Campaign 2012: Texas Among The Worst For Voter Turnout

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Tuesday will mark the second election day in May for many voters in North Texas.  If tradition holds, most voters won’t bother with showing up.

Texas is one of the worst states in the nation for voter turnout, and not much is being done to fix it.

Candidates get the courage to run. They put their names on every road, desperate for every vote. They have to – even with 26 million people in the state, there aren’t that many votes.

A state with a rich history of revolution and independence is now mostly indifferent.

In the 2006 general election, Texas ranked 48th among states for voter turnout.  In the presidential election of 2008, 47th.  In 2010, Texas was dead last.

Last May, only 1 in 10 voters cast a ballot in mayoral elections in both Dallas and Fort Worth.

University of North Texas political science professor Philip Paolino says much of the blame lies with many Texans being of one mind/one party.  “The actual getting people to vote, getting them, encouraging them to go to the polls, ends up with the parties.”

If there’s no competition, Paolino says, there’s no need to get voters to the polls.  “The one party problem is big.”

Experts say Texas’ requirement to be registered a full month in advance to vote, and the sheer number of elections, could also be contributing to low turnout.

Tarrant County elections supervisor Steve Raybon says most counties try to make voting convenient.  Early voting goes on for weeks.  Local elections are on weekends.

He says counties can’t afford much outreach though.  “In Texas, we generally leave it up to the candidates, the parties to motivate their base, to motivate their voters to get out. and it’s the job of election officials to make it convenient.”

Parties often don’t want to push voters too much, especially during primaries, to avoid appearing to favor one candidate over another. In Richardson Monday, however, the Tea Party filled a bus with phone bank volunteers calling voters for Senate candidate Ted Cruz.

Cruz, who later joined the volunteers said he has seen grass roots excitement among voters. He admitted though it could be difficult to motivate people following a holiday weekend.

“The people who are going to come out are those who are motivated, those who are energized,” Cruz said.

In Fort Worth, longtime Texas House member Lon Burnham was walking door to door trying to find voters who hadn’t cast a ballot yet. Burnam said he was finding a general disinterest among voters, and far less interest than during the presidential campaign of 2008.

The Memorial Day holiday though is something he said he wished encouraged more people to get to the polls.

“One of the thing people fought and died for against both external foreign enemies and here in this country, people fought and died for the right to vote.”

The counties still have to spend money, just in case voters do show up.  The May 12 elections cost Tarrant County roughly $600,000.

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