North Texans cast early votes in record-breaking numbers

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Early voting began on Monday across Texas and a hotly contested U.S. Senate race is driving a large number of people to the polls.

Numbers released by Dallas County officials show a spike in midterm voting. Elections officials said more than 55,000 votes had been cast early voting on Monday. That easily exceeds the first-day turnout from 2014 (13,036) and 2010 (14,820).

In Tarrant County, more than 40,000 people had voted early on Monday. Midday numbers from Collin County also showed a spike. They exceeded the 2016 presidential election. Officials said 33,348 votes were cast in Collin County early voting on Monday as of 2 p.m. That more than five times the turnout on the first day from 2014 (6,636).

By mid-afternoon in Tarrant and Dallas County, election administrators were sending out more voting machines to polling places seeing high volumes and long wait times.

“Our records are record-breaking right now,” said Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippens-Poole.

Five more machines were set up inside the Allen Courthouse in Downtown Dallas.

“Our election judges are asking us to bring out more machines,” Poole said. “They say they do have spaces or they are making spaces. So they are putting machines in the hallways and any place they can put additional equipment in at this time.”

On this first day, Jonathan Lospinoso gladly waited in line for 30 min at Fretz Park in Dallas. Across several locations in North Texas, lines stretched through parking lots and around buildings.

“It wasn’t a difficult wait. Obviously, it’s not raining so the weather wouldn’t drive you off,” Lospinoso said. “But, it’s an important vote. There’s a lot at stake. I wanted to get it done and make sure my vote was in.”

Jeff Overturf says there was no better way to spend his birthday.

“I think it’s going to be the largest voter turnout in a long time for midterms,” he said. “It will probably be the biggest one I’ve ever seen.”

And most who were able to cast their ballot seemed not to mind the wait.

“If I have to come out every two years and wait in line for an hour to cast my vote, it’s worth it,” said voter Justin Parks.

Political analyst Cal Jillson at SMU points out early voting numbers can reveal a lot about overall race outcomes, especially in tight races like that between U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and challenger Beto O’Rourke.

“Traditionally, the Republicans do better in early voting and then extend their margins on Election Day,” Jillson said. “So the O’Rourke campaign, Lupe Valdez, and all the other Democrats have to work really hard on early voting to even be in it when we get to Election Day.”

Jillson says the lines of people spilling out of voting locations are an indicator that current issues resonate with voters. But how that translates has a lot to do with money, campaign messaging and voting traditions with Republicans typically turning out in higher numbers than Democrats.

“I think the Democratic turnout is across the country,” Jillson said. “It’s up in Texas, but the question is is it up far enough to make the Democrats competitive?”

Rep. Beto O’Rourke is seriously challenging incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, producing a competitive statewide race in Texas for the first time in years. Both sides spent the weekend urging supporters to get to the polls.

Recent polling shows Cruz with a lead in the high single-digits, but his campaign is pulling out all the stops in an effort to overcome intense Democratic enthusiasm. Cruz campaigned over the weekend in the Houston area with Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

O’Rourke campaigned in Dallas on Saturday and then held events in Houston on Sunday.

Monday’s featured event is something that would’ve seemed unlikely two years ago – President Donald Trump is hosting a rally at the Toyota Center for Cruz. The two were the last men standing in the 2016 GOP presidential primary and Cruz famously declined to endorse him at the Republican convention.

The most notable local race of note involves a fierce battle for a Dallas-area congressional seat. Incumbent Pete Sessions is trying to hold off Democratic challenger Colin Allred. Sessions cruised to reelection in 2016, but his district voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump. That put Sessions in Democratic crosshairs as a potential district to be flipped as part of the effort to retake the U.S. House from Republicans.

Voter ID laws remain in place for the 2018 midterms in Texas. Voters must bring one of the following: a Texas driver's license, Texas election ID certificate, Texas personal ID card, Texas handgun license, United States military ID card with a photo, United States citizenship certificate with photo or a U.S. passport.

FIND YOUR POLLING PLACE: Texas Secretary of State database

Substitute forms of ID include: certified domestic birth certificate or court admissible birth document, current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document with your name and an address. You would then fill out a reasonable impediment declaration form at the polls.

Early voting runs Monday through Fri. Nov. 2. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

For more early voting information by county:

Dallas County early voting details

Tarrant County early voting details

Collin County early voting details

Denton County early voting details