Poor Voter Turn-Out in the City of Houston Elections

Only Around 118,000 People Came Out To Vote

800px-Election_MG_3455Out of the around 983,000 registered voters in the City of Houston, only about 118,000 showed up during the Mayoral & City of Houston Council Elections 2011 (about 12%). In some of the District Level Elections, the turn-out was even less than 10%. Many critics have said that this is not a good trend for a democracy.

In a race of six candidates, incumbent Mayor Annise Parker won the election, after getting only 59,920 votes (58,001 votes going to other five candidates) and barely avoiding a runoff, a signal that she lacks any sort of mandate heading into her second term.

“I want to thank the voters of Houston for giving me two more years in a job that I love,” she said. “I am still excited to go to work every day, absolutely thrilled.”
Ms. Parker ended up with 50 percent of the vote with 100 percent of the precincts reported. Of her five challengers, Jack O’Conner was the next closest, with 15 percent of the votes. Fernando Herrera came in third with 14 percent.

Recent media polls suggest that some voters haven’t been happy with Parker’s performance. Local TV Channel 11 Political Analyst Bob Stein has said the low voter turnout wasn’t exactly good news for Parker.

“It doesn’t help when the mandate she gets is less than 5-or-10 percent of the eligible registered voters here in the city,” said Stein. “It just doesn’t speak well when she has a difficult fight with some of the council members. True, they’re not getting many more voters either. But it’s hard to lead when very few people show up.”

In the Houston area just about 12% of the registered voters showed up at the polls, officials said. At the West Gray Multi-service Center in River Oak, traditionally one of the busiest polling places in Houston, the number of voters was at an all-time low. It was a far cry from Election Day two years ago when voter lines extended all the way around the building.
Incumbent City Council Member Jolanda Jones’ position was sought by three challengers. Jack Christie, a chiropractor and former Texas State Board of Education Chairman will be up against Ms. Jones on December 10th, 2011 run-off elections.

Another incumbent, Brenda Stardig of District A, finished second in a three-way race. The other two runoffs are for District B to replace term-limited Councilman Jarvis Johnson. His aide, Alvin Byrd and non-profit director Jerry Davis are in the runoff for that seat. And we won’t have the At-Large 2 seat filled until December 10th. It will be either Pastor Andrew Burks or former State Representative Kristi Thibaut, replacing outgoing Councilwoman Sue Lovell.

Nancy Sims, a political analyst with Pierpont Communications says the turnout for the regular election was dismal already, so bleak might be a better prediction for the run-off races.
“Traditionally when we’re in a non-mayoral election year we do tend to have lower voter turnout in the run-off because all people are coming out for is these council races. So there’s nothing else on the ballot to pull them out. But the district races will probably drive the bulk of the turnout.”

Sims is referring to the run-off races in Districts A and B which are likely to generate more activity at the polls, and therefore those voters are more likely to determine the outcome of the two at-large races on the ballot.

But Sims says all Houston voters should take this election seriously.

“I would encourage voters to pay close attention. This is an important race. You’ve got four members of council, that’s going to be a quarter of the new council, with run-offs and still picking that leadership. So it’s important and every Houstonian can vote in the at-large races.”

Houston’s run-off election will be held Saturday, December 10th, 2011. There are four city council races on the ballot.