Early voting in Texas begins with lines, strong turnout

Posted at 7:42 AM, Oct 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-23 08:42:32-04

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Early voting opened across Texas on Monday, bringing long lines and record first-day midterm turnout in Houston and complaints about outdated technology slowing people casting ballots elsewhere.

It took Harris County, which includes Houston, less than six hours to set a new opening day of early voting record for midterm elections with more than 36,000 votes cast – exceeding the around 26,000 ballots cast there during the 2010 midterms, County Clerk Stan Stanart told the Houston Chronicle.

Dallas County was also flirting with surpassing the first-day turnout of 2016 – an unusual feat since turnout in presidential election years is typically higher.

President Donald Trump was holding a Houston rally for Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday evening, and the lines to attend that event swelled hours before it started. Cruz is locked in a closer-than-expected re-election battle with Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke of El Paso – the cycle’s most-watched Texas race.

In Travis County, home to Austin, Tax Assessor Collector Bruce Elfant said on Facebook that more than 36,000 people cast early ballots by 4 p.m. Monday, nearly doubling first-day totals from the last midterms in 2014. Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth, announced exceeding 37,000 votes – around triple the first-day early voting turnout for 2014.

Approximately 15.8 million people are registered to vote statewide, 4 percent higher than those registered during the March statewide primary. Early voting runs through Nov. 2. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said 42,000-plus people had voted by 4:30 p.m. Monday, and that the county could exceed the first day of early voting turnout for the presidential election in 2016.

At one polling place in Plano, a northern Dallas suburb, the wait in line to vote early Monday afternoon was about 30 minutes.

“I just wanted to come the first day and get it out of the way,” said Rahim Sewani, one of those in line. He said the line “was moving pretty fast” and that the election workers “know what they are doing, so it wasn’t bad at all.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio held a news conference to complain about a lack of polling station personnel and computer glitches adding to wait times at one or more local voting stations. He also complained that voting machines in some areas provide no paper record of ballots cast.

Suresh Nayak said he has lived in Texas for 30 years and Monday was the first vote he has ever cast.

“I was waiting for this. The way things are going, I couldn’t wait to vote,” Nayak said, though he declined to say for whom he voted.

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