Poor voter turnout not expected to improve in runoff elections

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Early voter turnout for the Texas runoffs in Travis County is looking to be lower than early voting in the May primaries. This trend is not new and some expect voter turnout for the runoffs to be lower than usual.

According to the Travis County Elections Division, of the 597,479 registered voters in Travis County, only 13,478 people voted in the available 48 locations, 2,226 by mail. About 36,000 people voted in the May primaries. Current data suggests only 2.63 percent of the eligible voting population voted from July 23, when early voting opened, through Thursday, July 26.

Government professor Bruce Buchanan said he is not very surprised by the low turnout, given the 11 percent turnout for the primaries.

“People who vote in the primaries are faithful in American politics and know that their vote is important,” Buchanan said. “Sadly, most people don’t realize that because they don’t care or think that they can make a difference, usually due to a poor understanding of politics instilled in them from school.”

Buchanan said he expects the runoff election numbers to stay lower than the primary numbers, as they have historically been.

Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said numbers for this year’s runoff elections are expected to be even lower than usual.

“The election date being pushed back into a heavy vacationing time has resulted in voter fatigue and confusion,” Acuña said. “A lack of understanding of how the process works also doesn’t help, as some people who vote in the primaries might not realize that they still need to vote in the actual runoffs.”

Acuña said a lot of people also view the primaries as being more important because that is when a lot of the big issue are fleshed out.

“That’s not to say that they are more important,” she said. “That’s just what people do.”

Former Student Government president Natalie Butler said in a column for The Alcalde that anyone who cares about UT should care about the outcome of the elections.

“Elected officials in Texas, especially the state legislature, governor and lieutenant governor, have a profound influence over The University of Texas at Austin,” she said. “They determine everything from our funding and leadership to admissions and safety policies.”

Early voting ends today, and the full statistics won’t be released until Friday night. The last day to vote in the runoff election is July 31.