Early Voting Boom Amid Denton Fracking Ban Decision

Denton’s controversial vote over fracking in the city limits may be a major contributor to soaring early voting numbers in the county.

The Denton County Elections Administration reports a 15 percent increase in early voter turn-out from the last mid-term election in 2010.

Administrator Lannie Noble said as of Monday night 40,420 people in the county had cast a vote compared to only 34,214 on this day in 2010; an increase of more than 6,000 voters at a little bit more than half-way through the early voting process.

Noble said that’s a significant increase, especially for a midterm, and one he’s pleased to see.

While the voter numbers come from across the county, big turnout at early voting polls in Denton are evident.

On Tuesday, folks representing both sides of the fracking ban issue at the voting location near city hall reported very steady streams of people; many pointing out the fracking ban as a driving factor to the polls.

“The closer to the election you get, the more people are aware of the issues and the more there is in the newspaper,” said Carol Soph, who was out front of the polling place to represent Frack Free Denton.

The group has been posting volunteers outside of each of Denton’s 3 polling places during every day of the early vote.

The Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy have posted workers of their own at the sites; both sides handing out cards to incoming voters to help clarify the ballot language and make a last-minute push for their position.

“We want to make sure that they read it correctly,” said Soph who pointed out the ballot used words like “prohibiting” rather than banning and a vote yes would be in favor of the ban.

The Denton ban measure has been generating a lot of attention in the city, state and even on some national and international fronts.

Those pushing the ban say they’re fed up with the practice of hydraulic fracture drilling in Denton, which in the past has included drills going up within 250 feet of homes and trouble with drillers following city ordinance on the matter.

Opponents say a ban would deal a blow to the local and state economy that realizes benefits from Denton’s position on the gas rich Barnett Shale.

“We’re very big on, essentially, what the Shale oil and gas revolution is doing for the U.S. economy and so we think banning an activity that is so obviously helpful is a mistake,” said Tom Giovanetti of the Institute for Policy and Innovation.

Giovanetti has participated in several talks in Denton pushing against the ban, but he agrees that at this point it is a very close race.

“I think it’s going to continue, I think voter turn-out’s going to be extremely high, and I think it’s razor thin,” he said. “I think if you live in the city of Denton you’re going to get flooded in the next week.”

Soph agreed saying there will be “no rest” for her side as they continue a ground push into election day.

Campaign finance reports show nearly $775,000 dollars have been spent so far in the campaign leading up to the fracking ban.

The Denton Record Chronicle reports that that’s more than any other race in Denton history, and nearly $700,000 of that has come from the anti-ban side with heavy contributions from the drilling industry.

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