a school to train tomorrow’s scientists. The third uses about $30 million to replace aging buses, student desks, band uniforms and instruments, and more.Voting changesTexas voters will have to show a photo ID — which include driver license, state-issued personal ID card, concealed handgun license, military card and citizenship certificate with photo or passport.Raborn said he’s concerned that some voters will forget their ID or that some simply don’t have one. And he’s especially concerned that “some elderly voters may show up with an expired driver license and the license can’t be expired for more than 60 days.”He and other election officials have been encouraging voters with no other photo ID to get a free election ID card.Four mobile stations will be back in Tarrant County on Tuesday through Thursday for voters who don’t have a photo ID. These stations will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Tarrant County Southwest Sub-Courthouse, 6551 Granbury Road; the Charles F. Griffin Sub-Courthouse, 3212 Miller Ave.; the Tarrant County Sub-Courthouse in Arlington, 700 E. Abram St.; and the Tarrant County Northeast Sub-Courthouse, 201 Harwood Road, Suite 124, Bedford.Texans also may go to a driver license office to get the ID; several local offices are open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Nov. 2 just to issue Election Identification Certificates.Anyone voting by mail does not have to submit a photo ID. People with a documented disability may apply at their county voter registrar for a permanent exemption from the requirement, election officials say.And any people showing up at the polls to vote who don’t have a photo ID is given a chance to go home and bring the ID back.If they don’t, they may cast a provisional ballot. But to make sure that vote is counted, they’ll have to take a valid photo ID to the elections office within six days after the election. If they don’t, the ballot will not be counted, Raborn said.“We are reminding voters to bring their photo ID with them so they aren’t surprised when they get there and don’t have to go get their ID and then come back,” Raborn said. “But we aren’t expecting this to be a big problem. A lot of voters already use their ID [rather than their voting registration card] to vote.”Applications for mail-in ballots, sample ballots and a list of Election Day polling sites are online. For information, call Tarrant County Elections officials at 817-831-8683. Staff writer Diane Smith contributed to this report.
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley