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The Brief: Oct. 31, 2014

The raw number of voters is up slightly but is not keeping pace with population growth.

Early voting at the Acres Home Multiservice Center in Houston on Oct. 26, 2014.

The Big Conversation

The two-week early voting period for the Nov. 4 general election ends today with, if the trendlines hold, an underwhelming turnout by the electorate.

"Despite a governor’s race between Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis that has generated a combined $83 million in fundraising, and a massive voter outreach effort from the engineers of President Barack Obama’s re-election, early voting across Texas has stayed relatively flat," wrote The Associated Press' Paul J. Weber"Nearly 1.3 million people in the state’s largest counties had cast a ballot through the first 10 days, a figure that’s slightly up from the last midterm election in 2010 but down in terms of total percentage of registered voters."

Weber added, "For Davis, a heavy underdog who has trailed in opinion polls since her campaign launched a year ago, a big turnout among Democrats is needed to pull an upset. She and her campaign have shrugged off the turnout numbers and claimed their analysis shows them making ground with black and Hispanic voters.

"Republican analysts who’ve crunched their own data paint a far different picture and predict an Abbott victory that’s in line with polling."

The voters' seeming disinterest runs counter to what had been expected. On the Republican side, voters have the chance to bring in a whole new slate of statewide officeholders, while Democrats have what was billed as the most exciting top of the ticket in at least a decade.

Weber talked to some elections officials who said the length and complexity of this year's ballot might be deterring some voters from casting ballots too early. After today, voters only have Tuesday remaining to make their preference known for governor, senator and other statewide offices.

The Day Ahead

•    GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott makes "get out the vote" appearances with Chuck Norris in Victoria and Edinburg. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis drops by a San Antonio campaign office as part of her "get out the vote" efforts.

•    Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Leticia Van de Putte takes her "get out the vote" bus tour to Texas City, Rosenberg and Victoria.

•    The Texas Tribune presents a one-day symposium on the impact of the shale boom at the University of Texas at San Antonio. For those unable to make it in person, we will livestream the event beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Trib Must-Reads

In Tarrant County, Democrats Aim for Republican Voters, by Morgan Smith

West Texas Oil Drilling Frustrates Some Farmers, by Aman Batheja

From State of Pappy and Kinky, SpicyBrown Runs for Senate, by John Reynolds

Analysis: Candidates Try to Put Good Faces Forward, by Ross Ramsey

Abbott Votes, Predicts Strong Showing With Latinos, by Jay Root

Elsewhere

Political costumes, masks not welcome at the polls, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Wendy Davis gets big checks in final days, The Dallas Morning News

The likely next governor of Texas is full of Lone Star swagger. Don’t be surprised if he runs for president., Washington Post

Court: With no fraud, state improperly held Medicaid money, Austin American-Statesman

Galveston Co. Young Republicans Apologize Over Democrat Dart Board, KEYE-TV

Hasen: Messing With Texas Again: Putting It Back Under Federal Supervision, Talking Points Memo

Civil war looms for GOP, The Hill

How Political Donors Are Changing Statehouse News Reporting, Governing

Quote to Note

“Those are his personal choices. I’ll tell you, I love my iPhone.”

— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to CNBC, reacting to Apple CEO Tim Cook's decision to come out as gay. As could be expected, gay rights groups were not impressed.

Today in TribTalk

"Dark money" rule a win for transparency in Texas, by Chase Untermeyer

"Dark money" rule a loss for free speech in Texas, by Joe Nixon

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Live Post-Election TribCast, featuring Tribune editors and reporters on the election results, on Nov. 5 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick on Nov. 6 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Dec. 4 at The Austin Club

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