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The Brief: Nov. 8, 2011

On this Election Day, expect short lines and minimal drama.

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The Big Conversation:

On this Election Day, expect short lines and minimal drama.

Today, Texans, as they do every odd-numbered year, will vote on several amendments to the Texas Constitution. Many ballots across the state will also include municipal races and local measures.

The 10 wide-ranging constitutional amendments will likely draw few voters to the polls. Turnout rarely exceeds 20 percent in such elections, and this year only 2.1 percent of the state's registered voters cast early ballots in Texas' top 15 counties.

"This isn't like a presidential election where there's ads and people knocking on your door," Gregory Rocha, an associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at El Paso, tells the El Paso Times. "But there are important issues on the ballot just the same."

Those issues, as the Tribune reports, include water conservation, student loans, spousal benefits, school funding and the governor's pardon-granting abilities. The amendments, which were approved by two-thirds of the state Legislature earlier this year, have drawn minimal opposition, but some critics, like We Texans, a conservative nonprofit led by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, have urged "no" votes. "These amendments are often the means of saddling Texans with debt," the group says on its website.

Turnout may exceed the state average in cities like Houston, where Mayor Annise Parker is up for re-election (but faces no major opposition) and Councilwoman Jolanda Jones, dogged by allegations of ethics violations, faces stiff competition. Corpus Christi, Laredo, Midland and Odessa will also elect mayors and council members.

New Braunfels voters will decide whether to ban disposable containers on waterways, ending a debate that has sparked surprising amounts of local drama. More than 5,000 voters cast early ballots, at least twice the number of votes cast in local elections earlier this year, as the San Antonio Express-News reports.

In the Valley, voters in several cities will encounter a number of local measures, which The Monitor has broken down.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Find your polling location at the Texas secretary of state's website.

Voters in Travis County may now cast ballots at any of the city's 187 polling locations.

Culled:

  • Mitt Romney is still running virtually even with Herman Cain among Republican voters, but Barack Obama would beat both, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Among Republicans, Rick Perry and Ron Paul tied for fourth place with 10 percent of the vote, behind Newt Gingrich at 13 percent.
  • After Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones' announcement on Monday that she'd be leaving the U.S. Senate race to instead run for state Senate against Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, Wentworth unveiled a list of supporters that included House Speaker Joe Straus and U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith and Francisco "Quico" Canseco of San Antonio. Wentworth also challenged Ames Jones to return the donations she received for the U.S. Senate race and calling on her to release the results of internal polling she conducted.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied the appeal of death row inmate Duane Buck, who has sought a retrial based on the testimony of a psychologist who told jurors that the fact Buck is black meant he was more likely to commit future crimes. The same day, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution for Hank Skinner, who for over a decade has been seeking DNA testing to prove his innocence.
  • Texas may not figure prominently in the presidential nominating contest, but that hasn't kept candidates from spending hefty sums in the state. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has spent $1.3 million in Texas, almost half of which went to campaign merchandise, while Rick Perry has spent $981,000, with payroll accounting for his largest expenditure. Use the Tribune's latest news app to search spending so far in the state.

"Any time that you rise to the top of the polls, any time that you appear that you are going to be an individual of substance that those on the left are concerned about, you're going to get whacked. … As you said, it's Herman's turn in the barrel."Rick Perry, in an appearance on Bill O'Reilly's radio show, on the Herman Cain sexual harassment saga

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