It’s a cliche that every vote counts. In local elections in North Texas, you could probably say that every vote counts extra. This is another cliche, variations of which have been used in roughly every single story written in the last five years about our region’s awful voter turnout. But it’s true. Your vote is essentially weighted by the lack of participation. Last November, more than 66 percent of registered voters in Dallas County turned out for the presidential election. If history is any guide, we’ll be lucky to sniff 10 percent on May 1, when voters will decide on 14 Dallas City Council races. In Fort Worth and Plano, voters will elect new mayors.
Why is turnout so low for local elections? It’s complicated, and it’s not your fault.
However, if you are registered to vote (you can check here) and — this part is important — want to vote, you can. Early voting for the May 1 election starts today and continues through April 27. In Dallas County, you can vote at any polling location. Find a map with every polling location here. They’re open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday, 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 26 and 27. You’ll need some form of photo identification, like a driver’s license or passport.
Early voting locations for Collin County are here. Tarrant County’s are here. Wherever you go, I wouldn’t anticipate long lines.
Voting by mail is more complicated and limited to certain residents, which is probably not unrelated to low turnout. Dallas County has got more information on absentee voting here.
Before heading to the polls, you may want to look over a sample ballot by entering your information on the Dallas County Elections website. For example, the Dallas City Council has single-member districts, so you’re only voting on the race in your district. The Dallas Morning News’ voter guide is a great resource for learning candidates’ positions. And you can review some of our coverage for good measure. Have fun voting.