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Early voting ends this week. Here’s how to avoid long lines and when to vote

Try to avoid voting at the polls this Friday

voters Lineup
Voters line up and wait to cast a ballot at the American Airlines Center during early voting Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)(LM Otero / AP)

By Noor Adatia

It’s the last week of early voting in Texas, which ends this Friday, Nov. 4, and there are still a few more days for people to cast their ballot before Election Day.

More than 3 million Texans have already voted in this midterm election, including those who sent in their ballots by mail. In Dallas County, nearly 200,000 people voted in-person during the first week of early voting, according to the county elections office.

Early voting aims to provide a more convenient and accessible way for people to make their votes count before Election Day, which is a day that typically sees longer lines, according to the secretary of state website. So long as you are registered to vote, there are no special qualifications to vote early in Texas.

“We’re a very mobile society,” Collin County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet said. “People want to get their vote done and out of the way, so they’re not trying to set aside time on Election Day.”

If you’re looking to get in and out of the polls quickly this early voting period, here are some tips on how to expedite the process, including how to avoid long lines and where to vote.

When is the best time to vote?

To avoid lines at the polls, you should plan to vote mid-morning or early afternoon — and before Friday.

Sherbet said that during the last week of early voting, lines usually form right before work starts and then immediately after 5 p.m. Peak voting times occur from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Polling places also see an uptick in voters around lunchtime as well — anytime between noon and 1 p.m.

Sherbet, who has been an elections administrator since 2015, said he expects to see the heaviest turnout for early voting on Friday, with some longer lines beginning to form Thursday afternoon. He recommends people avoid waiting for the very last day to vote in order to avoid lines and potential congestion.

“The last day is always your busiest day, without a question,” he said. “Sometimes if it’s a big election, or a real high turnout election, even the last two days are.”

In Dallas County, polls are open later in the evening on Thursday and Friday — until 9 p.m. During the week, polls close at 7 p.m., and so long as you’re in line to vote by this time, you must be given the opportunity to cast your ballot.

How long does it take to vote?

Sherbet said most voters take about five to 10 minutes from entering the polling location to inserting their marked ballot into the scanner.

“It’s a very fluid, fast, repetitive process in our polling places,” he said. “There should be no real delays.”

In order to expedite the process, Sherbet recommends that voters download a sample ballot to avoid being overwhelmed by the number of races when making a decision at the polls. In Collin County, some voters have anywhere between 35 to 40 issues listed on their ballot.

While most people know how they’re voting at the top of the ballot ticket, they may not know how they’re voting for specific local and county races, Sherbet added.

“If you could study, it just makes it a better process for the voters because they have had time to research some candidates and see if they want to vote for them or not,” he said.

Sample ballots are available on the county election’s office website, which depends on where you live. Here are the sites for five North Texas counties:

Where should I vote?

For a fast voting process, avoid locations that historically experience high voter turnout.

In Collin County, these include the Allen Municipal Court on 301 Century Parkway in Allen and the John and Judy Gay Public Library on 6861 Eldorado Parkway in McKinney.

County elections office sites also have tools for voters to look up wait times at various polling locations. Wait times are calculated manually or electronically, depending on the county and polling center.

For Dallas County voters, you can enter your address on the map feature to find polling sites near you along with their estimated wait times. Reports begin at 8 a.m., and a green dot indicates a wait time of less than 15 minutes.

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