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It’s about the referenda

This Statesman story about the can ban battle in New Braunfels illustrates something I was getting at in my post about Houston turnout rates in the 90s.

Voters have flocked to the polls in early voting, with more than 4,800, or about 14 percent of registered voters, casting a ballot by Thursday. City Secretary Patrick Aten said that’s more than double the total votes cast in the May election, which included three City Council races.

If Houston has the same number of registered voters as it did in 2009, 14% turnout would be 130,910 ballots cast, or almost exactly what I’ve projected for this year’s total. New Braunfels did that in early voting alone – you have to figure they’ll easily top 25%, and may well exceed 30% turnout, not too shabby for a year where the only other thing on the ballot is a bunch of mostly boring Constitutional amendments. My point is that the historical record strongly suggests that an issue draws people to the polls more than any politician. I’ll say again, if the red light camera referendum were happening this year instead of last year, we’d likely be seeing similar turnout numbers. I’m not sure why this is the case, but I think we’d be better served trying to understand it than by continually bemoaning the low participation rates in elections that lack high profile referenda. Last I checked, most of the candidates were talking about important issues facing the city. Whose fault is it that people aren’t responding?

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One Comment

  1. I oppose Proposition 6 and have already voted against it. Although the proposed amount to be taken from The Permanent School Fund is supposed to be ONLY $300 million per year, there is actually no limit to the amount that could be taken per year. This amendment has the potential for the state to reduce the state’s contribution from public education and deplete a fund that should be there for our children’s children’s children and be a perpetual fund. It was not named permanent lightly and the legislature couldn’t get its hands on the fund because it is part of the constitution so they are trying to get us to allow the state to start spending more from it than has been allowed in the past.