Early voting for the July 31st runoff election ends today. Local and state officials say turnout so far has been far higher than expected, as KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports.
Runoff races usually attract only the most dedicated, impassioned voters. And with this runoff pushed by the courts into the middle of our searing hot summer, Dallas and Tarrant County elections administrators – Toni Pippins-Poole and Steve Raborn, feared the worst.
Pippins-Poole: With percentages, around one percent of the voters usually come out.
Raborn: We’re accustomed to seeing primary runoffs with low single digit turnout.
But the Texas Secretary of State’s office shows Republicans and Democrats are voting, so far, in numbers far greater than the May early voting period. Political observers say the catalyst is the state Republican senate race between former Solicitor General Ted Cruz and Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. They want to replace Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who’s stepping down. Turnout’s been so high that Rich Parsons, with the Secretary of State’s office, says the Secretary is publishing early turnouts online.
Parsons: Well normally the Secretary of State’s office does not track early voting totals during a runoff because of the unusual circumstances of the runoff. This year we’re tracking the 10 counties with the highest population of registered voters.
Those include, Dallas and Tarrant Counties, where Democratic turnout is also way. Pippins-Poole and Raborn agree it’s because of the runoff between Domingo Garcia, in Dallas, and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth. Each hopes to be the U.S. Congressman for the newly created District 33 seat.
Pippins-Poole: It looks like that we are almost tripling the number of voters that are coming out for a typical runoff election.
Raborn: We’re looking at over 10 percent and maybe somewhere north of that.
Neither official is predicting a record runoff turnout, but they just don’t know. For one thing, early voting in May lasted several weeks. But the early runoff period has been just this week. Election day is July 31st.