Voter participation higher in Sun City community

Superintendent says area critical in elections

With a higher voter turnout and a greater concentration of registered voters than the rest of Georgetown, the Sun City master-planned community has gained a reputation for having a significant influence on local elections.

"In any election, Sun City is critical. The support of Sun City is critical for passage," Georgetown ISD Superintendent Joe Dan Lee said. "There's large numbers of residents in Sun City, but a large percentage of those residents [also] vote."

Higher voter participation

During the 2012 presidential election, there were 11,184 registered voters in the three voting precincts that include Sun City addresses, and of those, nearly 85 percent voted, according to the Williamson County Elections Office.

"If you look it up by precincts, you can see that people in those Sun City precincts are voting at a really high rate," Williamson County Elections Administrator Rick Barron said, adding that voter participation in Sun City is higher than the rest of the county. "More people are voting, and most of them are voting early. People always say that older people don't want to vote early, but Sun City seems to buck that trend."

In past elections, Sun City voters have cast ballots at almost double the rate of non–Sun City residents in Georgetown city and school district elections, according to Williamson County election results. In the May 2011 Public Safety Operations and Training Facility bond and mayoral election, for example, Sun City's voter turnout was 26.94 percent compared with 12.15 percent for the rest of the city.

"Sun City has been active and engaged with the city on many different levels, including elections," City Manager Paul Brandenburg said. "Sun City has whole-heartedly supported the direction of the city in previous bond elections—the library, community center, recreation center, parks and roads, and also the recent public safety operational training complex. If [an issue] is truly a need and can be justified, Sun City has been very supportive of the city."

Brandenburg said he attributes Sun City turnout to the generation who lives there and the community's wealth of experience.

"I think it's twofold: one, it's generation, and two, I think they see it as a way of being very actively engaged in the development of their community," he said. "They take voting very seriously. I think there are some generations that don't take it seriously. If you look at other districts and other age groups at who votes and who doesn't, there is definitely apathy out there, but I think out in Sun City and those that are out there, they take it very, very seriously."

Voter concerns

Since its development in 1996, Sun City has grown to a population of about 12,000 residents, which is about 24 percent of the city's population, said George Garver, Georgetown mayor and Sun City resident.

Because Sun City voters head to the polls at a higher rate than other City of Georgetown districts, redistricting had caused some concern for residents living in nearby neighborhoods.

Prior to redistricting in 2011, District 4 City Councilman Bill Sattler said residents in the Georgetown Village neighborhood had approached him about concerns that they would not have a political voice if they remained in the same district as Sun City.

"I've been very fortunate to have Georgetown Village as part of my district, but [Georgetown Village residents] feel dominated by Sun City," he said at an Aug. 3, 2011, meeting.

During the process, Sun City was divided into districts 3 and 4 after census results revealed the community's District 4 was overpopulated in comparison with other areas of the city.

Level the playing field

Lee said the school district is appreciative of Sun City's support and eagerness to vote but said he hopes others in the district would look to Sun City as an example of being engaged in elections.

"It would be our desire to get all of our voters in the district to vote like Sun City does, but for some reason they just don't get out and participate and voice their opinion with their vote in the percentage number that Sun City does," Lee said. "People have fought and died to give us the right to vote, and then a vast majority [of citizens] choose not to. I'm very pleased our Sun City folks do choose to vote."