— From Staff and Wire Reports
Two elections calling for emergency district annexations passed overwhelmingly, though voters in one of the proposed annexation areas split on whether to accepting that district's existing debt.
The annexation vote of ESD No. 7 to bring areas of Cool and Garner into the Millsap-Greenwood fire district passed easily, with 79.5 percent of 288 ballots in the proposed annexation approving along with 80 percent of the 360 ballots within the existing district's boundaries also in support. Likewise, the questions put to voters in both areas on the acceptance of the district's existing debt passed by similar margins.
In the ESD No. 3 annexation to bring in a portion of Annetta North territory, 81 percent of the 407 ballots counted in the district's current boundary and 83 percent of the 24 ballots in support of the annexation. On the question of accepting the district's current debt, 81 percent of the voters in the existing district voted in favor, while the 24 voters in the Annetta North area proposed for annexation split on that question, 12-12, with one under ballot not counted.
Across the county, the Parker County Elections Office reported 6,243 ballots cast overall. Of those, 2,194, or about one-third, were cast during the early voting period.
Statewide, Texans approved dedicating $2 billion to the state water plan on Tuesday in the first election where officials checked voters' photo IDs.
Early voting was nearly double what it was two years ago, prompting Republican officials to declare concerns about the voter ID requirement were overblown. Despite those figures, only about 1 million out of 13.4 million Texas voters were expected to cast their ballot.
Voters overwhelmingly approved nine proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, including the water measure, an expansion of reverse mortgages, and tax credits for disabled veterans and the surviving spouses of veterans killed in the line of duty.
The water measure attracted the most visibility and campaign funds, drawing support from business and environmental groups alike. Some conservatives oppose using the state's savings account to finance large-scale construction projects while others were concerned the money could be misused.
Parker County voters approved the measure, listed on the ballots as Proposition 6, by a 2-1 margin.
Gov. Rick Perry applauded Texans' approval of using $2 billion in reserve funds to help the state meet the future water needs of its booming population and economy.
Perry said "the people of Texas made history." He said the vote will ensure "we'll have the water we need to grow and thrive for the next five decades, without raising state taxes."
The proposition will move $2 billion from Texas' rainy day fund to its water infrastructure fund.
The money would help defray the borrowing costs on large-scale water infrastructure projects, including creating reservoirs, laying new pipelines and replacing older ones.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus called the results "a resounding and overwhelming victory" for the bipartisan campaign that he championed. In early results, more than 75 percent approved the measure.
"I think you saw stakeholders who don't always agree with one another come together in a very collaborative way," Straus said at a campaign party in a downtown Austin bar. He called for the state comptroller to transfer the funds as soon as possible.
Environmentalists also praised the result.
"We're thrilled that Texas voters have chosen to invest in Texas' water future," said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas. "Texas is in a water crisis, caused by drought and made worse by wasteful water use."
Earlier Tuesday, Connie Dean was part of a slow trickle of West Texans voting at a Lubbock elementary school. The 74-year-old retiree didn't have any issue with the new voter ID requirements, but she wasn't so sure she liked tapping the state rainy day fund.
"I was a little iffy but I went for it" despite the price tag, she said.
All voters were asked to present one of seven forms of photo identification — such as a driver's license, a passport or a military ID — to cast ballots.
Democrats and civil rights groups have sued to block the law passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2011, but the case is still pending. Cases of in-person voter fraud are rare, and critics of voter ID legislation say the laws aim to disenfranchise voters who tend to back Democrats.
Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running to replace Perry in 2014, said critics had "run out of claims" about alleged hardships the mandate would create.
"I haven't ever seen anything that was overhyped as much as some partisan efforts to overhype concerns about this when, in reality, there has been no problems whatsoever," said Abbott, who defended the voter ID law in court.
Juan Quiroz, 66, said a poll worker in the Rio Grande Valley city of San Juan caught a discrepancy between the name on his driver's license and the one on the voter rolls. He said resolving the ID issue wasn't much of a hassle.
"I've always voted and never had any problem, but they're really looking at the ID name," Quiroz said.