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Early voting in slow motion

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

Denton County’s early voting turnout has been slower than the coming of spring.

County elections administrator Frank Phillips said that as of noon Saturday, a little more than 4,500 of the county’s estimated 380,000 registered voters had cast ballots since Monday in local elections.

Races in the town of Flower Mound and the city of Denton, which also has a natural gas utility proposition on the ballot, haven’t inspired voters to come to the polls, either. The problem isn’t unique to Denton County, Phillips said.

“One of the things I’ve learned, talking with peers, is that this happens in other counties,” he said. “The local races don’t ever have the draw that the national races do.”

Phillips said it’s hard to understand why, since local policies often affect people’s everyday lives more than national policies do.

Up until about 2 p.m. Friday, 452 people had voted in Denton and 578 in Flower Mound, the two places county elections officials often see the most local turnout, Phillips said.

With less than 100 people coming out per day in Denton, the pace is slower than 2011 — which saw the lowest early voting turnout in the last five years, at about 177 per day.

In Denton, incumbents Dalton Gregory and Jim Engelbrecht — running for their third and final terms in District 2 and District 3, respectively — face opposition. Alfredo F. Sanchez and Travis Trawick challenged Gregory, although Trawick has stopped campaigning. Engelbrecht also has two challengers in Brendan Carroll and Griffen Rice.

Joey Hawkins and Phil Kregel are running to replace Chris Watts in District 4.

Council member Kevin Roden, who has no opponent in the race for District 1, has watched the turnout and analyzed some of the numbers to see what can be learned about the turnout for Denton.

He’s found that 61 voters are “new,” not having voted at all in the past four municipal elections. About three-fourths of those new voters cast ballots in Districts 3 and 4. Rice, a UNT student and candidate in District 3, has said he’s registered about 100 new voters, but it doesn’t appear that has translated to the polls for early voting. Roden found that the average age of the new voters is 53.

In Justin and Krum, which have mayoral races that sometimes bring out voters, less than 100 people have voted in each race so far.

A rematch between Terri Wilson, the current mayor of Krum, and Larry Lamonica, a former mayor, got 58 voters to the polls between Monday and Thursday. It wasn’t much better in Justin, where incumbent Greg Scott faces a challenge from Diane Rasor. Only 68 people voted there between Monday and Thursday.

Turnout was just a little better in Argyle, where a single Town Council seat is contested. A total of 150 people voted in the town election between Monday and Thursday. But that pace, about 37 people casting ballots per day, is down from the average turnout during early voting last year, when three council races drew about 57 voters per day during early voting.

Early voting continues with extended hours — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — on Monday and Tuesday.

The election is Saturday.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.