Shade/Tovo Run-Off Sees Somewhat Improved Turnout

A rarity: run-off early voting better than general election, so far

Okay, the lines at the ballot boxes don't quite look like this scene from 2008, but turnout is up from May.
Okay, the lines at the ballot boxes don't quite look like this scene from 2008, but turnout is up from May. (photo by Lee Nichols)

Yesterday's day one early voting totals are in for the last remaining city of Austin election, the Randi Shade/Kathie Tovo run-off for City Council, and they bring a surprise: Improved turnout compared to day one of last month's general election turnout. The numbers are still low, but a rise in turnout from a general to a run-off is almost unheard of.

Though the tallies haven't yet been credited to either opposing camp, what is clear is that Monday's turnout of 3,493 is nearly two and a half times the 1,348 that showed up on May 1 (the first EV day of the May 10 election). "If you consider just city of Austin voters, instead of Travis County voters, it's nearly three times the general election numbers," notes Randi Shade campaign manager Katherine Haenschen.

And any thoughts on why this may be? "Voters see that there's a clear choice between two very different candidates," says Haenschen. "People are taking an interest now that the stakes are high. There's a stark policy contrast here." Over at the Tovo campaign, deputy campaign manager Jim Wick thinks that, "voters are responding to Kathie's message of change at City Hall, and they're eager to turn the page on the current city council member."

Considering that the previous general election saw pathetic turnout, and that the trend for these types of run-off elections is a large drop off as opposed to this kind of jump, someone somewhere is doing something a little better.

Whom, exactly, we won't know until the dust settles. But maybe it's the simple shedding of the attention span necessitating nuances of multiple campaigns, candidates, and issues involved with general elections. "There's a lot more focus on this particular election," says Wick, "From three contests to just one, we've been able to clearly define the issues that are at stake." Here's to a Facebook run-off, tweeted live from City Hall via You Tube!

Update: As of around 7:45pm Tuesday evening, another 3,072 votes have been cast in early voting for an elected position representing nearly 800,000 people and 444,139 registered voters. In comparison to the general election totals, this would bring the run-off's EV turnout solidly into the slightly less pathetic range. Considering the total ballots now already cast in the two days of run-off EV, at 6,566, are nearly 45% of the place 3 general election EV total of 14,386, if things keep up this way, we might see totals nearing underwhelming or perhaps even not great.

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