When have so many Texans voted early in a midterm election? Never

More than half a million voters in the state’s 15 largest counties headed to the polls — or returned ballots by mail — Monday on the first day of early voting for the Nov. 6 midterm election.

It wasn’t a record, falling short of the 2016 presidential turnout.

But the number did shatter past midterm election turnout records, according to numbers logged in the state’s largest counties.

“The frenzied political environment has ginned up enthusiasm in both parties, driving people to the polls in a major way,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Republican dominance at the ballot box is being challenged, so both Republicans and Democrats are primed to play offense or defense.”

Two years ago, 576,416 Texans in the state’s 15 largest counties cast ballots in person and by mail on the first day of early voting in the presidential election. This year’s first day turnout in those same counties was 568,926.

That handily eclipsed other first-day early voting turnouts in person and by mail for the 2014 midterm (240,653), the 2012 presidential race (378,943), and the 2010 midterm (178,802), state election records show.

This year, the largest number of votes cast in person and by mail on Monday was in Harris County, at 115,601, and then Dallas County, with 81,723.

Tarrant County saw the third-largest turnout, when more than 61,000 residents cast their ballots in person and by mail. By 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, another 35,242 Tarrant County residents had voted in person.

This is the first major election Texans and voters across the country have weighed in on since the 2016 presidential election, when Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“I think that President Trump has energized voters — both those who support him and those who oppose him,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at TCU. “Polls suggest that, over the year of 2018, Democrats have been more energized than Republicans. But in the last few weeks, Republicans have virtually tied the Democrats in terms of being likely to vote.”

Early voting for the Nov. 6 general election runs through Nov. 2. Hours listed in Tarrant County: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday; and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 29-Nov. 2.

Midterm turnout

A record number of Texans — more than 15.7 million, including 1.1 million in Tarrant County — are registered to vote this year.

Many likely are heading to the polls to weigh in on the Texas-size battle for the U.S. Senate topping the ballot, pitting incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz against Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.

“Democrats are excited because the O’Rourke campaign has captured their attention and given them hope of having a chance to win a statewide election for the first time since 1994,” Riddlesperger said. “Recent polls seem to suggest that such hope is unlikely to find success, but of course elections, not polls, determine who wins.”

Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia noted that 70 percent of the votes cast in Tarrant County Monday were by people 50 or older.

“Most older voters vote early while younger voters tend to vote on Election Day,” Rottinghaus said. “Early voting is convenient for those with jobs and families so more older voters select that method.”

Overall on Monday, 689,613 voters in the 30 largest Texas counties, including 61,429 in Tarrant County, cast ballots in person and by mail, state records show.

Election tips

Anyone who wants to vote early can head to any early voting site in the county, show a photo ID and weigh in on dozens of races on this year’s mid-term ballot.

This is the last year Texans will be able to cast a straight party vote, under a new law that requires voters to weigh in on each race individually starting in 2020. Garcia said voters need to make sure, if they vote a straight ticket this year, that they look for the bonds and propositions at the end of the ballot.

Some tips from election officials:

Read over sample ballots that can be found on the Tarrant County elections website before heading to the polls.

When using electronic voting machines, take your time. And always read over the review, or summary page, before submitting your vote. If you have problems with the machine, stop and call over an election worker. They can tell you how to use the machine. “Take your time,” Garcia said. “There’s no rush. Taking an extra 30 seconds to read what’s on the screen may be the best thing you can do.”

Bring a photo ID to the polls. State-approved photo IDs include the 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 the U.S. passport.

If you have any questions, about early voting or sites, call the Tarrant County Elections Center at 817-831-8683.

Early voting sites

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

Temporary sites

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.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
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