Voter turnout hits perfect storm

Combination of factors led to only 5% participation in Dallas County Democratic Primary, but there’s no good excuse for not going to polls

LowTurnout

 

Phyllis Guest

What if they gave an election and nobody came? On Tuesday, May 29, the state of Texas did give an election. Almost everybody stayed home.

Here are some specifics garnered from the Dallas County Democratic Party office on Wednesday, May 30.

Of the 1,127,643 Dallas County residents registered to vote, a mere 58,328 persons voted in the Democratic primary.

That was a miniscule 5.17 percent of the persons who could have voted. The 5.17 percent included those who voted by mail-in ballot and those who voted early.

More in the county voted early than is usual, but with voting totals so low, early voting made no difference.

By comparison, in 2008, when President Barak Obama was elected, the turnout in Dallas County was 26.57 percent.

That is still pathetic, but not as heartbreaking to those of us who always vote from some combination of hope and habit.
Here’s another comparison. In 2010, just 5.03 percent of the registered voters in Dallas County turned out for the Democrats, just 8.6 percent for the Republicans. Ours has always been a low-voting state, but in 2010, Texas was dead last in voter turnout.
Why did and do eligible persons register and then skip the voting process?

You know the standard excuses. “If I sign up to vote, I’ll get called for jury duty.” “I don’t have time to study the candidates or the issues.” “My vote won’t count anyway because (I’m a Blue Dog in a red state; I believe the system is rigged; I don’t want people to see me at the polls),” etc.

Those are lame excuses, not worthy of any person who claims the other rights of citizenship, such as that most desirable of items, an American passport.

This year, though, some excuses are not so lame. Unless you follow state and national politics rather closely, you should get a pass for being confused.

First, there was the redistricting mess. As you no doubt know, our increase in population gave Texas the right to send four more persons to the U.S. House of Representatives. But before any other decisions could be made, current legislators in Austin and/or judges in San Antonio and/or others had to carve out four new congressional districts.

The possibility of sending four more persons devoted to “conservative” causes apparently caused the overwhelmingly Republican state government to lose all sense of proportion. They re-carved portions of our state quite dramatically.

That did not go unnoticed by Texas Democrats or federal officials. Thus redistricting became so tedious a process that it delayed the Texas primaries to this week.

Voter ID piled the mess higher and deeper. Republicans have long sought to make an issue of voter fraud, although the cases of ineligible persons seeking to vote are so few they are risible. Still, many Latinos, older African -Americans and poor rural Texans lack any of the photo IDs the Republicans wanted.

Voter ID is tied up in the courts and did not apply to this week’s election.

But it was discussed so often in the media that the concept no doubt frightened some people away from the polls.

Then there was the recent issuance of new voter ID cards with new precinct numbers. Many did not/do not know that the first of the four digits refers to the voter’s County Commissioners Court District. (Each Texas county has four commissioners plus a county judge.)

For example, my old precinct was 1214, so I was in CCD 1 — district of the retiring Maurine Dickey.

My new precinct is 2034, so I am now in CCD 2 — and Mike Cantrell, the court’s only Republican, represents me.

The renumbering of other precincts may be more problematic. South of Lovers Lane and west of Inwood, the precincts are heavily African- American.

Their former 3XXX precinct numbers put them in the CCD of John Wylie Price. Their new 4XXX precinct numbers mean that the court’s only Latina, Dr. Elba Garcia, represents them.

Adding another layer to the confusion was the reassignment of polling places. Some voters went to their customary location only to discover they were supposed to be somewhere else. In my area, for example, the Longfellow Career Academy on Boaz Street at Inwood Road had long hosted both Democratic and Republican voters. Democrats are few and so were moved. This is no one’s “fault,” but Republicans still get to vote at Longfellow.

Did you vote in your party’s primary? If you are a Democrat, keep in mind what is at stake in the runoff.

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the incumbent who is a member of our community and always stands with us, garnered just 7,000 more votes than the Republican she will face in November.

In the race for 162nd District Judge, Phyllis Lister Brown leads Maricela Moore by about the same number of votes. Moore won the endorsement of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

Those who live in new U.S. House District 33 will choose between Marc Veasey and Domingo Garcia. Garcia won the endorsement of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
So vote!

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 1, 2012.

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