Naked City

We Vote Where We Shop

If you predicted a 5% turnout for the Nov. 6 mayoral election (see "How Few Can We Be?," p.16), you seem to be right on target. During the first nine days of the 12-day early voting period, 7,307 Austinites, and 10,027 Travis County voters overall, cast their ballots. If that represents three-fourths of the total early vote, and early voting traditionally makes up about one-third of the total vote, we're looking at a turnout of about 6.5% in the county, and 4.8% within the Austin city limits. Not that these numbers are anything close to exact, but that quick-and-dirty calculation would add up to just over 27,000 votes being cast for mayor.

In the Nov. 2000 presidential election, early voting ended up being closer to 45% of the total vote. It did rain last Election Day, and if weather is foul again this time, we might see total turnout of 3-4%, half of it the typically more conservative early vote. That doesn't likely matter much for Gus Garcia, but it's definitely a reason for opponents of the Travis County road bond package to worry, as the people now voting are more likely to back the bonds.

Analysts sometimes pay attention to the turnout at particular early-voting locations, particularly if they like the numbers coming out of geographic areas where they expect to do well. (In 1997, a 10-vote increase in turnout at an East Austin site got translated into a Statesman headline, "Early voting gives [Eric] Mitchell hope.") This is a bit silly, since you can early-vote anywhere, and the county's mobile voting program in fact brings the ballot box to people at work, in the hospital, and so on.

For the little it's worth, the busiest early-voting locations are Northcross Mall (1,499 votes) and Barton Creek Square (1,045 votes), with Highland Mall (659 votes) a distant third. Most other locations are in the 350-to-500-vote range. The lightest turn-outs have been at Lakeline Mall (257 votes) -- which isn't even in Travis County, but is in the Austin city limits -- and at the HEB on Springdale Road in East Austin (184 votes), which we presume does not give Eric Mitchell hope.

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