Voter turnout is shattering records across the country, especially in Texas where the number of ballots cast by mail and early voting already exceeds the total amount cast from all sources in 2016. This state, which is the second-most populous state in the country, has the highest number of ballots cast so far this year; so far, 9.7 million Texans have voted. That’s 57.3% of the state’s 16.9 million eligible voters. Four years ago 8.9 million people voted, which was 59.4% of the 15.1 million people who were registered at the time.
High voter interest in Texas is warranted; after a quarter-century of Republican Party dominance the outcome this year isn’t so certain. Many people consider this a swing state that could favor Democratic Party candidates, and members of both parties are turning out in hopes that they can build a majority.
That’s especially critical in the presidential race, as Texas is a winner-take-all state with regard to Electoral College votes. Whichever presidential candidate wins Texas gets all of its 38 Electoral College votes, rather than proportional allocation based percentage of the popular vote. In a close race, whoever wins Texas could win the presidency.
Traditionally, another 25% of the voting population goes to the polls on Election Day. If history proves consistent, we can expect some 3 million people to vote today.
We hope that proves to be true — and that elections officials across the country don’t run out of ballots.
Fortunately, we’ve heard few complaints, despite the high numbers. Elections offices, including those in the Rio Grande Valley, expected brisk business, and increased staffing accordingly. More importantly, many people have been willing to volunteer to help keep the process smooth, and their valuable help obviously has helped. It surely is appreciated.
We hope the high early turnout doesn’t cause those who haven’t yet voted that they don’t need to. As we’ve noted, the early count is still less than 60% of all eligible voters, and that is roughly the percentage that usually votes in presidential elections. When the president isn’t on the ballot, turnout is significantly lower.
That means that only a small minority of our citizens decide which people will enact the laws and ordinances that affect our lives, impose the taxes we have to pay and decide which projects, services and people receive funding allocations. Those decisions affect everybody, and everybody who can have a say in the matter should take the opportunity to do so.
Moreover, concerns have been raised about the integrity of the election, with allegations of meddling by countries such as Russia, China and Iran. Others have suggested the possibility of fraudulent votes — something that never has been a problem aside from a few isolated incidents.
Both of those concerns can be mitigated by high voter turnout. As more votes are cast, any improper ballots simply would be outnumbered to the point of being rendered ineffective.
So if you’ve voted, you’ve earned our nation’s gratitude and praise. If not, don’t be lulled into thinking that enough votes have been cast already. We hope this kind is just the beginning of a new tradition of civic involvement, creating a true government of the people.