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On Saturday, the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, a $2.5B bond to fund flooding infrastructure projects passed overwhelmingly, 86%-14%, despite having fewer than 130K people – less than 6% of all registered voters in the county – vote for it. Fewer than 7% of registered voters cast ballots.

On Election Day, County Judge Ed Emmett (R) implored voters to support the bond, comparing the minimal effort of voting to the “brutal life-saving work our first responders were doing a year ago.”

Apparently, it proved too much of an inconvenience. Fewer voters participated in the bond election than filed insurance claims as a result of the storm, which flooded more than 200K homes in the county.

Almost 28% of votes were cast by mail (42K). An additional 26K ballots by mail were sent to voters but not returned. In-person early voters comprised just over a third of votes cast, and 38% of votes were cast on Election Day.

It is at least the 13th special election held since June 1 for which turnout was in the single digits. These figures mirror other recent years’ summer special elections. The highest turnout for a summer special election was 26.6% in a Kaufman Co. primary do-over necessitated by a judge tossing the March primary results, and it is the only one for which we could verify turnout was north of 10%.

Summer Special Election Turnout in 2018

26.5% – Kaufman Co. Court at Law Judge primary do-over (July 21)
8.5% – CD27 (June 30)
8.5% – Oakwood ISD Tax Ratification (July 14)
8.3% – South San Antonio ISD Tax Ratification (August 14)
8.3% – Magnolia ISD Tax Ratification (August 14)
6.7% – Harris Co. Flood Control District Prop. A (August 26)
5.3% – SD19 (July 31)
5.2% – Pleasanton ISD Tax Ratification (August 25)
5.1% – Klein ISD Tax Ratification (June 16)
4.9% – Burnet CISD Tax Ratification (August 25)
2.5% – Lancaster ISD Tax Ratification (August 25)
<10% – Breckenridge ISD Tax Ratification (August 25)
<10% – Moody ISD Tax Ratification (August 11)
<10% – Floresville ISD Tax Ratification (August 25)

We were unable to calculate turnout for the North Zulch ISD tax ratification election held July 14, but we know that it passed, 68 votes to 20, suggesting single-digit turnout.

During the next two weeks, early voting will begin or continue for at least 10 other tax ratification elections around the state. Madisonville CISD is holding a tax ratification election on Saturday, which is the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Copperas Cove, Keller and McAllen ISDs, among others, will hold TREs on September 8, so their early voting periods include the Labor Day weekend.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) has said he would file legislation to require these kinds of elections be held on uniform election days.

©2018 Texas Election Source LLC