FORT WORTH — Nearly twice as many voters have cast ballots early for the Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election than in recent years — and there’s still one day left to go.More than 224,000 Texans had cast votes by midweek, compared with about 116,000 at the same point in 2011 and around 125,000 in 2009, according to voter tallies from the state’s 15 largest counties.“In early voting, it’s approaching doubling,” Texas Secretary of State John Steen said Thursday during a visit to the Tarrant County Elections Center.That may be due to attention being paid to the state’s new Voter ID law, which requires voters to show photo identification at the polls, election officials say.Today is the last day to cast early votes in Tuesday’s election, which includes nine proposed constitutional amendments and a variety of issues such as park and school bond proposals in Bedford and Fort Worth, and alcohol sales in Arlington.Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.Locally, there have been about 20,000 ballots cast early in person and about 3,000 cast by mail, said Steve Raborn, Tarrant County’s elections administrator.“Early voting is becoming more popular,” he said. “In some cases, we may be front-loading our elections.”Voter IDState lawmakers approved the voter ID measure in 2011, this is the first statewide election in which it has affected voters.The most common problem election officials seem to be finding is when names don’t identically match on a person’s voter registration card and photo ID. Those with “substantially similar” names are allowed to sign an affidavit stating they are the same person.Earlier this week, state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, signed an affidavit to vote because one of her IDs included her maiden name and the other one didn’t.“It was a simple procedure,” Davis, who is running for governor in next year’s election, said after voting. “I signed the affidavit and was able to vote with no problem.”Davis worked in 2011 to add an amendment to the Voter ID law for such cases, to let people whose name didn’t match exactly sign an affidavit letting them vote if the names were “substantially similar.”She wasn’t the only gubernatorial candidate who had to sign the affidavit.Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican running for governor who has vigorously defended the ID law in multiple lawsuits, said he also would be signing the affidavit.His driver’s license lists his middle name but his voter registration card does not.“Like so many people in the state of Texas, my ID and my voter registration don’t match,” he told the Star-Telegram during a local campaign stop this week. “However, they are substantially similar. ... Signing that little certificate is not a problem.”Acceptable IDsSteen said acceptable IDs include a driver’s license, a state-issued personal ID card, concealed handgun license, military card and citizenship certificate with photo or a passport. Any license that’s expired must not be expired for more than 60 days.Anyone who needs one may get a free election identification card at a driver’s license office. Several local offices are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Saturday just to issue Election Identification Certificates.Anyone who shows up at the polls to vote without a photo ID will be 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. Otherwise the ballot will not be counted.No provisional ballots have been cast so far in Tarrant County due to the voter ID requirement, Raborn said.“Early voting has gone very smoothly,” Raborn said. “So far, so good.”Sample ballots and a list of Election Day polling sites are online. For information, call Tarrant County election officials at 817-831-8683.
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley