Severe storms knock out power at North Texas voting sites

Severe storms knock out power at North Texas voting sites

Leslie B-T for The Texas Tribune

 

FORT WORTH -- North Texans woke up to another wave of power-zapping thunderstorms that left hundreds of thousands without electricity on Tuesday, forcing area election workers scrambling for generators and working to redirect voters to other locations.

Texans were heading to the polls across the state to cast their ballot in today’s joint primary runoff races which will determine party nominees for the November election. The severe storms knocked out power in at least 76 polling places in Dallas, Kaufman, Ellis and Tarrant counties.

A flash flood warning remained in effect for several counties in North Texas throughout the morning. The National Weather Service forecasts more showers and thunderstorms this afternoon and in the evening, large hail and damaging winds.

“​​A tornado or two cannot be ruled out,” the service’s latest forecast said.

Nicholas Solorzano, a communications manager at the Dallas County Elections Department, said tornado sirens wailed early Tuesday morning. Many election and poll workers, including himself, were caught in the brunt of this morning’s storm around 5 a.m. heading into work.

On his route, Solorzano said he saw flooded residential streets, downed trees and power lines.

“[The storm] kind of caught a lot of people on their way,” he said. “Unfortunately, many of our locations are still experiencing power outages like schools and libraries.”

By midday, Oncor reported about 340,000 people were without power in Dallas County and more than 49,000 in Tarrant County.

Dallas County had planned to open 281 polling locations at 7 a.m. Tuesday, but Solorzano said that the storm created widespread outages impacting polling locations across the county. It’s unclear to say how many are offline, but he encourages people to head to the county’s website where there’s an interactive map workers update in real-time that shows which locations are open and with power.

Solorzano said county workers and Oncor are working to restore power lines.

HIstorically, runoff elections attract fewer voters to the polls, so the first hours of a voting day are critical, according to Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

When dangerous weather strikes on the day of an election, it can reduce turnout. “Bad weather will aggravate that low turnout,” he said.

Jillson said there is no way to predict how much the weather will impact the election, but suspects less people cast their ballots today.

In Dallas County residents can vote at any polling location. Solorzano said that to vote people might need to drive longer distances, but urged people to use extra caution on the roads and to avoid flooded roadways.

About 40 miles south of Dallas in Ellis County, Jana Onyon, the county’s elections administrator, said they were able to open all 12 of its voting locations on time. Two of the 12 had experienced power outages, but election workers were able to quickly set up generators, she said.

“My poll workers knew exactly what to put in place when [outages] happen,” she said. “It’s been some crazy weather today, but thankfully we've all been able to be connected and continue processing voters.”

In Kaufman County, 30 miles west of Ellis, two of the county’s 19 voting locations experienced flooding. Tandi Smith, the county’s elections administrator, said workers were able to move voting equipment around the facility and set it up in a non-flooded area. Others lost power, but Smith says the county was still able to open those because of back-up generators election workers have been running at the site.

Oncor, which provides energy services to some residents in Kaufman County reports close to 16,000 people without power.

Smith said that the timing of when the storm rolled through that morning worked in the county’s favor. It allowed for workers to troubleshoot before opening at 7 a.m. and the district judge for the county has extended voting an extra hour to 8 p.m. today due to severe weather.

“We just encourage our voters to go out and vote,” Smith said. “We are making preparations to ensure that there is no cancellation in the voting process and at any vote center and locations themselves that they're up and functioning.”


Disclosure: Oncor and Southern Methodist University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

We’ve got big things in store for you at The Texas Tribune Festival, happening Sept. 5–7 in downtown Austin. Join us for three days of big, bold conversations about politics, public policy and the day’s news.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/05/28/texas-elections-voter-turnout-storms/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Texans were heading to the polls across the state to cast their ballot in today’s joint primary runoff races which will determine party nominees for the November election. The severe storms knocked out power in at least 76 polling places in Dallas, Kaufman, Ellis and Tarrant counties.

A flash flood warning remained in effect for several counties in North Texas throughout the morning. The National Weather Service forecasts more showers and thunderstorms this afternoon and in the evening, large hail and damaging winds.

“​​A tornado or two cannot be ruled out,” the service’s latest forecast said.

Nicholas Solorzano, a communications manager at the Dallas County Elections Department, said tornado sirens wailed early Tuesday morning. Many election and poll workers, including himself, were caught in the brunt of this morning’s storm around 5 a.m. heading into work.

On his route, Solorzano said he saw flooded residential streets, downed trees and power lines.

“[The storm] kind of caught a lot of people on their way,” he said. “Unfortunately, many of our locations are still experiencing power outages like schools and libraries.”

By midday, Oncor reported about 340,000 people were without power in Dallas County and more than 49,000 in Tarrant County.

Dallas County had planned to open 281 polling locations at 7 a.m. Tuesday, but Solorzano said that the storm created widespread outages impacting polling locations across the county. It’s unclear to say how many are offline, but he encourages people to head to the county’s website where there’s an interactive map workers update in real-time that shows which locations are open and with power.

Solorzano said county workers and Oncor are working to restore power lines.

HIstorically, runoff elections attract fewer voters to the polls, so the first hours of a voting day are critical, according to Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

When dangerous weather strikes on the day of an election, it can reduce turnout. “Bad weather will aggravate that low turnout,” he said.

Jillson said there is no way to predict how much the weather will impact the election, but suspects less people cast their ballots today.

In Dallas County residents can vote at any polling location. Solorzano said that to vote people might need to drive longer distances, but urged people to use extra caution on the roads and to avoid flooded roadways.

About 40 miles south of Dallas in Ellis County, Jana Onyon, the county’s elections administrator, said they were able to open all 12 of its voting locations on time. Two of the 12 had experienced power outages, but election workers were able to quickly set up generators, she said.

“My poll workers knew exactly what to put in place when [outages] happen,” she said. “It’s been some crazy weather today, but thankfully we've all been able to be connected and continue processing voters.”

In Kaufman County, 30 miles west of Ellis, two of the county’s 19 voting locations experienced flooding. Tandi Smith, the county’s elections administrator, said workers were able to move voting equipment around the facility and set it up in a non-flooded area. Others lost power, but Smith says the county was still able to open those because of back-up generators election workers have been running at the site.

Oncor, which provides energy services to some residents in Kaufman County reports close to 16,000 people without power.

Smith said that the timing of when the storm rolled through that morning worked in the county’s favor. It allowed for workers to troubleshoot before opening at 7 a.m. and the district judge for the county has extended voting an extra hour to 8 p.m. today due to severe weather.

“We just encourage our voters to go out and vote,” Smith said. “We are making preparations to ensure that there is no cancellation in the voting process and at any vote center and locations themselves that they're up and functioning.”


Disclosure: Oncor and Southern Methodist University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

We’ve got big things in store for you at The Texas Tribune Festival, happening Sept. 5–7 in downtown Austin. Join us for three days of big, bold conversations about politics, public policy and the day’s news.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/05/28/texas-elections-voter-turnout-storms/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.