Tens of thousands of voters headed to the polls Monday in Tarrant County — in a near-record turnout — on the first day of early voting in Texas for the midterm election.
By lunchtime, more than 18,000 votes had been cast in Tarrant County. By 2 p.m., that number was up to more than 24,000. And by 7 p.m., after the polls had closed, the number had grown to 40,422, local election records show.
The turnout broke local records for early voting in midterm elections, nearly tripling the 13,466 who turned out on the first day of early voting for the last midterm election in 2014. It fell short, though, of topping turnout two years ago, in the presidential election, when 43,149 voters in Tarrant County cast their vote on the first day of early voting, state records show.
It did top 2012 first day turnout in the presidential race, which drew 30,137 local voters to the polls.
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“I’m extremely excited,” Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia said. “It makes us happy to see people turning out to vote. People are excited to be out there to cast a ballot.
“Everything seems to be going smoothly.”
Garcia said the crowds were manageable locally on Monday, even as reports were showing long lines at other polling sites across the state such as those in Houston.
“There is something about voting on the first day,” said Anita Lopez, 67, who cast an early ballot at All Saints Catholic Church Parish Hall. “I want to make sure I do my civic duty.”
Craig Bayless, 58, of Fort Worth said he voted early at the Southwest Sub-Courthouse because he wants to have a voice in an election that has caught the nation’s attention.
“It’s going to be a blue flag or a red flag and everyone is looking at what it is going to be,” said Bayless, adding that the Democratic Party has “lost its way.”
The U.S. Senate race
The Senate race was on the minds of several early voters on Monday.
Ventura Quijas and her husband voted early because they want to ensure that Cruz keeps his senate seat.
“I wanted to vote for Ted Cruz,” Quijas said. “I think he is good for Texas.”
The Quijas couple, who voted at the All Saints Catholic Church Parish Hall, said they supported GOP candidates because Democratic policies hurt Texas.
Lilibeth Fuentes headed to the polls with “Beto” on her mind.
“It is nice and refreshing to see someone doing something nice for the Hispanic community and youth,” the 23-year-old said.
Fuentes cast a vote at All Saints while her mother, Rosa, who is not a naturalized citizen, waited. Several family members planned to vote for Beto, they said.
“Us, Hispanics, we are not respected,” Rosa Fuentes said.
Teacher Dusty Wood showed up to vote early during a break from work. He too was drawn to the polls by O’Rourke.
“I like what he says,” Wood said. “He reminds me of a young Kennedy.”
The Trump effect
Sue Moore, another Fort Worth resident who voted at the Southwest Sub-Courthouse, said she has voted in every election since her first one in the early 1960s. On Monday, she voted early to cement her support for President Donald Trump.
“We need to stand for our president,” Moore said. “This president is a legitimate one.”
Moore said any candidate who doesn’t support Trump won’t get her vote.
“I honestly feel like he’s up there with Washington and Lincoln,” Moore said.
Several voters said voting in the midterms against Trump’s allies was extremely important.
“These are crazy times,” said Larisa Keltner, 57, who voted shortly before Moore. “I am not a fan of the president and I am a huge fan of Beto O’Rourke.”
Claire Johnson, 30, said she, too, had Trump on her mind and wanted to elect people who will keep him in check.
“I am not a fan of Ted Cruz,” she said, explaining that she thinks this might be among the most important elections in her lifetime.
A record in voter registration
This year’s election comes as a record number of people are registered to vote — more than 15.7 million Texans, including more than 1.1 million in Tarrant County.
Anyone who wants to vote early can head to any early voting site in their home county, show a photo ID and weigh in on dozens of races on this year’s midterm ballot.
Early voting runs through Nov. 2.
This is the last year Texans will be able to cast a straight party vote, due to a new law that requires voters to weigh in on each vote individually starting in 2020. But Garcia reminds voters that even if they do vote a straight ticket this year, they still need to look for the bonds and propositions at the end of the ballot.
And he encouraged Texans who have yet to cast a ballot to consider voting early.
“Why wait? The sooner the better,” he said. “Life happens and then you miss the one day if you wait until the end. If you wait and it rains, and there’s flooding, then you might miss your chance.”
To vote in Texas, a person must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 by election day, mentally sound and not a convicted felon unless the sentence has been completed, including parole or probation. For new residents in the state, there’s no requirement stipulating how long someone must live here before registering to vote.
Texans need to bring a photo ID to the polls with them.
The seven state-approved photo IDs: Texas driver’s license, Texas election identification certificate, Texas personal identification card, Texas license to carry a handgun, U.S. military ID card with photo, U.S. citizenship certificate with photo, and U.S. passport.
Anyone who doesn’t have one of those IDs and can’t get one before voting may still vote after showing another form of identification and filling out a “reasonable impediment declaration.”
For information about early voting sites, or questions about early voting, contact the Tarrant County Elections Center at 817-831-8683.
Early voting sites
Early voting for the Nov. 6 general election runs through Nov. 2: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 29-Nov. 2.
Tarrant County Elections Center, 2700 Premier St., Fort Worth. This is the main early voting site. Emergency and limited ballots are available there.
All Saints Catholic Church Parish Hall, 200 N.W. 20th St., Fort Worth
Arlington Subcourthouse, 700 E. Abram St.
Asia Times Square, 2615 W. Pioneer Parkway, Grand Prairie
Bedford Public Library, 2424 Forest Ridge Drive
Benbrook Community Center, 228 San Angelo Ave.
B.J. Clark Annex, Room 4, 603 Southeast Parkway, Azle
Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center St., Arlington
Center for Community Service Junior League of Arlington, 4002 W. Pioneer Parkway, Arlington
Colleyville City Hall, 100 Main St.
Crowley Recreation Center, 405 S. Oak St., Crowley
Dan Echols Center, 6801 Glenview Dr., North Richland Hills
Diamond Hill-Jarvis Library, 1300 NE 35th St., Fort Worth
Eagle Mountain-Saginaw School District Administration Building 6, Training Room, 1200 Old Decatur Road, Saginaw
East Pointe Church of Christ, 3029 Handley Dr., Fort Worth
Euless Public Library, 201 N. Ector Drive, Euless
Elzie Odom Athletic Center, 1601 NE Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington
Forest Hill Civic and Convention Center, 6901 Wichita St., Forest Hill
The REC of Grapevine, 1175 Municipal Way
Griffin Subcourthouse, 3212 Miller Ave., Fort Worth
Haltom City Northeast Center, 3201 Friendly Lane, Haltom City
Hurst Recreation Center, 700 Mary Dr., Hurst
JPS Health Center Viola M. Pitts/Como, Lower Level, Suite 100, 4701 Bryant Irvin Road N., Fort Worth
Keller Town Hall, 1100 Bear Creek Parkway
Kennedale Community Center, 316 W. Third St.
Longhorn Activity Center, 5350 Basswood Blvd., Fort Worth
Mansfield Subcourthouse, 1100 E. Broad St.
Northeast Courthouse, 645 Grapevine Highway, Hurst
Rosemont Middle School, 1501 W. Seminary Dr., Fort Worth
Sheriff’s Office North Patrol Division, 6651 Lake Worth Blvd., Lake Worth
Southlake Town Hall, 1400 Main St.
South Service Center, 1100 SW Green Oaks Blvd., Arlington
Southside Community Center, 959 E. Rosedale St., Fort Worth
Southwest Community Center, 6300 Welch Ave.
Southwest Regional Library, 4001 Library Lane, Fort Worth
Southwest Subcourthouse, 6551 Granbury Road, Fort Worth
Tarrant County College Southeast Campus, EMB- C Portable Building, 2100 Southeast Parkway, Arlington
Tarrant County Plaza Building, 201 Burnett St., Fort Worth
Villages of Woodland Springs Amenity Center, 12209 Timberland Blvd., Fort Worth
White Settlement Public Library, 8215 White Settlement Road
Worth Heights Community Center, 3551 New York Ave., Fort Worth
Several temporary early voting sites have special days and hours. They are:
▪ 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Naylor Student Center, 1900 W. Boyce Ave.; Texas Wesleyan University, Baker Building, 3021 E. Rosedale St.; UNT Health Science Center, MET 2nd Floor Mezzanine, 1000 Montgomery St.
▪ 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 30-Nov. 1: Tarrant County College Northeast Campus, Student Center NSTU 1506, 828 Harwood Road, Hurst; Northwest Campus, WSTU 1305, 4801 Marine Creek Parkway, Fort Worth; South Campus, Student Center SSTU 1112, 5301 Campus Drive, Fort Worth.
▪ 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 29-Nov. 1: UTA, Maverick Activities Center, 500 W. Nedderman Drive, Arlington; TCU, Brown-Lupton University Union, 2901 Stadium Drive.