Total voter turnout for the city council race on May 12th was 33,853 or 3.73% of total registered voters as opposed to a total turnout of 24,716 votes on June 16th or 2.72% of registered voters in Harris County.
But while total votes were down, Roy Morales’ campaign picked up votes from other campaigns, and doubtlessly so did Melissa Noriega’s but we’ll never know for sure. And there is the entire story. With such a low voter turnout, the winner is the campaign that can beat the bushes the best to get voters to the polls, on a rainy, stormy late spring weekend day in Houston . . . on Juneteenth.
Actually, I am doubting that the Juneteenth factor had much to do with Morales’ numbers. As a matter of fact, if you look at the Fort Bend County Elections website (the Houston part of Fort Bend County is overwhelmingly African-American), you see that while Morales picked up 16 votes in those eleven precincts, Melissa Noriega lost 52 votes comparing with the May 12th election results.
Comparing totals between the special election and the run-off, you see that Morales’ campaign learned some lessons about absentee ballots. In the May 12th election, Morales had a miserable showing in absentee ballot totals. Someone must have noticed, because absentee ballot votes for Morales increased by over 300%. Their early vote effort, improved as well, with a 54% improvement. The campaign had similar gains in Election Day votes, a 51% improvement.
Compare that to Melissa’s totals and you see a 34% increase in absentee ballots sent in for Melissa, but early voting and Election Day voting turnout for Melissa were down by 14% and 23%, respectively over turnout on May 12th.
So while Morales’s campaign made startling gains on all fronts, doubtlessly fueled by what became a one-issue, anti-immigrant, fear-mongering campaign, it was not enough to offset Melissa’s commanding lead, that could absorb a nearly 13% loss in voters and still come out on top.
In the end, it was the votes of 1346 people that made the difference, with a little over half of those being from the net gain of absentee vote ballots sent in.
Yes, it was that close.