It’s no surprise that voter turnout already is record high.
In Texas, more voters have cast ballots early this year than ever before in a presidential election; Tarrant County voters are on the verge of besting a historic early turnout from the 2008 election.
And there’s still one day left to vote early.
“We encourage all Texans who haven’t voted yet to plan when they will go to the polls,” Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos said.
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Polls will be open Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
After that, voters have one more chance to vote — on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Already in Tarrant County, more than 440,000 voters cast early ballots in person or by mail by Thursday afternoon, putting the record of 459,842 early local voters eight years ago well within reach, local election records show.
“I think we may break that 2008 record,” said Frank Phillips, Tarrant County’s elections administrator.
Statewide through Wednesday, more than 3.6 million Texans in the state’s 15 largest counties — 37 percent of registered voters — had cast their ballots. That already tops the all-time early voting turnout of 3.55 million in those areas eight years ago, state election records show.
Now, heading into the last day of early voting, anything is possible, Phillips said.
The last day is usually the heaviest day.
Tarrant County Elections Administrator Frank Phillips
“The last day is usually the heaviest day,” he said. “I think people realize it’s the last day of early voting and they don’t want to risk possible long lines on Election Day. So they try to squeeze it in at the last minute.”
Phillips has a little advice for Friday voters.
“There could be some lines. Be prepared with proper ID,” he said. “And leave a little extra time in anticipation of a heavy turnout.”
High stakes election?
Many voters are focusing on the presidential race at the top of the ballot, choosing between 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 are also weighing 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.
Local polling places with the largest turnouts through Wednesday include Keller Town Hall, with more than 20,000 voters, the South Service Center in Arlington, with more than 19,700 voters, and the Southwest Sub-Courthouse in Fort Worth with more than 19,200 voters, local records show.
So far in Texas, the largest number of voters have turned out in Harris, Dallas and Tarrant counties, but the biggest percentage of voters have been from Collin, Williamson, Fort Bend, Travis and Denton counties, which have all seen more than 42 percent of voters cast early ballots, election results show.
“I think a lot of voters think of this election (as) a high stakes election for president,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University. “But perhaps what is driving early voting is that voters get more and more used to it with each passing year, and therefore they are more likely to take advantage of it.
“Of course, Texas is a state with one of the lowest turnout rates in the country, so there is a great deal of room for improvement.”
Some voters have complained that poll workers are insisting that people can’t cast ballots without showing a photo ID.
That’s not the case.
Voters should bring photo ID to the polls. Anyone who doesn’t have it can still vote after signing a form and showing other ID.
Any voter with a photo ID should show it to vote. 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.
But 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.
When those voters show show a document such as an original birth certificate, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government document, they should be cleared to vote.
If anyone is having problems with this or any other election-related issue, they should call the Tarrant County Elections Office at 817-831-8683.
For any election related questions, call the Tarrant County Elections Office at 817-831-8683.