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We need more early voting locations

Greg made an observation about the District H result that I’d like to explore a bit.

Yolanda’s early numbers were a little surprising as it would have meant a runoff between her and Ed if those numbers held. But even more surprising than that was Welsh leading the E-day returns with 36% to Ed’s 29%.

I was at Maverick Welsh’s return-watching party on Saturday night, and I can tell you that this wasn’t unexpected at all by his crew. They knew that the early voting locations were in parts of the district that were less favorable to Welsh, and they planned to make up the difference on Election Day itself. Which is exactly what happened, as turnout in the Heights was heavier than in other areas. I was a little surprised at how much ground he made up, but the final result wasn’t that surprising.

While I don’t think there was much that could be done about it for an election of this kind, I do think in general that there is a real need for more early voting places. In particular, I think there’s a need for more EV locations inside employment centers, because I think having more of them near where people work would make voting a lot easier. Moody Park is closer to where I live than any other EV location, but I never used it before this election because it’s not convenient to my daily commute; I work southwest of where I live, and Moody Park is northeast from my house. I generally vote at the Multipurpose Center on West Gray because it’s between where I live and where I work, or at the Fiesta on Kirby because it’s walking distance from where I work.

Unfortunately, as the trend towards more early voting continues, those locations become less convenient because the lines are so long. Here’s the early voting by location for this past November. The Multipurpose Center had by far the most votes cast of any EV location. When you realize that it serves basically the entire Montrose/Upper Kirby/Greenway area, and likely a good chunk of the Galleria area, that’s no surprise. Where else are all those people going to go?

The two State Rep districts that have only one EV location and which had the largest number of early votes cast were HDs 134 and 136. The former encompasses the Greenway Plaza area, and the latter includes the Galleria area. Yet neither of those highly dense business districts has an early voting location of their own. Looking at the EV map from November, all of that area is served by the West Gray MSC, which I believe is why it is so ridiculously crowded all the time. I say this has to change.

What makes sense to me would be a new location in the Greenway area, and a new location in the Galleria area, one in HD134 and one in HD136. I don’t know what the requirements and restrictions are on EV locations, but if I could just wave a magic wand I might pick something like the Houston Intown Chamber of Commerce building at 3015 Richmond, and something in the vicinity of San Felipe and Post Oak. Again, I don’t know what the details are, but geographically speaking that’s what I have in mind. Bonus points for locations that will be served by the eventual light rail expansion, as these would be.

None of this would have changed the calculus of the District H special election early voting, of course. You’d have needed an EV location in the Heights for that, and that really doesn’t make sense given that HD148 already has two EV sites, which happened to be the two District H sites as well. But a lot of people, all throughout early voting, expressed surprise to me that the West Gray MSC wasn’t open for this. They didn’t think about it not being in H, they thought about it as being the one place they’ve ever gone to vote early. It’s time for there to be more places like that.

UPDATE: Marc Campos suggests that the reason Heights turnout was so much bigger on Election Day was because voters there didn’t want to cross I-45, which he calls “the Mexican-Dixon line”. I’m sure that has something to do with it, but again, I think people go where it’s convenient to their daily routine, which neither Ripley House nor Moody Park are for me, or likely for anyone who lives west of I-45 and works south of where they live. During the afternoon, traffic on I-45 North becomes appreciably worse north of downtown. Who wants to deal with that if they don’t have to?

UPDATE: Greg adds on.

UPDATE: To clarify something here, I do not claim that the early voting locations had any effect on the total turnout in this election. Rather, I believe, as does Marc Campos, that the fact that Maverick Welsh did better on Election Day had to do with where the early voting locations were. I also believe, as I wrote in this post, that there should be more early voting locations, including some in high-density employment centers, since I believe that people vote early where it is convenient for them.

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9 Comments

  1. Neil Aquino says:

    7% or 8% turnout overall and the issue is early voting locations? The issue was not a failure of campaigns to motivate people? Apathy by voters? A culture within the city that says who serves on council does not matter? A longtime lack of solidarity with the Hispanic political class that has long impacted the political fortunes of Hispanic candidates.

    Even after 11 years here I cannot grasp the seeming acceptance of the lousy turnout in this city.

    The issue here is not early voting locations. The issue is that hardly anybody in the district gave a shit who won the election.

  2. Marie says:

    Why would the city use an early voting location in River Oaks for a District H election? I know, I know… the bourgeoisie finds it unacceptable to vote at Moody Park, (“is it safe there?”). If the city adds another early voting location for the Heights, they need to add one in far North Side, where people have to travel farther to vote than those in the Heights. Of course Maverick’s people expected to make the run-off. Maverick is the only white candidate and they worked the Anglo vote, including yours, Kuff, while occasionally leaving the friendly confines of the Heights/Montrose area to seek out the white vote in other neighborhoods. It’s a cynical way to campaign, but it’s the political reality. I’ll give him that.

  3. Marie, I’m happy to see new early voting locations wherever they’re needed. All I’m saying is there’s a big piece of the city that is very heavily populated, especially during the day, for which there’s no convenient early voting site. Addressing that would make voting easier and would relieve pressure at the West Gray MMC, which as we all know is very busy these days.

    By the way, I did vote at Moody for this election, and will do so again for the runoff. I vote where it’s convenient for me, and Moody is out of my way normally.

    Maverick is the only white candidate and they worked the Anglo vote, including yours, Kuff, while occasionally leaving the friendly confines of the Heights/Montrose area to seek out the white vote in other neighborhoods. It’s a cynical way to campaign, but it’s the political reality. I’ll give him that.

    That does go two ways, you know. I didn’t see a whole lot of activity by the other campaigns in the Heights – Yolanda knocked on my door once, and a representative for Ed’s campaign (not Ed himself) did once, and that’s it. Maverick came by two or three times, other reps came by as well, and I got more mail from him. Just sayin’.

  4. MB says:

    Very polite reply to Marie, Kuff, but you do know, don’t you?, that you were being called out as a racist? Unfortunately, that’s how a significant number (minority, I hope to God) approach their involvement in politics. It is morally reprehensible. Of course, it would be just as morally reprehensible if Maverick used winks and nods and coded-phrases to impugn candidates who happened to be Latino/Hispanic and to try to tell them “only a white can represent you white people, so you have to vote for me.” I don’t know for sure that he didn’t do that, but I don’t think so — what do you think? Marie clearly implies that. It is just sad. (And, yeah, I know some candidates play the anti-race card, and they should be stomped on, but I also know that many with completely pure hearts still get accused of it. How did it feel?)

  5. Marie, the West Gray and Fiesta site on Kirby were very heavily used by people who work or shop nearby.

    Actually, computer records available to the City would have shown exactly where people from District H voted early last November.

    But, City Hall does the legal minimum to provide for voter registration or participation.

  6. Marie says:

    MB – how convenient for you to put words in Marie’s mouth to suit your agenda. I was referring to the Welsh campaign strategy observed by many, not just this reader. The conventional wisdom (Bob Stein, Richard Murray, other political observers in Houston) say that District H might very well be represented by a non-Hispanic in a district that is 66% Hispanic because of the low-propensity voters in heavily minority and poorer areas of the District. White folks vote, Hispanics won’t = Maverick Welsh on Council.

  7. Neil says:

    I know what you were saying. It’s just that to me its like someone has cancer and folks are taking about an ingrown toe-nail.

    Maybe you’ve got a greater self-discipline than me and can focus on the specifics of this election, but I can’t get past the lousy turnout no matter how many times it happens around here.

  8. Doris Murdock says:

    We voted for Ed Gonzalez. My husband and I believe that District H absolutely needs an Hispanic representative, given its composition and the problems faced throughout the district, not just in the Heights enclave. We simply didn’t get around to early voting, by the way. Additionally, Ed has had considerable experience and community relations rep for Adrian Garcia, and has a valid position on preservation, in our opinion. I believe Mr. Welsh would do better as an at large representative.

  9. Joe says:

    A non – Hispanic individual should not represent a district that is 66% Hispanic? So, in turn, a Black or Hispanic has no right to represent a district that is majority Anglo? To me that is a clear example of racism.
    Gene Green has served as the representative for the 29th District of Texas since 1992. The 29th was designed as a “minority-majority” district for Hispanics. Apparently this district with a clear Hispanic majority is satisfied with the job Green is doing and keeps re-electing him to office. Might Welsh not do the same for District H?

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