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Nobody is voting by mail in the District G special election

Here’s the early voting report through Saturday for the District G special election. A total of 1,608 ballots have been cast in the first six days, of which 1,569 have been in person and thirty-nine (39) have been by mail. Yes, thirty-nine. That’s out of 260 total mail ballots that have been sent to voters who have requested them.

To put this in a bit of perspective, in the November 2021 election, the HISD District I race had the smallest number of mail ballots cast. In that election, 1,438 people voted by mail out of 9,480 total votes. That’s about fifteen percent of votes cast by mail – we’re at 2.4% mail ballots in this race so far. In the November 2019 District G election, there were 2,308 mail ballots cast out of 29,500 total. That’s a much smaller 7.8% of the total, but still more than three times the rate of what we’re seeing so far. Given the increase in voting by mail since 2020, it’s clear something is happening here.

As to what that is, you have to assume that voter suppression bill SB1 is largely to blame. People will vote by mail if it’s available to them, but with only 260 mail ballots being sent out, zero of which had been returned by the first day of early voting, it’s clearly not available to the vast majority of District G voters. The Harris County Elections Administrator’s office is not allowed to send ballot applications to eligible voters. The candidates are, but given the compressed timeline for this race and the likely lack of funds for them so far, I have to assume they haven’t done so. We don’t know how many, but we can assume that a larger than usual number of mail ballot applications are being rejected. The result speaks for itself.

I don’t want to overstate what is happening here. This is a weird election, and as noted it seems likely that none of the candidates has been sending VBM applications to people. That won’t be the case in the primaries or the 2022 general election, and the parties can send applications as well. It’s still shocking to see such low numbers. I should note that we have basically no data for city of Houston special elections – the last one we had was the May 2009 District H special election, which was pre-redistricting and for which there was a much longer lead-up – so I can’t begin to guess how this might affect turnout. A total of 4,141 people voted in that District H race, and we could easily exceed that here. Of course, G is a high-turnout district while H is not, and even with there being fewer districts in 2009 there are far more registered voters in G right now (over 129K in G in 2019 versus 93K in H in 2009), so just surpassing H’s raw total means nothing. Given all the weirdness of this election and the many factors that could be affecting it, who knows what effect what the lack of mail ballots might have. But surely there is some.

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6 Comments

  1. Bert Medley says:

    Well, if they had mailed me a ballot (67 yrs old) I would have voted by mail!! I was lucky to have noticed this election.

    I bet many others are in the same boat. No local news spinning this election. Nothing!!!

  2. Genevieve Maida says:

    Same here! Do we now have to call and request to vote by mail for each election. I also barely heard about this election. I think tomorrow is the last day to early vote so I will go tomorrow to vote.

  3. Priscilla Bloomquist says:

    Hey Charles, did you forget about this special election necessitated by the death of Larry Green?
    May 5, 2018 Special Election to Fill Vacancy for City of Houston, Council Member, District K

  4. Hey, Priscilla. It would seem that I did forget. I just missed seeing it when I scanned the Harrisvotes.com election archives.

    For the record, there were 5,094 votes cast in that election, and 1,711 of them – slightly more than one-third – were mail ballots. The contrast to this election is stark.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Mainstream says:

    This is probably the most Republican of all the city council districts. I am wondering if the news coverage in social media and Fox silos casting doubt on the safety/integrity of mail ballots is shifting GOP voters away from using mail and to in-person voting. If so, that will depress GOP vote totals in future elections. An unforced error.

  6. […] the comments to my previous post, I was reminded that there was another recent special City Council election, the one in 2018 to […]