HOUSTON Everything from the fate of the Astrodome to the future of Houston s mayor is on the line as voters begin casting ballots for the November elections.
Early voting is underway in the first elections in which Texas is enforcing its controversial voter ID law. Anyone asking to cast a ballot is now required to present a photo identification card.
The relatively short ballots in the Houston area include everything from school board candidates to a statewide proposition that would pull money from the Texas rainy day fund to bankroll water projects.
But the ballot item likely to draw the most attention here is the $217 -million bond issue to renovate the dilapidated Astrodome. County officials came up with a plan to convert the old stadium into a multi-purpose hall that could host conventions, exhibits and small sports events. If the proposal passes, property taxes on a $200,000 home would rise by an estimated $8 a year.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker faces former city attorney Ben Hall as she runs for her third and final term in office. Parker has raised more money than Hall and she had a double-digit lead in the KHOU-KUHF poll conducted last month. Seven other candidates appear on the ballot, but they re virtually unknown.
I m going to win without a runoff, Parker said shortly before casting her ballot. And I m going to keep on going.
Also on the ballot is the race for city controller, in which Ron Green hopes to win his third and final term in office running against accountant Bill Frazer.
All of the sixteen seats on Houston city council are also on the ballot.
The most hotly-contested races are for the inner-city seat currently occupied by the term-limited Wanda Adams and by the west-side seat held by incumbent Helena Brown.
Poll workers warned that checking photo IDs could slow down the voting process. Some voters said it wasn t a problem, but others noticed that poll workers were taking more time.
It wasn t a big deal for me, but I could see where it could be a big deal for other people, said Edward Moss, who cast his ballot on the first day of voting. And it took longer for the guy to process that than it did for me to vote.
Only certain types of cards are recognized as valid identification for voting in Texas. The most common form of identification presented will almost certainly be standard Texas driver licenses, but poll workers are also supposed to recognize DPS personal identification cards, U.S. passports, U.S. citizenship certificates, military ID cards and concealed handgun permits.
Voters can cast their ballots at any polling site in their home county during the early voting period. But on election day, they can vote only in their neighborhood polling places.
Click here for more information on polling places and voter identification requirements.