Politics & Government

Early voting starts Monday

Texans can finally have their say, starting today.

After months of listening to candidates tout their credentials, voters may start heading to the polls to cast ballots for those they want to win.

Early voting for the Nov. 4 election — which will determine Texas’ next governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, agriculture commissioner, land commissioner and more — begins today and runs through Oct. 31.

“We encourage people to vote early,” said Frank Phillips, Tarrant County’s elections administrator.

This comes as a record number of Texans — 14 million — are eligible to vote this election, new Texas Secretary of State records show.

“Texas has more registered voters than ever before, and we are working to make sure each voter has the information they need for a smooth, secure and successful election this November,” Secretary of State Nandita Berry said.

One million of those voters are in Tarrant County, which is up from 936,966 registered locally for the 2010 gubernatorial election, local records show.

As many as 60 percent of those voters may cast their ballot long before Election Day ever rolls around.

Phillips said it’s easier for voters to cast ballots early because they can pick any one of the county’s more than 40 voting sites and head there when it’s most convenient over the next two weeks.

Phillips encourages local voters to take their time and look at sample ballots online before heading out to vote. He also reminds voters to make sure to take their photo ID with them to cast their ballots.

“Photo ID will be in effect for the Nov. 4 election,” he said.

Top of the ballot

At the top of the ballot, of course, is the hotly contested gubernatorial race to replace longtime Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

The race is between Republican gubernatorial nominee and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic nominee and state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth. Other candidates on the ballot for this race include Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party candidate Brandon Parmer.

The No. 2 post in the state — that of lieutenant governor — also is up for grabs between Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, Libertarian Robert D. Butler and Green Party candidate Chandrakantha Courtney.

Other races at the top of the ballot include those for attorney general and state comptroller, not to mention land commissioner, agriculture commissioner and railroad commissioner.

Also on the ballot are a slew of races for congressional seats, Texas House and Senate seats and the State Board of Education, as well as judicial posts up and down the ballot and local races ranging from county commissioner to justice of the peace.

In addition to all the races on the ballot, there are several issues, depending on where voters live.

All Texans will choose whether to support a proposal regarding transportation funding.

Local voters will weigh in on issues such as a multipurpose arena in Fort Worth, school improvements in Aledo, Birdville and Keller, streets in Arlington and elected officials in cities from Benbrook to Keller.

Voter ID

Local early voters may go to any Tarrant County voting site.

Despite multiple recent Voter ID court rulings, Texans will still need to bring their photo ID cards with them to the polls.

“Photo ID requirements will continue to be in effect for the Nov. 4 election, just as they have been for the last three statewide elections,” Berry said. “Voters should prepare, as many already have, to show one of seven approved forms of photo ID if they plan to vote in person.”

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.

Anyone who doesn’t have one of the acceptable forms of ID may get a free election identification certificate at a driver’s license office.

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.

Those who don’t may cast provisional ballots. But to make sure those votes are 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.

In almost all cases, voters casting ballots by mail will not need to show a photo ID.

Texas lawmakers approved the voter ID measure in 2011, but it didn’t go into effect in Texas elections until last year.

To check to see whether you are registered to vote, go online to VOTEXAS.org or call the Tarrant County elections office at 817-831-8683.

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