Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Hispanic Turnout Low In Harris County—Turnout Overall Is Lower Than Projected

Turnout of Hispanic voters and of all voters was lower than projected in Harris County, Texas. Around 60% of eligible voters showed up at the polls or early voted. Hispanic turnout may have been as low as 40% to 45%. The 2008 turnout of all voters was only two percent higher than in 2004.   

The Houston Chronicle article on the subject addresses some theories for the relatively poor showing. You can read the article and take the theories for what they are worth. 

It’s suggested in the Chronicle article that Hispanic voters who supported Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary saw little reason to vote in November.  If this is so, that sure is silly. Maybe this is a nicer way of saying that the issue was not Hillary Clinton but was Barack Obama instead.

In any case, whatever the exact thinking, this shows why we’ve never had a Hispanic Congressperson from Houston or a breakthrough Hispanic political figure in Houston like a Barbara Jordan or a Mickey Leland.  

I recall during the campaign that the Chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party said the party was counting on the increased turnout in the Democratic primary to be a source of high Election Day turnout.

We criticize the national campaigns when they take potential volunteers out of state, but then we rely on the national campaigns to generate our turnout.   

Another theory is that re-registration requirements after people move within the county deters voting. The county’s chief voter registrar, Republican Paul Bettencourt, says this is not so. He says his office makes it easy for people to vote.

Sure. Mr. Bettencourt, who as our county tax assessor actively encourages people to challenge their tax assessments, is all about inclusion and doing his duty.

I think there is a bottom line here—People just did not show up to vote. In the end it really is on those people who did not vote.

But I’ll say this as well– Democrats held power in Harris County and in Austin up until the 1990’s. It’s not clear that these Democrats made any real effort to improve the lives of urban and minority voters.

In 2008, the focus of countywide Democratic candidates in Harris County for the most part was traffic, hurricane related issues and Republican misdeeds. These are not issues meant to dig deep down in our county and excite people who do not normally vote.  

In our city council elections, the Democratic Party refuses to make endorsements under the claim the races are non-partisan. Well–the races may be non-partisan on the ballot. But parties can endorse. Parties endorse in so-called non-partisan city elections in other parts of the country. Our Harris County Democratic Party appears to have little interest in taking advantage of the Democratic voting majority in Houston.

It seems sometimes that our Hispanic community in Houston does not see a value in taking political leadership equal to its numbers and that the Harris County Democratic Party is content enough with low turnout and with an electorate that asks little beyond garbage pick-up and traffic relief.

November 7, 2008 - Posted by | Campaign 2008, Houston, Politics | , , , ,

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