Saturday, October 30, 2010

Early Vote Ends with Record Totals

The two-week long early vote period for this year’s mid-term election has finally drawn to a close. And the vote totals at the Fort Bend County Elections website reveals that people are taking advantage of early voting like no other mid-term election ever seen.

Because at the end of the day yesterday, I see that a total of 78,855 voters personally appeared at the 17 early voting locations throughout the county, and that 6,732 mail-in ballots were received by the end of the day. That’s a total early vote turnout of 85,537.

During a “low-interest” mid-term election where no presidential race is on the ballot, this is simply amazing to me.

With a total registered voter population of 309,026, this means that nearly 28% of all registered voters have early voted. This is the second highest voter turnout rate of any of the 15 counties that the Texas Secretary of State keeps tabs on at their website, with Galveston County barely edging Fort Bend County.

The last time we had a mid-term election, in 2006, it was a very different story. In 2006 a total of 39,289 voters had participated in the early voting, a mere 14.67% of all registered voters. And by the end of voting on Election Day of that year, a total of 98,427 votes had been cast in the gubernatorial contest.

So in this year’s early vote we are only 12,890 votes shy of the total Fort Bend voter turnout in 2006.

And Fort Bend is just the tip of the iceberg. In neighboring Harris County which encompasses most of the City of Houston, they are seeing their numbers go through the roof. Richard Murray a demographer at the University of Houston who has also predicted the imminent “Bluing of Fort Bend” thinks he sees who is showing up to vote: white people.

And when more white people turn out to vote, he says, that can’t be good for Democrats.

“Younger voters for Obama, African-American voters, they're always difficult to turn out in a midterm election. It's one of the reasons the Democrats are in trouble.”
But then, on the other hand, Murray has also said that the early vote favors Democrats because Democrats are traditionally lethargic and tend not to vote if not given plenty of opportunity as in this 2-week long early voting period.

So which is it? Will a heavy early vote favor Democratic candidates in Fort Bend? Murray has said it is so. On the other hand, according to Murray, without an African-American at the top of the ballot, African-Americans are staying home this year. But I like it how State Rep Garnet Coleman says it in his evaluation of black voter turnout this year:

“Those were people who never voted in gubernatorial elections anway. So why would anyone expect they would vote now?”
Why indeed?

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