Maybe elections are just too predictable in Texas, or maybe Lone Star State voters just aren't passionate about voting like they are about other things. Whatever the reason, Texas has been among the worst states in the country for voter turnout in recent elections. According to the United States Elections Project conducted by George Mason University, just 32.1% of eligible Texas voters cast ballots in the 2010 general election, second worst in the country ahead of only the District of Columbia. In 2012, 49.7% of eligible Texans voted, which was still fourth worst in the nation.
This year's primaries don't look much more promising. Turnout for the March primaries was 1.9 million, and just over 951,000 voted in last month's primary runoffs---out of 13.6 million registered voters statewide. The numbers weren't much better in Harris County. "Republicans, while not quite as good as last time, did historically much better than the average (primary) turnout, while Democrats in their runoff, not a lot of interest, so they were down a significant amount," says Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart. He tells KTRH he is more optimistic about this fall. "Turnouts are usually quite less in primaries, but I think in this governor's race, because we have two new candidates running for open office, that we'll have good turnout," says Stanart.
Indeed, it's been 20 years since Texans have voted for an open governor's mansion. During that time, the Republican Party has taken a stranglehold on the state's elected offices, which has made most Texas elections, especially in November, a foregone conclusion. Stanart also sees a potential bright side to low voter turnout--it means the more passionate, informed voters are deciding the outcomes. "To some degree, maybe having the ones who really know what's going on making the decisions for all of us is the right thing," he says. "But if you have an opinion, if you are concerned, you need to be voting...if you don't vote, then you can't complain."