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Election Judge Jack Faegre, left, and his wife, Creeda Faegre, begin setting up voting stations Monday at the Robson Ranch Clubhouse ahead of Tuesday's start to early voting for the March 3 primary elections. Early voting continues through Feb. 28.

You can choose either side of the aisle to cast your primary ballot as early voting begins Tuesday, but here’s a word to the wise: Choose carefully, because Texas primaries aren’t completely open.

Registered voters may cast a ballot in either primary from year to year. However, voters cannot cross party lines to vote in a primary runoff.

With competitive races in both parties up and down the ballot, you may believe it matters whether you can head back to the polls on Tuesday, May 26, to help decide the party’s ultimate nominee.

Some local races could be decided in the primary and primary runoff. For example, three GOP hopefuls are vying for sheriff. If the incumbent, Tracy Murphree, cannot secure the majority vote outright against his challengers Bryan “Wilkie” Wilkinson and Dugan Broomfield, GOP primary runoff voters will end up choosing the county’s sheriff for the next four years. The race has drawn no challenger from the Democratic Party.

Congressional hopefuls for Texas Congressional District 26 may pose the toughest choice of the primary for those voters with an eye on good local representation in our nation’s capital. Six people are vying to unseat longtime incumbent Michael Burgess for U.S. House of Representatives, three Republicans and three Democrats.

But even voters concerned about state and national races may think twice before assuming their favorite candidate can secure the party’s nomination outright. For example, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has four GOP challengers and 12 Democratic hopefuls. And at the top of the ticket, 17 Democrats remain on the ballot for president, as are six GOP challengers to President Donald Trump’s reelection.

One caveat for Democratic Party primary voters in southern Denton County: Democratic candidate for state Senate, District 12, Randy Daniels isn’t eligible for the office, party officials say, although his name remains on the ballot.

Elections officials and their moving contractor came in under the wire Monday, setting up 42 early voting locations around the county over the past few days with the polling location at the Robson Ranch Clubhouse among the last to be readied Monday afternoon.

Voters need not choose their party or know their home precinct for early voting. Denton County elections administrators can print ballots on demand in any location, with the voter deciding at that moment whether to vote Democrat or Republican.

Come election day, however, voters will need to know before they head out whether they will vote Democrat or Republican because not all polling locations on Tuesday, March 3, will be bipartisan.

Early voting begins at 8 a.m. Tuesday and runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day through Friday this week. Polling locations reopen Saturday for extended hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and for abbreviated hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Polling locations will remain open for extended hours, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., during the second week of early voting, Feb. 24-28.

For more information, including a preview of your sample ballot, go to votedenton.com and choose “Early Voting Information.”

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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