HARRIS COUNTY, Texas- Tuesday marks the first day of early voting for the March primaries in Texas. Will Harvey and the fallout from the storm affect voter turnout and which candidates they select?
County officials and political experts told KHOU that, as in most years, they expect candidates and their politics, not personal hardship, will dictate how many voters show up in a state the University of Texas recently ranked 47th in voter turnout.
“I would think it’d be very small,” said Stan Stanart, Harris County Clerk, when asked about Harvey’s impact on voter turnout in the primaries. “Your dedicated voters are going to come out and vote, I think, regardless of your life circumstances.”
Stanart says his advice to displaced Harvey victims is the same advice he’s giving everyone else: vote early to vote at any of the county’s 46 early voting sites.
“On Election Day, there could be some places that we’d normally use on Election Day that might not be available because of Harvey,” said Stanart.
Stanart says just under 2.3 million voters are currently registered in Harris County, which isn’t a huge bump from previous elections.
Still, KHOU Political Analyst Bob Stein predicts primary turnout could rise by a few percentage points above its usual range.
“Normally we might be seeing 8, 9, 10, 11 percent voter turnout,” said Stein, a political science professor at Rice University. “I’m expecting to see 12, maybe as much as 15 (percent).”
Stein said he expects higher turnout not so much because of Harvey “but because there are so many candidates for some of these open seats.”
However, Stein says because Harvey impacted so many people, he believes that issue will be top-of-mind for most voters.
“The real question is whether or not this becomes a central issue in November of 2018 when the Democrats are running against Republicans for some of these seats.”
Early voting runs through March 2. Registered voters can cast their ballot at any early voting location.
Voters casting their ballot on the March 6 primary must vote at their precinct location, which can be found along with specific ballot information here.