Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
The early voting period for the May 22 primary runoff contests ended Friday, and Bexar County’s elections administrator said turnout was lower than anticipated.
County voters submitted 22,750 ballots. Democratic voters cast 12,060 of those ballots, with Republicans casting 10,690.
“We needed more voters,” said Jacquelyn Callanen, elections administrator at the Bexar County Elections Department. “The voters that are out there are absolute treasures, but we’re not seeing many voters come in, and that’s a shame.”
Voters are selecting candidates in a number of local and statewide races. The top of the Democratic ticket has Andrew White and Lupe Valdez vying to represent the party in November against Gov. Greg Abbott. Democrats also are deciding on nominees in two congressional races, in the 21st and 23rd Congressional Districts. Republicans are selecting candidates to fill two high-profile vacancies, including the 21st District seat of U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ seat in Texas House District 121.
While turnout in runoff elections is typically low, the five-day early voting period drew fewer voters than the early voting period in the May 2014 runoffs, which totaled 33,760. Bexar County had 927,854 registered voters during that election cycle, a number that’s risen to 1,073,655 in the current cycle.
Callanen said she expected more voters because of the increase in the number of voter registrations.
“Logic tells me if they took the time to register, then they were interested and we would see them voting,” Callanen said. “We haven’t seen that.”
Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor and fellow at the university’s Baker Institute, said he was not surprised by small early vote.
“We’re looking at dramatically lower early voting than we saw back in 2014,” Jones said. He attributes the lack of interest to the absence of large statewide-level races on the Republican ticket, but noted that Bexar County should have a higher turnout rate for Republicans due to the runoffs for the Smith and Straus seats.
Henry Flores, professor of political science at St. Mary’s University, said that the low vote count will impact tight races like the one between Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo and challenger Queta Rodriguez, who are vying to represent the Democratic party for the Precinct 2 seat on the Commissioners Court. The Rivard Report found that 4,120 voters cast ballots across the eight polling sites in Precinct 2.
“Every vote counts at this point, because it will weigh heavily as opposed to you casting one ballot in a presidential election,” Flores said. “I think [the Pct. 2 race] is too close to call.”
Polls will be open Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. To view polling locations and sample ballots for each party, click here.