Today is the day when we begin to get a temporary respite from the mailers, robocalls, and TV/radio ads, as the people who didn’t vote early make their way to the ballot box for the primaries. In Harris County, a list of Democratic polling places is here and a list of Republican polling places is here. Note that some precincts are combined into one location, and that at some locations only one party primary is voting. Check where you need to go before you head out. If you’re not sure what precinct you’re in, it’s on your voter registration card or you can look yourself up here. And yes, remember to bring your acceptable form of photo ID.
A lot of the higher profile races are really just finishing up Round One today. On the Republican side, all of the statewides except Governor, Land Commissioner, and most likely US Senate are expected to go to a runoff. That’s what I meant by a “temporary respite” from the campaigns. They’ll crank right back up after a day or two and keep at it until May. Democrats have two multi-candidate statewide races, for US Senate and Ag Commissioner. If the former gets any attention it’ll be because Kesha Rogers is one of the candidates. Won’t that be fun if it happens? Here in Harris County, Republicans will likely have to finish sorting out races in CD36, HD129, HD132, the 311th Family District Court, County Criminal Court at Law #10, Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Place 2, and possibly Party Chair. All but the 311th and Party Chair are open seats, which tend to draw multiple candidates. Dems had no such vacancies this cycle, so the only runoff voting we’ll face will be in the statewide races.
I’ve discussed the matter of turnout in prior entries about early voting, but this AP story suggests the efforts of Battleground Texas will be judged by how many Dems wind up voting this March.
The March 4 Democratic primary will reveal how much the group has accomplished on the road to the general election in November.
Democrats hope to make Texas a battleground state by 2016 to, at the very least, force the GOP to divert resources to preserving their hold on the second largest number of electoral college seats in the country. If Democrats could routinely win in Texas, along with their strongholds in California and New York, they could hold the White House for years to come.
But no Democrat has won a statewide election since 1994, and participation in the primary, as a percentage of the state’s population, has steadily dropped to 590,000 in 2012. The one exception was the 2008 primary, in which Obama faced off against Hillary Clinton, a race that brought out a record 2.8 million voters.
“It gives you a sense of what is possible if you have very competitive mobilization efforts going on,” said James Henson, a political scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, an expert on voter behavior in Texas.
“There’s a chicken and egg question, do you get people mobilized and then you get more competitive races? Or do you get more competitive races, and then that helps mobilize people?”
[E]xpectations for [today]‘s primary have been tamped down by the fact that Davis doesn’t face a serious Democratic challenger. Greg Abbott, the state attorney general, is the presumptive Republican nominee for governor.
[BGT Executive Director Jenn] Brown said the group is far more focused on turning out the vote in November, when Battleground Texas will fully activate the neighborhood networks to staff phone banks, knock on doors and help Democratic voters get to the polls.
Weather may be a factor in turnout today, which is another reason why I make a habit of voting early. Check with your county election administrator before you head out – polling hours may vary, and polling locations may be combined due to weather issues.
Brian Sweany also talked turnout:
[D]espite the money and the open seats and the general buzz in the media, new voters aren’t paying much attention. In the 2012 Republican primary, nearly 1.45 million ballots were cast for president. In the 2010 Republican primary, just fewer than 1.5 million ballots were cast for governor. Greg Abbott will be the single-biggest vote getter from any candidate from either party, but he wants to see his number as high as possible to emphasize the story line of inevitability (I remain convinced that at least part of the Ted Nugent strategy on the first day of early voting was connected to this). Wendy Davis, on the other hand, wants to be able to beat the numbers for the 2012 Democratic primary (590,000 votes) or 2010 Democratic primary (680,000 votes), which will help her advance the story line of a resurgence in her party. If her vote totals slip, it shows that nothing has changed in her party.
It would be kind of funny if Baby Bush winds up getting more votes than Abbott, wouldn’t it? He has only one opponent, which makes that outcome at least a possibility. I don’t doubt that Davis would like to see more votes cast than in either of the last two primaries, but I don’t think it matters that much. As I’ve noted before, where turnout is up for Dems from 2010 in early voting is in the counties with the hottest local races – Bexar, Dallas, Travis, and Tarrant, thanks to CD33 and SD10. Turnout is down in Harris County, as there are basically three more-or-less high profile primaries – for DA, where Kim Ogg is trying to keep Lloyd Oliver from soiling the ticket again; SD15, where Sen. John Whitmire faces his first real challenger in forever; and the 113th Civil District Court, also known as Steven Kirkland versus George Fleming, Round II – but it’s not down that much. When you consider that in 2010, there was Bill White for Governor, drumming up votes in his back yard, a decent three-way race for Lite Guv, a high profile challenge to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in CD18, Round 3 of Borris Miles versus Al Edwards, and thirty (!) contested judicial primaries, Dem turnout in Harris ain’t too shabby. Go compare to the 2006 primary, which like this year had contested races for Governor, US Senate, and Ag Commissioner (plus Lite Guv) and Round 1 of Miles v Edwards, and you’ll see what “low turnout” really looks like.
Anyway. There will be plenty to talk about beginning tomorrow, once all the results are in. For a look at some GOP races to watch, check out Burka and the Observer. Feel free to leave your predictions about turnout, winners, and whatever else in the comments.