Tarrant County voters break early turnout record for constitutional amendment election

A record number of Tarrant voters cast their ballots early in the Nov. 5 election, toppling past turnout records for constitutional amendment elections.

By Friday night, 48,055 people had voted early along with more than 630,000 Texans to weigh on on local issues and proposed updates to the Texas Constitution.

The previous turnout record for constitutional amendments was set in 2015, when 42,308 votes were cast early in Tarrant County.

Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia said he doesn’t know if this larger than average early turnout means a larger than average turnout on Tuesday, Election Day, as well.

“I’m glad people are showing up,” he said.

This year, the busiest Tarrant polling site was at the Keller Town Hall, where a $315 million school bond proposal that includes indoor athletic fields at each high school was on the ballot. By the end of Thursday, more than 3,400 votes were cast there.

Other polling places with bigger than normal turnout included Azle, where a $79.8 million school bond proposal is on the ballot, and North Richland Hills, where a city council race for an unexpired term is on the ballot.

And by the end of Thursday, 3,967 ballots had been mailed in, records show.

Now that early voting is over, voters have one more chance to cast ballots — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Issues on the ballot include school board and city council elections, school bond proposals and 10 requests to amend the Texas Constitution.

Voter turnout

Fewer voters generally turn out for constitutional amendment elections — despite local issues being on the ballot as well — than for gubernatorial or presidential elections.

In 2017, 21,460 Tarrant voters cast early votes in person and by mail for the constitutional amendment election, compared with 42,308 in 2015, 29,928 in 2013 and 11,222 in 2011, state election data shows.

By comparison, 465,817 Tarrant voters turned out early for the November 2018 election that pitted Democrat Beto O’Rourke against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate race. And 515,230 Tarrant voters turned out early for the November 2016 presidential election between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“We really want to work on, for the future, getting people to have more interest and turn out in bigger numbers for local elections,” Garcia said.

Election Day

Anyone heading to the polls to vote Tuesday, on Election Day, should be ready for a few changes.

First, there’s new voting equipment at polling sites.

These new machines have a touchscreen where voters can review the ballot and make their choices. The machine will print a list of the choices made. After you review that sheet, you’ll put it in one of the scanners to cast your vote.

Second, you can vote anywhere you want in the county — not just your traditional polling place — on Election Day.

This election, for the first time, Tarrant County will have countywide vote centers that let voters cast their ballots at any polling place in the county on Election Day.

Just make sure you bring a photo ID to the polls.

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.

Sample ballots and a list of polling sites, now known as vote centers, may be found online at tarrantcounty.com.

For any election information, call the Tarrant County Elections Center at 817-831-8683.

Need a ride?

Anyone who needs a ride to the polls on Election Day can catch one for free — courtesy of Tarrant County — on Trinity Metro’s bus routes, TEXRail and ACCESS paratransit service, formerly known as MITS, that offers door-to-door transportation in Fort Worth, Blue Mound and River Oaks.

Voters also can get free rides through the Tarrant County Transportation Services, which provides transportation for those 65 or older as well as anyone with disabilities; Northeast Transportation Services, another service for disabled people or those 65 or older; Arlington’s Via, which provides rides in parts of Arlington that include the entertainment district, downtown and the Highlands; and Handitran.

Many of these rides require scheduling, and a call to the provider at least 48 hours in advance.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.