More than 94 percent of registered voters in Texas apparently did miss it. How many of us never even knew about the election is a little harder to quantify, but I'd wild-guess that a majority did not.
Statewide, we were voting on seven amendments to the State Constitution, mostly on matters designed to be kept obscure and off most voters' personal radar. The voters approved all seven. Turnout rates for the various ballot questions ranged from 5.56 to 5.77 percent, so the IDK vote represented a substantial portion of those who did bother to vote.
At least there was some variation in the percentages voting Yes, so it doesn't look as if those who showed up just looked at the deliberately deceptive ballot language and said, "Yeah, whatevs." Perhaps some informed voters found resources that recommended against some of the propositions on the state ballot, and they voted accordingly.
The Harris County Clerk's Office has posted Tuesday's results, although, as of this writing, there is still no link for November 2017 on the electoral history page. As is customary, the Secretary of State's Office has county-by-county results, but only for the amendments. Here are the state's official numbers for Harris County—percentages still in single-digits, but larger than statewide.
Local jurisdictions also had municipal and school board elections on their ballots. Here in Houston, thanks to the Charter Amendment we approved in 2015, for the first time in modern history, we had no City Council races in an odd-numbered year. We just had Yes-No questions on five bond issues, including the one to put the city's pension crisis to rest.
Neighboring municipalities Baytown, Bellaire, and Missouri City did have council elections. Total turnout in affluent Bellaire was a whopping 16.69%, with just over 2,100 ballots cast. That percentage is probably higher than Houston's would have been even if we did have a council election this year. Bellaire's city council also loaded the ballot with I-shit-you-not 18 propositions, all of which the voters approved by huge margins (percentage-wise).
Progressive voters in HISD can celebrate another win for Anne Sung, whom the Harris County Green Party endorsed in her special election last year and promoted this year. My own district within HISD had no trustee race; there was the one race for the Houston Community College System's board, which Carolyn Evans-Shabazz won to continue representing HCCS District IV.
Not Casting Stones at Non-Voters
The knee-jerk response for a politically-minded wonk like me would be to rave about mass apathy. Yes, I have carped about low turnout and advocated for mandatory voting, and I have made inflammatory utterances like Those who fail to exercise their franchise for x years forfeit it! and Constituencies with less than 50% turnout should have democracy suspended! But I have come around to the position that people don't vote because the system gives them nothing for which to vote.
Occasionally the system gives the people something against which to vote, like the state's Proposition 4:
The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to require a court to provide notice to the attorney general of a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute and authorizing the legislature to prescribe a waiting period before the court may enter a judgment holding the statute unconstitutional.
But that's just a corollary point to the one that I'm trying to make: Democracy in the USA is on life-support, not because insufficient numbers turn out for elections, but because the system has most of us convinced that our vote counts for nothing. No matter who represents us, who nominally wields power, big business and billionaires run the show.
It doesn't help that our nation has measures in place to hinder democracy and limit its effects, despite offering two weeks of To rattle off just a few:
- the Electoral College—'nuff said;
- not making Election Day at least a partial holiday in recognition of its importance;
- Voter ID laws;
- electronic voting systems with questionable security (even Samantha Bee has reported on this issue, so she and her fans can and should STFU about Russia-Russia-Russia and Jill Stein's recount efforts);
- active suppression of third-party movements by the established duopoly, thus limiting viable choices to two corporate candidates;
- bending over backwards to find legal means to squelch multi-party-friendly solutions like Ranked Choice Voting (as in Maine) or proportional representation;
- Big Media covering elections as some mutant hybrid of professional sports and reality TV—and as if only presidential or gubernatorial elections mean anything;
- legislatures (especially the US Congress) that are far more likely to enact what the 1% want than legislation supported by a broad majority of the populace, as noted in that 2014 Princeton study.
And yet, in recent elections, Democratic campaigns and organizations have consistently shot themselves in their proverbial foot: losing in 2016 to Donald Fucking Trump, massively underachieving in Texas with Wendy Davis in 2014, et cetera ad nauseam. This week's elections in New Jersey, Virginia, and elsewhere may prove an exception or even a reversal—or not.
What Do the Results from Virginia and New Jersey Portend?
This week's Democratic victories are a sign of major changes, but not necessarily the changes that establishment Democrats want you to see. They demonstrated amply that (1) mainstream Democratic candidates and strategies don't get it done, (2) progressive and populist ideas and candidates win, and (3) people will turn out mostly to express their utter revulsion at our alleged president, not because they have any great love for—or knowledge of—the candidates.
While I doubt that the Democratic National Committee will learn any of the right lessons, much less act on them, I hold out some hope. If citizens with even a whiff of progressivity about them remain engaged, if they continue signing up to run for public offices and precinct chairs, they may just wrest the Democratic Party away from the corporate sugar daddies and make it a true People's Party. If the party's leadership ignores such activism, that serves as evidence that winning elections is even less important than feeding its addiction to corporate cash.
Speaking of New Jersey, we have some sad news for Greens: gubernatorial candidate Seth Kaper-Dale finished with less than 0.5% of the vote, despite strong support from Jill Stein. The Virginia Green Party had no nominee for governor in that state's race.
If anybody tries to tell you that the Greens only come out of the woodwork every four years to run for president as a vanity project, that Greens don't care about local offices, tell them where to stick it.
That's all I've got today.