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Your vote is worth 30 times what it usually is

A little runoff math from the Trib.

It is easy to lament low voter turnout. Only 11 percent of the state’s voting age adults showed up for the May primaries.

But look at their clout: Every actual voter was making a decision on behalf of nine people. In the runoff voting that starts next week and ends on July 31, those voters will probably have even greater power.

The Republican primary, with 25 races from the United States Senate to the Statehouse, is bigger than the Democratic runoff, with 12. Both have Senate runoffs — Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst on the Republican side, and Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough on the Democratic side.


Combined, almost 2 million people voted in the two Texas primaries this year. On average, one in three will come back for the runoff; if it is a good year, nearly 1 million will show.

Shake it all out and it is likely that it will require fewer than 300,000 people to choose the winner in the Republican primary. And if that is the primary that chooses the next senator — it looks like a reasonable bet, given recent history — that is the number of Texans it will take to choose the next senator.

Think of it: If everyone who is eligible voted, it would take more than 9 million votes to become a senator from Texas. Instead, every vote cast for the winner of the Republican primary effectively represents the power of 30 adults going to the polls.

The math is simple: At some point, votes begin to count.

I’m not one to concede the election to the GOP nominee. Dewhurst and Cruz have spent zillions of dollars beating each other up and saying stupid things, and while I don’t expect that to have any effect on rank and file GOP voters it’s not impossible to imagine some less hardcore ones deciding to opt out. I mean, if KBH was your kind of Republican, it’s certainly fair to say that the eventual nominee is promising to be very much unlike her. As EoW notes, we may finally find out if it’s possible to nominate someone too extreme in Texas.

Whatever turnout in the runoff is for Republicans, it’ll surely be lower on the Democratic side. Based on recent history – 207,252 primary runoff votes in 2006; 187,708 in 2008; there was no statewide runoff in 2010 – I’ll peg this year’s runoff turnout in the 150,000 to 200,000 range. That’s comparable to a city of Houston election. No matter how you look at it, your vote is going to count for a lot in the Democratic Senate runoff.

Paul Sadler

Democrat Paul Sadler, the only U.S. Senate candidate to show up at a gathering of hundreds of educators Monday, told them that they could control the election if only they voted.

“I’m going to ask you to stand up for the children of this state,” Sadler, a former state lawmaker who headed the House Public Education Committee, told the Association of Texas Professional Educators summit.

“If the teachers of this state stood up together with one voice and said we’re not going to tolerate cutting $5.2 billion out of public education … your numbers alone, with your family members, would control the election,” he said. Those taking candidates’ attendance might get an idea about how likely the political world thinks that is.

The Republicans competing in the July 31 runoff for their party’s nomination for U.S. Senate — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former state solicitor general Ted Cruz — declined invitations to the event, citing schedule conflicts, the education association said.

Sadler’s opponent in the Democratic runoff, retired educator Grady Yarbrough, didn’t show up after saying he would, the association said. Yarbrough didn’t return a telephone call from the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle.

“Aren’t you kind of sick and tired of people that say they’ll show up and then they don’t?” asked Sadler, to applause. “Or a little tired of people that make promises to you and then don’t follow through?”

Your vote only counts if you show up and use it, of course. My advice is to vote early, which you can starting today and going through Friday this week. Greg has a nice Google map of the early voting locations. If you wait till Runoff Day on the 31st, be sure to check the County Clerk’s webpage for voting locations that day, as they will be greatly consolidated, and not all locations will have both primaries at them. Vote early, and vote carefully. If we haven’t figured out by now how much that matters, we never will. A press release from County Clerk Stan Stanart about the runoff is beneath the fold.

Early voting by personal appearance begins Monday, July 23, for the July 31 Republican and Democratic Party Primary Runoff Elections. Polls during the early voting period will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting ends Friday, July 27.

“Voters should be aware that Primary Runoff Elections have an abbreviated early voting period, in this case 5 days instead of 12 days,” said Stan Stanart, Harris County Clerk and Chief Election Officer. “Voters should not put off voting early expecting to have more time.”

There will be 37 early voting locations throughout the county, including the Vietnamese Civic Center at 11306 Bellaire Boulevard, which is replacing Henington-Alief Library for the Runoff Election. The library is not available for use as a polling location due to the summer activity calendar.

Over 38,000 ballots by mail have been requested from the Harris County Clerk’s Office for these elections, with over 20,000 already returned. The deadline for a ballot by mail request to be received by the Clerk’s Office is July 24. See for qualification details and an application form.

In the Republican Primary Runoff there are eight contests, featuring the hotly contested U.S. Senate seat vacated by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. In the Democratic Primary there are six contests also headed by the U.S. Senate race. In both Primaries there are several Precinct Chairman races that will also be decided.

Voters who did not vote in the May 29 Primary are eligible to cast a ballot in one of the Primary Runoff Elections. However, if a voter voted on May 29 and is planning to vote in a Runoff Election he or she cannot cross over and vote in a different party’s Primary Runoff. “I encourage everyone to make the effort to participate in these important elections to select your candidate for the November General Election,” exclaims Stanart.

For a complete list of Early Voting locations and a list of credentials which may be used for identification at the polls, please visit the Harris County Clerk’s Election website at For more information, voters may also call 713.755.6965 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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