Today is a busy day for elections.
Not only is it the first day of early voting for the May 10 local election, but also it’s the last day for Texans to register to vote in the May 27 primary runoff election.
“It can get confusing,” said Stephen Vickers, chief deputy elections administrator in Tarrant County.
With two different election dates in May come two different ballots and two different sets of polling locations for voters.
That’s why Vickers and others are encouraging voters to head to the polls early.
“We have more equipment out in the field during early voting so the lines tend to be shorter,” Vickers said. “On Election Day, you can only go to one place to vote, and the lines can form.
“Early voting gives you more options and more days to vote.”
Election officials also are reminding voters to take a valid government-issued photo ID with them to the polls, to comply with the state’s voter ID law that went into effect last year.
Early voting for the May 10 local elections runs through May 6. Early voting for the May 27 primary runoff election runs May 19-23.
May 10 election
In the local election, Tarrant County voters will choose council members and mayors and weigh in on whether to spend money on bond programs and taxes to improve city streets and reduce crime.
More than 100 races throughout Tarrant County will be on the ballot, including a $292 million bond program for Fort Worth to improve everything from libraries and roads to parks and municipal courts, and a $663.1 million bond package for the Arlington school district geared to boost fine arts, technology and transportation.
There are contested council races throughout the county, such as the race in Fort Worth to choose a new council member for District 9, to replace the departing Joel Burns. Other contested council races are on the ballot in cities including Arlington, Bedford, Colleyville, Euless, Haltom City, Mansfield and River Oaks.
And there are other proposals, such as reauthorizing the sales and use tax in Arlington to repair city streets and reauthorizing the tax for the Fort Worth Crime Control and Prevention District, on local ballots.
May 27 election
Later in May, voters will head back to the polls to settle around a dozen races left undecided in the March 4 primary elections.
“If you voted in a party primary or participated in a convention, you can only vote in that same party’s runoff,” Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry said. “If you did not vote in the March 4 primary you may still vote and can vote in the runoff election for either party.”
Local Democrats have three races to cast ballots in: U.S. Senate, Texas agriculture commissioner and State Board of Education District 13.
Local Republicans have a few more races to vote in: lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, railroad commissioner, State Board of Education District 11, Senate District 10, County Criminal Court No. 2 and 3 and Justice of the Peace Precinct 3.
Vickers recommends that voters check out polling places and sample ballots online before heading out to vote in any election.
He also said voters need to take valid photo IDs with them when they vote.
Acceptable IDs include a drivers license, a state-issued personal ID card, concealed handgun license, military ID card, citizenship certificate with photo or a passport. Any license that’s expired must not be expired for more than 60 days.
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 of the election. Otherwise the ballot will not be counted.
Registering to vote
As of last week, Tarrant County had 976,620 registered voters, election records show.
To register to vote in Texas, a voter must be a U.S. citizen at least 17 years and 10 months old (and 18 by Election Day), must not be a convicted felon (unless the person’s sentence is completed, including probation or parole) and cannot be declared mentally incapacitated by a court of law.
People who have moved or changed their name after they are registered must give election officials the new information.
Voter registration applications are available at subcourthouses, city halls, libraries and post offices — and online through Tarrant County and the secretary of state. They must be postmarked or dropped off at the election office by today.
“We haven’t been overwhelmed by any means,” Vickers said. “But they are steadily coming in at a normal pace.”