Lower than initial estimates, though I think the initial estimates were on the optimistic side. But really, we were all guessing.
Tuesday is the final day of early voting for Harris County’s proposed $2.5 billion flood bond, and as residents continue to trickle to the polls, the county clerk has downgraded his turnout estimate by a third.
When early voting began Aug. 8, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart estimated 10 percent to 13 percent of the electorate would turn out, totaling between 230,000 and 300,000 voters. He lowered that estimate Monday afternoon to 170,000 to 180,000 voters, around 7.5 percent.
Put another way: that’s less than one vote per Harris County home or apartment building flooded by Hurricane Harvey. Stanart pleaded with Harris County’s 2.3 million registered voters to take the time to cast a ballot.
“There’s no lines at all. Just come in and vote, we’re waiting on you,” Stanart implored. “You get the government you vote for, so here’s your chance.”
Robert Stein, a Rice University professor who studies elections, said he expects most ballots to be cast during early voting. Though Commissioners Court members chose to hold the vote on the one-year anniversary of Harvey in the hopes of raising turnout, Stein said he is doubtful voters will rush to the polls on Saturday.
Some Republicans, including state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, have called for an end to summer elections on tax-increasing items, such as bonds, because they historically have low turnout.
Stein said poor voter participation should be cause for concern, but the date of the election was unlikely to change the public’s level of support for the bond.
“For the health and welfare and democracies, we should have more people voting,” Stein said. “But I don’t think the outcome would have been radically different if we had it in November.”
I agree with Professor Stein on all points. I will also reiterate my position that going with a November election for this would have been the safer choice, all things being equal. This one is on a road to passage because basically no one has argued against it. Having it in August was a choice made for reasons symbolic and strategic, and one can agree or disagree with those reasons. It could have mattered, but in the end I’m pretty sure it won’t have mattered.
Anyway, here are the final EV numbers. Tuesday was the last day, and like other last days of early voting it was the busiest, with 13,680 in person and absentee ballots being cast. That brings the EV total to 92,691 overall. I have no idea what anyone expected, but I’m sticking with my final turnout estimate of around 150K. We’ll see.