Texans head to the polls today to settle several high-profile, big-dollar races left undecided in the March 4 primary election for both the Republican and Democratic parties.
Two of the most heated statewide battles are on the Republican side, pitting incumbent David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston for the lieutenant governor’s post and state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney and state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas for the attorney general’s job being vacated by GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott.
At the same time, political observers statewide are watching the local GOP fight for Texas Senate 10 and the two local races for seats on the State Board of Education.
“There are some very important nominations undecided,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “But this election will slip by a lot of folks.”
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Polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for Texas voters to weigh in on a dozen races, some which have become increasingly vicious and spurred millions of dollars in television ads, fliers and robocalls.
Less than 4 percent of Texans — 313,878 people — voted early in the state’s most populated 15 counties. That tally includes 31,108 Republicans and 5,426 Democrats in Tarrant County, according to Texas Secretary of State records.
And some observers predict that perhaps only 5 to 6 percent of voters will turn out for this election, the third of the year, where local voters will cast votes in three races for Democrats and nine for Republicans.
“Texans are not taking part in the election that most likely will select the next statewide officials,” Jillson said. “These are important elections but people are unlikely to turn out and I think that’s a mistake.”
Local election officials said early voting went smoothly, but some voters may be confused about heading back to the polls just two weeks after they were there for the city and school election.
“The turnout drops off from the primary,” said Stephen Vickers, chief deputy elections administrator in Tarrant County. “But this really has to do with voter fatigue.
“We are flip-flopping back and forth between elections and I think people get tired and confused.”
The weather isn’t likely to help draw voters to the polls.
The Election Day forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms, said Steve Fano, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
On the ballot
In this election, voters will finally determine which candidates move forward to the general election in around a dozen races.
Democrats will settle one local, one statewide and one federal race.
They’ll choose between David Alameel and Kesha Rogers for U.S. Senate, Jim Hogan and Richard “Kinky” Friedman for agriculture commissioner, and Erika Beltran and Andrea Hilburn for State Board of Education, District 13.
Republicans have more races on the ballot.
Locally, GOP voters will choose between Patrick and Dewhurst for lieutenant governor, Paxton and Branch for attorney general, Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt for agriculture commissioner, Wayne Christian and Ryan Sitton for railroad commissioner and Patricia “Pat” Hardy and Eric Mahroum for State Board of Education, District 11.
Also on the Republican ballot: Konnie Burton and Mark Shelton are vying for Senate District 10; Atticus Gill and Carey Walker are running for judge, County Criminal Court No. 2; Bob McCoy and Alexander Kim are squaring off for judge, County Criminal Court No. 3; and Russ Casey and Lenny Lopez are running for justice of the peace, Precinct 3.
Anyone who didn’t vote in the March 4 primary may vote in either party’s runoff election. Anyone who voted in the Republican primary may vote in the Republican runoff; anyone who voted in the Democratic primary may vote in the Democratic runoff.
“Voters who participate in this election will select the candidates who will appear on the ballot in the general election in November,” Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry said.
Texas voters must bring a photo ID — a driver’s license, state-issued personal ID card, concealed handgun license, military card, citizenship certificate with photo or passport. Any license that’s expired must not be expired for more than 60 days.
Anyone showing up at the polls to vote who doesn’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. 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, officials say.