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Precinct analysis: “Extreme” voters

The Chron’s Mike Morris looks at undervotes in a way that I hadn’t thought of before.


On Monday we looked at the phenomenon of the November undervote, when Houstonians made the (relatively rare) commitment to vote, but skipped one or more ballot items once they actually made it to the voting booth.

In that analysis, some trends emerged from looking at which voters skipped certain ballot items. African-Americans, for instance, focused on the mayor’s race and, to a greater extent than other voters, the citywide council races. White voters, at both the conservative and liberal ends of the political spectrum, focused on the city’s controversial (and now rejected) nondiscrimination ordinance, dubbed HERO.

Today’s post takes a closer look at polarized precincts – areas where a disproportionate share of voters showed up to vote only for mayor or only on the HERO referendum, but skipped most (or perhaps even all) of the other items on the municipal ballot.


The clearest trends came on college campuses, however, such as in Precinct 361, which covers only the boundaries of Rice University.

Just shy of 400 Owls showed up to vote, and more than a fourth of them skipped the mayor’s race, while more than three out of four skipped the controller and council races. Just nine of these voters skipped the HERO contest, however, and the campus voted 93 percent in favor of the ordinance.

A similar but less severe trend showed up in Precinct 389, which includes the University of Houston and folks on a few streets just north of campus. As at Rice, Turner was the clear choice among mayoral voters there, but one out of every eight voters skipped the mayor’s race.

Only three voters in Precinct 389 skipped HERO, however, and the area was 70 percent in favor.

Go read the whole thing, it’s really good. I highlighted the last bit to suggest that the pro-HERO problem wasn’t turnout as much as it was messaging, but I think we already knew that even if we couldn’t put numbers to it. I may go back and fool around with this a bit more myself now that the idea has been planted.

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