There is a Special Runoff Election in Texas HD #120 (San Antonio) today, as longtime State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D) resigned in January due to health reasons.
Since 2016 is a regular election year for all Texas State House seats, most of the attention was on the race to replace Rep. McClendon on the November ballot. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins eventually won the Democratic nomination in a May runoff, after she finished first in a six-candidate primary in March. Since there is no Republican nominee, Ms. Gervin-Hawkins seems certain to become the new Representative for this district in January 2017.
The Texas state legislature only convenes its regular session once every two years, and it adjourned sine die in 2015. However, state law still requires that a special election be held to fill the seat so the district is represented in the event of a special session or to handle constituent needs, etc. This was held on May 7, with the results appearing below:
Laura Thompson, a self-described Independent, finished first and faces Democrat Lou Miller in today’s runoff. Ms. Thompson was not a candidate in the March primary to select candidates for the November elections; Mr. Miller finished 6th in that primary with 8 percent of the vote.
As of May 2016, there were about 94,000 registered voters in the precincts which make up Texas HD #120. In the Primary Runoff held that month, 4,320 ballots were cast, resulting in a voter turnout rate of about 4.6%. Of those, 3,586 were cast in the Democratic primary runoff for HD #120 won by Ms. Gervin-Hawkins, and 734 were Republican votes cast in the GOP primaries for state Railroad Commissioner and several judicial offices. It’s safe to say that these folks generally represent the most committed voters in the district.
In that runoff, as has become the pattern, approximately two-thirds of the ballots cast were done via Early Voting, with only about one-third cast in person on Election Day. This ratio has become the norm in Bexar County, Texas, for the last few years, and if it holds true today, turnout in this special election runoff will be unbelievably low. Last week, there were five days of early voting for this race, and only 221 ballots were cast. If that represents 2/3 of the total votes that will be cast, it implies that only about 125 folks will vote in person today, meaning just 350 ballots cast in total. That would result in a turnout rate of less than 0.5%. Wow.
[Correction: While there were only 221 in-person early votes, there were more than 750 early votes by mail. Not considering those was a big error on my part, and I seriously regret the mistake. Assuming that the total number of early votes was about 1,000 would have caused me to estimate that less than half that amount, or under 500, ballots would be cast on Election Day. In actuality, it appears that there were fewer than 200 Election Day votes, which produces a voter turnout rate of less than 1.5%. Thankfully, that’s three times my original calculation of 0.5%, but it’s still incredibly low. – DB]
Update – August 3, 2016
Results: There was indeed a very low Election Day turnout, and unofficial results from Bexar County, Texas, note that just 188 people went to the polls yesterday, with those votes being almost exactly split between the two candidates. There were just over 1,000 early votes, however, and Independent candidate Laura Thompson received 50 more of those than Democrat Lou Miller to win this runoff. Ms. Thompson’s final margin was 52%-48% (635 votes to 585), and she becomes the first Independent elected to the Texas state legislature in recent memory. As I noted above, she will only be serving the remaining 5 months of the term that former State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon was elected to in 2014; Democrat Barbara Gervin-Hawkins will be sworn in in January 2017. The voter turnout rate was 1.3%.