This week’s Marching Orders asked people to get out and vote in the local municipal and school elections that end today. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
This contest is for school boards, local officials, and even a few mayoral positions. In the past, many Texans have not bothered to vote in municipal elections. Most did not find out who was running or even what positions were contested.
But voting in these local elections is the most fundamental aspect of a practicing democracy, and these are where a person’s vote can have the most impact. If you ever believed that your vote didn’t matter—these local elections are where you can see one or two people deciding the fate of a community.
For example in Collin County, voters will approve or reject six bond propositions that will fund street, public safety, and park improvements, as well as monies to build new recreation centers and libraries. One of the bonds will impact local historic preservation. Five cities will cast votes for mayors, a government representative with whom constituents can have almost daily contact.
The good news is that voter apathy appears to be much lower in this year’s municipal elections, in part due to the efforts many volunteers have engaged in for specific candidates. Volunteers, many of whom marched in one of the Women’s Marches in January, have taken that excitement and relayed it into a steady commitment to activism, volunteering their time and money to help progressive candidates, some of whom are running in their first election. Volunteers have manned phone banks and hit the pavement, going door-to-door to talk with potential voters.
These efforts are having a huge impact. The first day of early voting resulted in record-breaking turnouts across the state, exceeded by the second day of voting. Here are some early numbers: In Harris County, 73,542 votes were cast as compared with 51,578 votes in 2012 on the second day. In Travis County, 38,079 votes were cast, as compared with 16,382 votes on day two in 2012.
It’s not too late for you to vote. The only way to turn Texas blue is to vote for progressive candidates. None of the other efforts matter if we do not show up at the polls. Get out there and make your voice heard.