Early voters from Texas’ urban areas increasing

Nolan Hicks

Election records from around Texas indicate that early voting for the 2010 midterm election is up sharply in several Rio Grande Valley counties as well as key urban areas throughout the state when compared to 2006.

During the first eight days of early voting, turnout in Hidalgo County is almost triple what it was during 2006 midterm election. Webb County saw turnout almost double when compared to 2006. Democrats in Webb County, which contains the city of Laredo, believe multiple factors have contributed to the dramatic increase in voter turnout.

“Webb County is unique in the Valley because we moved our municipal elections and school district elections up to November instead of having them all separate during various points of the summer,” said Sergio Garcia, chairman of the Webb County Democratic Party.

He said turnout for the general elections in Novembers past had been depressed because the partisan races are decided in the Democratic primaries, which happen in the spring.

“In Webb County, not only has [White] been here numerous times, they have invested a lot of money and resources into running a well-tuned, highly technological get-out-the-vote effort,” Garcia said. “We have block-walked [almost] all the precincts in the county, and that’s new. It has been truly revolutionary and very effective.”

He said a confluence of factors — closely contested local races, moving municipal elections from the summer to Election Day in November — were all pushing turnout significantly higher.

“Local races are driving increased voter turnout in the Valley,” said Bob Stein, a polling expert and political science professor at Rice University. “[Those] races are important in the Valley because they provide services.”

Major urban areas around Texas have also seen increases in voter turnout.

“The big urban counties, led by Harris at 210 percent over 2006, are uniformly up by about 65 percent, which is good for White,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “But so are the suburban counties Collin, Denton, Fort Bend and Williamson, where Perry should run strong.”

With the latest polls showing White down by eight to 11 points, experts doubt an increased turnout of groups that lean Democratic will be enough for him to win the election.

“Everybody is waiting for the inevitable,” Stein said. “The increased turnout will help Bill White, but it won’t win him the election.”