Early voting for the Nov. 8 election begins Monday in the state of Texas. I’ll be in line at 8 a.m. this time, taking part in the early voting process for the first time. I want no part of the Election Day circus to decide Trump vs. Clinton.

Michael McDonald, founder of Elections Project, which tracks turnout, predicts early voting could account for up to 34 percent of voting totals this year, according to NPR. I’d say that’s a conservative estimate. Here in McLennan County, about half of us vote early in most elections already. That number could go much higher this election.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has raised voter fraud as the centerpiece of his campaign’s home-stretch strategy, casting doubts on the validity of election results and legitimacy of any president elected except him. He’s even called on supporters to volunteer as poll watchers and make sure his chief rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, doesn’t sneak in and rig election results and steal a victory.

Intimidation

Such antics now make Election Day security a genuine concern, especially in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. Expect acts of voter intimidation to be more widespread in every battleground state than ever before.

Aside from Trump’s call to arms, voter identification laws, such as the one in Texas, have been enacted, struck down, appealed and restricted so many times in the past few months, voters really don’t know what to expect at the voting center. For the record, the Texas voter ID law is rolled back for the Nov. 8 election. A shell of the 2011 bill remains in place, but the most restrictive elements of it are shelved for this election. My suggestion? Bring everything you’ve got that could identify you and vote early, in case it’s not enough and you need to try again.

County Election Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe predicts about a 60 percent turnout — similar to the record voter turnout in 2008 — here in McLennan County. That, too, may be a conservative number. Texas added almost 2 million people to voter registration rolls for this election, boosting the total count to 15.1 million. It wouldn’t surprise me to see record turnout in Texas, given that recent polls show Trump leading Clinton here by a mere 3 percentage points.

Trump and Clinton have set high-water marks for unpopularity this election season. Both have unfavorable ratings above 50 percent and both are backed by supporters blind to their candidates’ flaws. The election comes at a time when emotions run dangerously high in this country. Never have we seen such visceral hatred for one candidate or the other.

Be nice to the workers

I’m voting early so I can put this election behind me as soon as possible, a sentiment many people share. My personal stake in this campaign ends Monday. I’ll leave Election Day madness to others. I advise readers to do the same. You can find a list of voting centers in today’s paper or at WacoTrib.com. You can vote at any of them.

But when you vote, be respectful to the election workers you encounter. I come from a family of election workers. I’ve heard my mom, aunt and grandmother tell stories of how people vent their frustration with the political process, the candidates, even their own lives, to the people whose job is to ensure the votes are counted properly and independently.

They don’t get paid much money, and they take the job very seriously. A friend of mine from high school still volunteers as an election worker back home. She told me she kicked a voter out of the precinct during the primary election this summer for wearing a shirt emblazoned with his favorite candidate. Apparently the guy went straight to the local newspaper to cause a big stink after election workers told him to change his shirt before entering the polling place. After he finished making a public spectacle of himself, he returned to the voting precinct dressed in full camouflage gear, complete with combat boots.

Election workers signed him in and let him vote. Apparently he was protesting the war going on in America right now. “Protest away,” my friend said. “As long as you’re not electioneering.”

Those are the kind of people who run our elections. Thank God for them.

The best way to raise a stink on Nov. 8 is to cast your vote. Since not everyone’s going to settle for that this time around, you now have two full weeks (including Saturday) to cast that vote early and instead get a tee-time for Nov. 8.

I’ll be at Cottonwood Creek if you need me.