Friday, December 12, 2008

Low Voter Turnout in SD 17 Special Election

You have to give them credit. When the Republican deciders who still plague Texas government at every level decide to run an election that will guarantee a low voter turnout, they generally get their wish.

It’s such an easy task. All you have to do is schedule the election within two weeks of Christmas, hold early voting for 5 days only and none of those days a weekend day, and have the polls open on three of those 5 days only between 8 AM and 5 PM, when most people have to work.

And then on top of that, have one of the polling locations located outside the district’s own boundaries.

That last one was a nice little touch courtesy of Fort Bend County government.

The early vote numbers are in at the Fort Bend County elections website, all except for the final day, today.

As of yesterday, Thursday, 2242 voters have cast their ballot in the SD 17 special election runoff, and 919 requested mail in ballots have been returned. That’s a grand total of 3161 voters out of approximately 95,000 Fort Bend County voters eligible to vote in the SD 17 election.

That’s a 3.33% turnout so far.

Now it’s beyond the data predict what would have happened had the runoff election taken place on December 2nd, as it did in Georgia for their US Senator, where they had a 57% voter turnout. There was a lot at stake in that election, what with the magic number of 60 being approached. But I am willing to bet that had they held that election on the 16th instead of the 2nd their turnout numbers would have been considerably less.

The attention span of the average voter is about one month. That’s all the politics they can stand.

So while the late election date does its expected damage, what effect, I wonder, are all of the other machinations that our deciders have decided on, doing to voter turnout in Fort Bend County?

So for your edification, or for my sheer love of asking “what if?” I’ve crunched some numbers to see the effects of what the curtailed hours and the poor choice of a polling location did to the totals.

It is clear that the early vote poll hours for Monday through Wednesday, when the polls were open only during 8 to 5 business hours did do a number on turnout. Witness the huge jump in the number of votes cast between Wednesday and Thursday. An across the board jump of between 42% and 62%. Had the polls been open from 7 to 7 for all 5 days, using Thursday as the go-by, the early vote totals as of yesterday could have easily been 65% higher than what they are as of now.

And a slightly improved 4.6% turnout.

If you look at who is showing up to vote where, you see that the Rosenberg Annex, a location found squarely within the SD 18 state senatorial boundaries, you see that this singularly poor choice for a location performed by far below par compared to the 4 other polling locations that are all located within SD 17’s district boundaries.

A grand total of 88 voters appeared at the Rosenberg Annex location in the 4 days we have data. That’s 3.9% of the total turnout. Compare that to the 4 other locations which accounted for between 18 and 32% of the turnout (24% per location on average). If the Fort Bend deciders picked a fifth location within SD 17’s boundaries, and it performed as well as the least performing polling location among the other 4, an additional 316 votes might have been cast, increasing turnout from 3.33% to 3.6%.

Imagine that. The Annex doing so poorly, when during the General Election early voting, it was among the top performers in terms of voter attendance.

What if I combine the effects of both voting hours and poor choice of a polling location? The combined effect of both together might have meant an additional 1500 or so votes by yesterday, or a turnout rate of 4.8%.

The Bell campaign is engaged in a Herculean effort to get voters out. The campaign office in Fort Bend is abuzz every day and volunteers are using their virtual phone bank system to call from their homes. It’s still not to late to get in on this action.

There is still an effort to get out the vote on Election Day.

What else were you planning on doing this weekend? Go Christmas shopping? I hear it’s best to wait until December 18th and go shop online where the vendors will offer free shipping.

So save your Christmas fund and go make calls for Chris.

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