The right to participate in the voting process is undoubtedly the most significant achievement of fighters for human rights. On November 3, US citizens are preparing to take part in the next presidential elections, which may determine the nation’s future. But is everyone ready to exercise their right to vote? Even in quieter times, when a pandemic did not threaten voters, turnout was only about 50%, as in the 2016 elections (Prasad, 2020). This paper aims to discuss whether the US has problems with the voting turnout and how the results of the primaries in Harris County correspond to the country’s general situation.
Should We Get People to Vote?
Even though the United States has a multi-million population, a tiny percentage of voters will decide the state’s fate in this presidential election. As mentioned above, 74% of citizens have the right to vote, of which about 50% usually vote, which is 42% of the total population (Prasad, 2020). Further, the voting system does not add up the number of votes, but the number of states where the candidate won.
Most states traditionally cast their votes for representatives of the Republican or Democratic parties. For example, in 2020, only seven states will not be predictable in their decision (Prasad, 2020). The population of these states is 36.5 million, of whom only 5.5 million voters are potentially persuadable, which is 2% of the national population (Prasad, 2020). Interestingly, in 2016, Donald Trump won in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, with a gap of 107 thousand votes, which is 0.03% of the population (Prasad, 2020). In Michigan, for example, these numbers represent a gap of just two votes per local precinct. Considering that 1-3 thousand people vote in one voting precinct on average, it becomes clear how important each vote is. Moreover, in such a situation, volunteers can make a decisive contribution to one or another candidate’s victory.
Voting Despite the Threat of a Pandemic
Noteworthy, in 2020, voting will take place under the red and orange COVID-19 pandemic code conditions in most states. However, the voting turnout on primaries in 2020 was even higher than in some previous seasons. Whether this means that the turnout on Election Day will be increased is unknown; rather, it depends on each citizen’s consciousness. However, Harris County seems to have found a way to motivate citizens. In particular, the responsible clerks decided to send invitations to vote by mail to all 2.4 million voters registered in the County.
According to Texas law, only people over 65, people with disabilities, individuals on the move, and prisoners fit to vote are eligible to vote by mail. The initiators of the action probably believe that people who had COVID-19 or have other related characteristics in the medical history will thus be able to get an opportunity to vote by mail (Ura, 2020). The decision to send invitations to participate in the elections by mail was made on September 11. However, one needs to register to participate in the elections no later than October 5 (Important election deadlines, 2020). Besides, no one has created a plan or criteria according to which people that have suffered or are most vulnerable to COVID-19 are eligible to vote by mail (Ura, 2020). Therefore, it is unlikely that the initiative will have any positive consequences.
The Harris County news agencies also report that those who wish can participate in the early voting from October 13 to October 30, or on Election Day, November 3 (Important election deadlines, 2020). On Election Day, voting will take place at Fallbrook Church, Houston Community College, Houston Food Bank, Humble Civic Center, John Phelps Harris County Courthouse Annex, NRG Arena Gate, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, and Toyota Center Tundra Parking Garage. Since residents of particular voting precincts have the opportunity to choose between several locations, journalists present this as an opportunity to diversify weekend activities to motivate voters. Noteworthy, the 2020 elections in Harris County will be serviced by a record amount of personnel, up to 10,000 people (Bennet, 2020). Besides, some higher education institutions declared November 3 a day off to free up universities and colleges for voters.
Harris County, 0001 and 0019 Voting Precincts
The primaries’ metrics, which are free to download online, say a lot. In particular, the overall turnover rate reflected in the Democratic and Republican cumulative reports for Harris County was relatively low, 13.86% and 8.26% of total turnout. However, low turnout is considered normal for primaries. If we look at more local level of voting precincts, in 0001 DEM, turnout was 48.81%, while 0001 REP turnout was 4.47%. At the same time, 0019 DEM showed a 23.43% turnout, while 0019 REP numbers were 2.47%. The presented data indicate a relatively high turnout among Democrats and low turnout among Republicans. But such a gap is traditional, and no conclusions can be drawn on this basis. Interestingly, 0001 DEM and 0001 REP showed a higher turnout when voting for State Representatives, from 6% to 24% in Democratic precincts and from 2.9% to 16% in Republican ones. Such indicators reflect voters’ general interest in the voting results and may indicate a good turnout in the elections.
Interestingly, in the primaries, voters choose not only the presidential candidate. Voting determines candidates for positions such as US Senator, State Senator, District Attorney, County Attorney, Sheriff, Tax Assessor-Collector, County School Trustee, County Commissioner, Justice of the Peace, Constable, and Precinct Chairman. The list of elected positions also includes the Railroad Commissioner, Chief Justice to Supreme Court, Justice to Supreme Court, Judge to Court of Criminal Appeals, Member to State Board of Education, State Senator, and District Judges. Besides, the primaries’ data suggests that these voting precincts are in agreement with most of the other voting precincts in the district and are more Democratic. Perhaps this is due to demographic data and the fact that Texas has been more Democratic than Republican since 2008. In particular, Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential elections in the state and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Given that in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, turnout promises to be high enough, the only thing needed to consolidate the success is to prescribe more precise criteria for voting by mail. In particular, some voters may be intimidated, and the opportunity to vote by mail for health reasons would be welcome. On the other hand, it is much wiser to remain calm, as the panic that can arise due to the lack of legislation governing the voting process during a pandemic can bring a much more significant decrease in turnout than the doubts of individual voters. Moreover, according to news agencies, a substantial amount of voting personnel will do everything to ensure that the elections are held in a safe, supportive, and friendly atmosphere.
Thus, it was discussed if the US has problems with the voting turnout. The results of primaries in Harris County 0001 and 0019 voting precincts were presented as well. The data suggest that, despite the pandemic, the population remains calm, and the turnout on Election Day will be relatively high. Besides, the mail-vote system, which is spelled out in all states’ legislation, will ensure that the most vulnerable population groups do not expose themselves to risk.
Bennett, A. (2020). Harris County to hire more than 8,000 workers for the November election. KHOU. Web.
Important election deadlines: Today is the last day Texans can register to vote in November 3 elections. (2020). KHOU. Web.
Prasad, R. (2020). US election 2020: Who really decides the outcome? BBC. Web.
Ura, A. (2020). Texas judge allows Harris County to send all voters applications for mail-in ballots. Texas Tribune. Web.