As the last day of early voting in Tarrant County’s May 1 elections got underway this morning, turnout was soaring with a total of 64,629 votes already cast, surpassing by 27,438 the 49,327 votes recorded for the entire early voting period during the 2019 elections. That’s an increase of 73.8% increase with today’s total still to come.
Yesterday alone, 14,242 were cast. Polling locations opened at 7 a.m. today and will close at 7 p.m.
While theories vary on what this huge increase means, one thing is clear: This election has more voters engaged than perhaps any spring election in Tarrant County history.
Clearly helping to push these numbers to record heights is a hotly contested race to replace retiring Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. Also confronting voters are battles for a slew of local and regional offices, including a multi-candidate special election to fill the late U.S. Rep. Ron Wright’s District 6 congressional seat.
On Saturday night some answers will come, although with 10 candidates on the mayoral ballot in Fort Worth there will definitely be a runoff. Observers say Deborah Peoples, who finished second to Price in 2019, is leading all contenders. She seems a shoo-in for the runoff. The office is nonpartisan but voters often adhere to party lines in municipal elections. Peoples is the Tarrant County Democratic Party chair. The leading Republican hopefuls are city councilman Brian Byrd and Mattie Parker, who served as chief of staff to Price and the council.
Because two of the Fort Worth mayoral candidates are members of the city council, there are two open council seats, as well as one seat where a council member is not seeking re-election.
Arlington is also replacing its mayor, Jeff Williams, who is term-limited from running again.
The special election to replace the late congressman Ron Wright (R-Arlington) has drawn national interest, with former President Donald Trump endorsing Susan Wright, Wright’s widow.
Allan Saxe, a retired political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, said he is not surprised at the high early voting turnout. “Voting will be pretty heavy and the reason why is the national politics is influencing local politics,” he said. “It has gotten people revved up and they are more interested in who is a conservative and who is a liberal and so forth.”
That even applies to races such as mayor which are traditionally non partisan.
“Just like many people know that Betsy Price is a Republican, they are more knowledgeable about where the different candidates stand and that makes a difference,” he said.