Texans head to the polls

Posted Tuesday, Nov. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Texans head to the polls today to weigh in on a slew of proposals, ranging from nine constitutional amendments to alcohol sales and city and school bond packages.

More than 300,000 early voters have already weighed in statewide, nearly doubling early turnout in similar recent elections.

The spotlight local race in Tarrant County is a massive Fort Worth school bond package.

“The election is especially important in many counties, cities, ISDs and other taxing districts,” said Mark P. Jones, political science professor at Rice University in Houston. “Voters who fail to turn out to vote ... will have forfeited their opportunity to help determine who represents them, whether or not one of their taxing authorities takes on new debt to fund specific projects, and, in some cases whether or not their taxes will be increased.”

Voters need to make sure they bring a photo ID, since this is the first statewide election for which the state’s voter ID law will be in full effect.

Polls will be open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Early morning voters may be hampered by a little rain, but that system should move out of the area by afternoon, leaving a chilly but dry Election Day afternoon and evening. Today’s temperatures should range from around 57 degrees to 70 degrees, said Nick Hampshire, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

Statewide, 317,752 Texans who live in the state’s most populous 15 counties — including more than 27,000 in Tarrant County — cast ballots early in the election.

That’s a big jump over similar past elections: In 2011, 167,708 Texans voted early; in 2009, 197,907 Texans voted early, according to Texas Secretary of State records.

Overall, local turnout may be 6 to 8 percent, said Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn.

“We’re reminding everyone to bring their photo ID with them,” he said. “If they don’t have one of those, they could vote a provisional ballot, but would have to come in within seven days of the election” to validate the ballot.

On the ballot

Texans will vote on nine proposed constitutional amendments that touch on such issues as creating a State Water Implementation Fund and authorizing reverse mortgages.

“Constitutional Amendments do matter because once passed it is difficult to overturn them since they are now part of the Constitution,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “It is difficult for many people, even well educated, to often understand the Amendments the way they are composed and written. So, it is easy and understandable to not vote.

“However, even not voting is an act and has an impact,” he said.

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.

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 changes

Texas 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.

Anyone who shows up at the polls to vote who don’t have 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. If they don’t, the ballot will not be counted, Raborn said.

A list of sample ballots and Election Day polling sites are here.

For information, call Tarrant County Elections officials at 817-831-8683.

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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