Election 2018

Denton County voters kept the doors open Election Day, with some polling locations staying open well past 7 p.m. to meet the demand Tuesday night.

Denton County Elections Administrator Frank Phillips said he knew of at least two polling locations in Denton that were still open past 7 p.m., but he could not say when the last poll closed and the last ballot was cast.

“It’s hard for me to tell,” Phillips said in a brief interview Tuesday night. “I haven’t received any phone calls from [election judges].”

Elections officials noted more than 58 percent of Denton County’s 503,487 registered voters participated in the midterm election.

The turnout capped two weeks of enthusiastic participation in the midterm election, at least by Texas standards. Compared with voters in other states, Texans have been some of the nation’s most apathetic voters. Seven or eight out of every 10 voters stay home for state elections. Even the high-water marks during presidential elections see as little as 50-60 percent turnout in Texas.

But before the polls even opened Tuesday morning, nearly 46 percent of Denton County’s registered voters had already cast a ballot. The count surged past the 2014 midterms — and that includes the city of Denton precincts, which in 2014 had a liquor proposition and a ban on hydraulic fracturing driving voters to the polls.

Denton County was not unique. Voters in Texas joined voters in Utah, Nevada and Arizona in surpassing the 2014 total by the end of early voting. What’s more, voters in 28 states cast more early ballots in the 2018 election than in 2014.

A power outage at the polling location inside Lantana Community Fellowship Church triggered concerns among some Bartonville-area voters. The outage disabled scanners used to record the paper ballots. The election judge began using emergency ballots and had some straight-ticket voters cast ballots on plain pieces of paper.

While the procedure is sanctioned by the state election code, Dan Crabill, 42, of Bartonville was unnerved by completing his ballot that way, especially given national concerns about voter fraud.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Crabill said.

Straight-ticket voting ends officially in Texas in 2020, but statewide races showed that practice is falling out of favor among many voters.

However, straight-ticket voting gives Denton County Republicans a final peek at where local voters may be heading. Republicans walked away with many big wins Tuesday night, but the margins have narrowed considerably in the past two elections.

In 2014, straight-ticket voting split in favor of Republicans 72 percent to 27 percent. (Libertarians took 1 percent that year.)

This year, the margin was dwindling, with straight-ticket ballots favoring Republicans 62 percent to 38 percent in unofficial results Tuesday night.

In addition, Democrats won two races in Carrollton, including Chris Lopez, who won Justice of the Peace in Precinct 6 and Michelle Beckley, who unseated incumbent Ron Simmons in the District 65 seat in the Texas House of Representatives.

Contributing writers Julia Falcon and Marshall Reid contributed to this report. PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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