Harris County sees record-breaking voter turnout in November midterm elections

Image description
Harris County sees record-breaking voter turnout in November midterm elections
The Nov. 6 midterm elections marked the first time more than 1 million Harris County residents turned out to vote in a nonpresidential election. A total of 1,209,358 votes were cast by the end of Election Day, according to the Harris County Clerk’s office.

However, Texas has not historically been known for its civic engagement.

According to the 2018 Texas Civic Health Index, a report spearheaded by the University of Texas at Austin, the state ranked 47th nationally in voter turnout for the 2016 presidential election with just 55 percent of eligible citizens voting. The top reason Texans gave for not voting was a dislike of candidates or campaign issues, followed by being too busy or having a conflict with work or school.

Marlene Lobberecht, president of the League of Women Voters Cy-Fair—a nonpartisan nonprofit that works to educate voters on local issues—said this election brought a more diverse slate of candidates with more women and minorities on the ballot than the county has seen in year’s past.

“Overall, the most positive thing out of this election was there were a lot of choices,” she said. “There weren’t many unopposed races. There were more people and younger people that were willing to step up. … It was more reflective of those who live in Harris County.”

Lobberecht said she thinks the diversity also drew out a younger crowd on Election Day. About 48 percent of eligible Texans between the ages of 18-24 were registered to vote in 2016—compared to the national average of 55 percent. At the same time, nearly 80 percent of eligible Texans over the age of 65 were registered to vote, according to the TCHI.

Members of LWV Cy-Fair spent time in 11 Cy-Fair ISD high schools educating students on the importance of being informed voters and helping them register, Lobberecht said.

“I guess the most impressive thing was that there were so many young people turning out to vote,” she said. “They had been pretty much written off by the 2016 election’s extremely low turnout, but I think it was much higher this time.”

Room for improvement

While voter turnout increased overall in 2018, Lobberecht said there are still obstacles to overcome in the voter registration and voting process, and she thinks certain regulations should be lifted at the county and state levels.

For instance, she said some states have same-day voter registration. In other states, residents must opt out of voter registration.

“A lot of states do online voter registration,” she said. “We can update our driver’s license online, and that’s not a problem, but you can’t do voter registration without printing off the form and filling it out and mailing it in.”

Harris County could also establish universal Election Day voting locations and extend early voting hours and dates to make the process more convenient and increase voter turnout, Lobberecht said.

In addition to showing up at the polls, voters should research the ballot in advance, she said.

In the 85th Texas Legislature, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 25 into law to eliminate straight-ticket voting—the option to check a box and cast a ballot for every candidate from a given political party simultaneously—starting in 2020. About 76 percent of Harris County voters took advantage of that option in the Nov. 6 election.

Lobberecht said she thinks the elimination of straight-ticket voting will force voters to take more time to make their selections and consider skipping the races in which they lack knowledge of the candidates or issues.

“Those that came out may not have taken the time to do the research,” she said. “I don’t think people truly understand how damaging it can be. We really have to do our homework and look at the [candidate’s] experience and knowledge from what the position is versus just selecting a letter.”
By Danica Lloyd
Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a Cy-Fair reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a journalism degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She covers education, local government, business, demographic trends, real estate development and nonprofits.


Harris County residents seeking a COVID-19 vaccine will no longer be required to sign up for a waitlist effective immediately. (Courtesy Texas Children’s Hospital)
COVID-19 vaccines now available on demand in Harris County

The announcement comes as officials say vaccine demand is falling and will soon be in line with supply for the first time.

Customers can find baked goods and more at The Chef's Bag. (Courtesy The Chef's Bag)
The Chef’s Bag market now offering locally made products in Cy-Fair

Chefs Jennifer Burnett and Kevin Mason recently opened a market where community members can purchase products made by local chefs.

Costco Business Centers, of which there are only about 15 in the country, carry different products and provide a different shopping experience to members than do traditional Costco Wholesale stores. (Courtesy Costco Wholesale)
Costco Business Center being built in Stafford; see live music in The Woodlands and more top Houston-area news

Read the top business and community news from the Houston area from the past week.

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

A grand opening for the local drive-thru coffee spot Mudslinger's has been set for the end of April. (Courtesy Facebook)
Grand opening for Mudslinger's coffee shop set for weekend of April 30

The locally-owned, drive-thru coffee shop will serve specialty coffee, tea, infused energy drinks and breakfast/pastry items.

Reserve Salon & Spa is home to several small businesses. (Courtesy Reserve Salon & Spa)
Ultimate Drip Therapy and Wellness coming soon to Cypress

The IV hydration therapy and vitamin injection wellness spa is set to open next month.

Officials said the district has spent millions on pandemic-related needs. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Cy-Fair ISD: Federal stimulus funds needed to help cover $227M in unexpected pandemic-related expenses

According to data from Cy-Fair ISD, the district has incurred nearly $227 million in unexpected costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Homes priced above $750,000, such as this one in the Heights, saw a surge in sales in March, with almost twice as many properties sold. (Courtesy Houston Association of Realtors)
Average Houston single-family home price jumps 20% in March

The average sale price for a home in March was $370,847.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said power outages are not expected April 13, while requesting energy conservation. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: ERCOT call for energy conservation ends April 13 without need for power outages

An ERCOT official said "tight" supply and demand conditions arose on the state's electric grid April 13 due to forecasting issues amid planned, seasonal maintenance outages by some power generators.

Spearheaded by state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, the new court, if established, would expand the capacity of the county's criminal court system in hopes of reducing its backlog, which stood at 70,951 total cases pending before criminal district courts in Harris County as of April 8. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harris County supports creation of new criminal district court to tackle case backlog

If the efforts are successful, this would be Harris County's first new criminal district court since 1984 when the 351st District Court was created.