Politics & Government

March 3, 2014

Texans must pick a party before voting on Tuesday

Polls are open in Texas party primary elections from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

It’s decision time.

Texans will finally get their say today in fiercely fought party primary races that have sparked a barrage of mailers, robo-calls and TV and radio ads locally and throughout the state.

Among the most high profile races are those for U.S. Senate, Texas governor, all top statewide offices — and for Tarrant County district attorney.

Local elections officials say early voting went smoothly and they believe Election Day will as well. But they offer a few tips:

“Allow plenty of time for safe travel, make sure you bring one of the acceptable forms of ID and get out and vote,” said Stephen Vickers, assistant elections administrator in Tarrant County.

Polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Despite the frosty temperatures and roadways earlier this week, weather forecasters believe conditions will be just right for voters today.

The temperature should start around 25 in the morning and warm up into the 40s, said Dan Shoemaker, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

“There’s no reason to not go to the polls, other than a lack of choice,” he said.

This is the second, and largest, statewide election since the state’s voter ID law went into effect last year, so voters should remember to bring a government-issued photo ID with them.

“I encourage all Texas voters to get the facts about voting and exercise their right to help choose our candidates for local, state and federal elections in November,” Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry said.

Already, 589,628 Texans in the state’s 15 largest counties, including more than 75,000 Tarrant County voters, have cast their ballots in this election, state records show.

Races where no candidate draws more than 50 percent of the vote will head to a May 27 runoff between the top two vote getters.

Top races

At the top of the ballot are key races such as the battle for U.S. Senate, where eight Republicans, including incumbent John Cornyn, hope to claim their party’s nomination and five Democrats hope to claim theirs as well.

And there’s the fight to become Texas’ next governor.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is the perceived front runner for the Republican party, but he faces three opponents — Lisa Fritsch, SECEDE Kilgore and Miriam Martinez.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is the perceived front-runner for the Democratic party, although she faces one opponent, Reynaldo “Ray” Madrigal.

Other key Republican races include lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner and railroad commissioner.

One of the most hotly contested local races is for state Senate District 10, the post Davis has held since 2009.

Five Republicans — Konni Burton, Tony Pompa, Jon Schweitzer, Mark Shelton and Mark Skinner — hope to win the nomination outright, or at least head to a runoff. Two Democrats, Mike Martinez and Libby Willis, are seeking their party’s nomination as well.

At the same time, a handful of local legislative races have heated up.

State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, faces challenger Ramon Romero Jr. in the District 90 race; state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, faces challenger Andy Cargile in the District 92 race; and state Sen. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, faces Tony Tinderholt in the District 94 race.

And the contest for Tarrant County district attorney will be decided in the Republican primary because no Democrats are running. That contest is between George Mackey, Sharen Wilson and Kathy A. Lowthorp.

Also on the ballot

There will also be nonbinding referendums on the ballot on issues ranging from immigration reform to religious freedoms.

Democrats will weigh in on whether Congress should be urged to pass immigration reform and raise the federal minimum wage and whether state lawmakers should be encouraged to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid and pass non-discrimination legislation.

And Republicans will be asked whether they support the following referendums: Texans should be free to express religious freedoms, including prayer in public places; Texans should expand Second Amendment rights by approving more locations for concealed-handgun license holders to carry their weapons; Texans should abolish the state franchise tax; Texans who receive public assistance should be subject to random drug tests; all elected officials and their staffs should be subject to the same rules and laws as other Texans; and the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” should be repealed.

Bring ID to the polls

Acceptable IDs include a driver’s 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.

“There are seven options available to comply with the photo ID law and the state of Texas is taking every possible action to make the process simple and easy,” Berry said.

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.

Texas lawmakers approved the voter ID measure in 2011, but it didn’t go into effect in Texas elections until last year. Voter turnout this year is expected to be much greater.

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