Ready or not, head to the polls, Texans

It’s now up to you.

Candidates have been talking for more than year. Now, the only voice that matters is that of the voters.

On Tuesday, voters across the country will head to the polls to choose the next president and those here will also weigh in on congressional, legislative and local races — even whether a new major league ballpark should be built.

They join nearly 42 million voters across the country, including record numbers of nearly 4.5 million in Texas and 515,000 in Tarrant County, who already have cast ballots.

“I think we will have a very high turnout” Tuesday, said Frank Phillips, Tarrant County’s elections administrator. “Just because early voting is over, I don’t think the high interest has gone away.

“I’d prepare for long lines, particularly later in the day.”

Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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.

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 heated local races ranging from whether alcohol may be sold in some areas to whether the Texas Rangers should get a new ballpark.

Anyone heading to the polls in the morning should bring an umbrella.

There’s a 30 percent chance of rain in the morning, but no severe weather is expected. It should be cloudy all day but cool, with a high temperature of around 69 degrees, said Juan Hernandez, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

“It’s going to be a hit or miss chance for rain,” he said.

The good news on Election Day is that local voters have the option of using paper ballots or the same Hart InterCivic eSlate machine voters used during early voting.

Election officials have asked anyone using the machines to go slow and steady, follow the directions and call for election judges — before pushing the red “cast ballot” button — if there are any problems.

After a record early voting turnout in Texas, some wonder if the election enthusiasm that propelled voters to the polls early will continue on Election Day.

“Election Day turnout will tell us if the voter surge is enthusiasm for the current election or if early voting is just more popular than before,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Both parties have been doing double duty to get voters to the polls, so overall turnout is likely to be higher than in years past.”

Four years ago, 3.4 million Texans in the state’s 15 largest counties cast votes early in person and by mail; eight years ago, 3.5 million voters in those areas voted early, state election records show.

Watching the polls

Texas Secretary of State inspectors will be watching polling sites to make sure there are no problems across the state, including in Tarrant County.

“We do not plan to disclose how many or where they will be,” said Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the state agency. “We have inspectors throughout the state and voters should not be concerned just because an inspector is coming to the community.”

The Justice Department plans to send more than 500 workers from the Civil Rights Division to 28 states to monitor elections and protect the rights of voters. Although they aren’t heading to Tarrant, they will be in three Texas counties —Dallas, Harris and Waller.

Any complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws may be called in to the Justice Department hotline, at 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767, faxed to 202-307-3961, emailed to voting.section@usdoj.gov or submitted through the DOJ website at www.justice.gov/crt/votercomplaint.

“As always, our personnel will perform these duties impartially, with one goal in mind: to see to it that every eligible voter can participate in our elections to the full extent that federal law provides,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said. “The department is deeply committed to the fair and unbiased application of our voting rights laws and we will work tirelessly to ensure that every eligible person that wants to do so is able to cast a ballot.”

Bring your ID

Make sure you bring your photo ID to the polls to vote.

But don’t worry. 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 may sign a declaration stating why he or she couldn’t obtain one before the election. Then those voters must show a document — such as an original birth certificate, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government document — and then they will be cleared 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.

Phillips strongly suggests that voters double-check their polling sites before heading to the polls — and bring their IDs.

“That will help move the lines faster and get everybody in and out quicker,” he said.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

Election Information

Tuesday is the day. If you’re not quite ready, check out a sample ballot on the Tarrant County elections website, access.tarrantcounty.com/en/elections.html, before you head to the polls.

For more information about candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot, go to the Star-Telegram website, www.star-telegram.com, to read the online Voters Guide.

Local voters with questions about voters may call the Tarrant County Election Administration at 817-831-8683.