Early voting opening shatters turnout records in Tarrant County

Early voting in presidential election begins

Early voting began Monday, with large crowds at many of the precincts, Democratic and Republican candidate's supporters voicing their opinion's before and after their votes.
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Early voting began Monday, with large crowds at many of the precincts, Democratic and Republican candidate's supporters voicing their opinion's before and after their votes.

Tarrant County voters smashed turnout records Monday, as voters began flocking to the polls to weigh in on the Nov. 8 presidential election, the Arlington stadium proposition and a multitude of other races.

On the first day of early voting, more than 43,000 Tarrant County residents voted in person by the time polling places closed, according to unofficial totals.

“It could be one of two things,” said Frank Phillips, Tarrant County’s election administrator. “It could be that overall turnout is going to shoot up over past years or people are just trying to get in early [on the first day] and vote.

“I think we were all expecting to break a record today,” he said. “It’s possible that we could break an early voting record overall.”

Monday’s turnout tops past local records in presidential races: 30,133 voters went to the polls on the first day of early voting in 2012 and 28,757 went on the first day of early voting in 2008, Tarrant County election records show.

“It has been steady all day,” Phillips said.

Turnout was believed to be high statewide Monday, although those totals will not be available until Tuesday, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

There were various voting glitches across the state Monday.

In Tarrant County, a complaint about a woman casting a straight-party Republican vote — who noticed that her presidential vote had flipped to Democrat — became the talk of social media after the incident was posted on Facebook.

Phillips said there were two such complaints today. This one was resolved. The second they heard about through word of mouth and the election judge didn’t have any details.

In this type of case, he said there’s a standard procedure that calls for contacting the election judge to see what he or she can say about the problem, sending a technician to check the equipment and trying to replicate the problem at election headquarters.

Phillips said the election judge voided the woman’s ballot and moved her to a different machine where she was able to cast the vote she wanted. The equipment was checked, no problems were found and election officials were unable to replicate the error at headquarters.

“Typically, we’ve found it’s voter error with the equipment,” Phillips said. “Sometimes they vote straight party and then click on other candidates ... or do something with the wheel.

“There is not an issue with the equipment.”

Nearby, in Denton County, some voters in Roanoke and elsewhere faced an early morning computer password problem that left some election machines unable to operate. Election officials scrambled to address the problem that left them unable to operate machines at 10 of the 22 polling locations. They swapped out equipment and all voting sites there were up and running by 10:30 a.m.

“The early voting password didn’t work,” said Lannie Noble, Denton County Elections administrator. “Since it didn’t work, we’re assuming it was because they were set up for Election Day.”

Noble said he does not know exactly how the problem occurred but was glad to have the issue resolved quickly.

Early voting runs through Nov. 4

On the ballot

Many voters are focusing on the presidential race at the top of the ballot, which features Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. There are also a host of candidates eligible to have their names written in, and be legally counted, in Texas.

But it’s not just about the battle for the White House.

Texans will also weigh in on congressional, legislative, statewide and county races, not to mention casting ballots in local races to settle issues ranging from whether alcohol may be sold in some areas to whether the Texas Rangers should get a new ballpark.

Early voters may go to any of Tarrant County’s sites.

To vote in Texas, a person must be a U.S. citizen, at least 17 years and 10 months old (and 18 by Election Day), mentally sound and not a convicted felon unless the sentence has been completed including parole or probation.

Tarrant County Democrats rallied outside the Griffin Subcourthouse, urging voters to head to the polls early.

“We want Democrats to come out here and vote,” U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, told the crowd of more than two dozens Democrats. “We want Republicans of good conscience to split their ticket … and do what’s right for the country.”

He said many people are telling him they are ready to vote now, because “there is no way they can let that madman be president. … We are doing everything we can to make sure Texas turns blue.”

To learn more about candidates on the ballot, check out the Star-Telegram’s online voters guide.

Veasey, Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks, Tarrant County Justice of the Peace Sergio De Leon and Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples were among the officials rallying with voters at the subcourthouse around noon.

Tarrant County Republican Party Chair Tim O’Hare said that GOP candidates are holding a variety of events during early voting, but the party as a whole isn’t holding rallies because they are busy preparing for the election.

“While they are having rallies with 20 people at them, we are actually on the phones, calling people and getting them out to vote, sending emails, posting to Facebook and doing all the things you do to win,” he said.

As for Republicans splitting their tickets, O’Hare said he hopes that doesn’t happen. “No responsible Republican should vote for that woman or fail to cast a vote for Donald Trump to make sure she stays out of office,” he said.

Photo ID

Bring your photo ID to the polls to vote. If you don’t have one, you can still vote, since the courts ruled this year that the state’s voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act.

Any voter who doesn’t have a photo ID — and can’t “reasonably obtain a form of approved photo ID” before the election — may sign a declaration stating why he or she couldn’t obtain a photo ID. Then those voters need to show a document such as an original birth certificate, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government document to be cleared to vote.

A number of driver’s license offices will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sat., Oct. 29 to issue Election Identification Certificates. Local offices open include: Fort Worth-East Office, 3500 Miller Ave.; Fort Worth-Mega Center, 8301 Brentwood Stair Road; Fort Worth-South Office, 6413 Woodway Drive; and Hurst Office, 624 NE Loop 820.

The seven state-approved photo IDs are: Texas driver’s license, Texas Election Identification Certificate, Texas personal identification card, Texas license to carry a concealed handgun, U.S. military ID card with photo, U.S. citizenship certificate with photo, and U.S. passport. The IDs must be current or have been expired for no longer than four years.

Staff writer Susan McFarland and correspondent Terry Evans contributed to this report.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

Election Information

For a list of early voting polling sites, go online at the Star-Telegram or the Tarrant County Elections office.

To see a sample ballot, go to the Tarrant County elections website.