News Column

El Paso Early Voting Pace Lags Behind 2008

Oct. 30, 2012

Diana Washington Valdez, El Paso Times, Texas

About 8.3 percent fewer El Pasoans cast ballots during the first seven days of early voting for this year's general election compared with the same period of the 2008 general election, statistics show.

The El Paso County Elections Office had counted 52,997 early voters through Sunday, or about 13.8 percent of El Paso's 383,995 registered voters. Early voting began Oct. 22.

In 2008, 57,427 El Pasoans voted early during the first seven days of early voting, or about 14.8 percent of the county's 387,146 registered voters. That's 4,430 more people than in the same period of the 2012 general election.

The local Republican Party speculates the trend in El Paso reflects a heavy turnout of conservative voters who are motivated

in a presidential election year to cast ballots early.

"We are following the national trend," said Robert Pena, El Paso Republican Party elections administrator and coordinator. "Conservatives are showing great enthusiasm in this election, and you can see this from where the biggest numbers of early voters are voting. A lot of conservatives are voting at the Regency and Fiesta Shopping Center voting stations, and conversely, there seems to be less excitement in the Lower Valley areas."

El Paso County Democratic Party Chairman Rick Melendrez said he's surprised that not more people have voted early.

"We Democrats are calling, knocking on doors and encouraging El Pasoans to vote," Melendrez said. "Since early voting began,

I have been driving El Pasoans to the polls. This is a very important election for our country and our city. There is another thing that El Pasoans can do, and that is to encourage and facilitate their family and friends to vote."

Between Oct. 22 and Sunday, the early stations with the most early voters were as follows: 6,309 at Bassett Place (East-Central); 5,683 at Fiesta (West Side); 5,546 at the Regency (West Side); 4,501 at Pebble Hills Regional Command (East Side); 4,298 at Sunrise Shopping Center (Northeast); 3,336 at the Carolina Recreation Center (Lower Valley); 3,028 at Marty Robbins Recreation Center (East Side); 2,983 at Sun Valley Shopping Center (Northeast); 2,958 at the Zaraplex Center (East Side near Interstate 10); and 2,516 at the Pavo Real Recreation Center (Lower Valley). At the County Courthouse in Downtown, 2,181 people had voted early.

The West Side, part of the East Side and Northeast have heavily conservative neighborhoods.

However, even with a strong turnout of Republican-leaning voters, based on historical trends, the number of El Paso voters who choose Republican candidates will be limited, given that El Paso leans Democrat.

For example, during the previous three general elections (2000, 2004 and 2008), an average of 27.67 percent of El Pasoans voted straight-ticket Republican. When it came to choosing a presidential candidate those years, an average of 38.7 percent El Pasoans (including Democrats) voted for the GOP candidates.

Republican President George W. Bush, who ran for re-election in 2004, garnered 43.18 percent of the vote in El Paso that year, which was still no more than 10.6 percent of the local straight Republican Party vote for the election. Bush also enjoyed the advantage of being a former Texas governor.

This year, El Paso has 3,151 fewer voters registered to vote than in 2008, due to people moving away or being removed from the rolls because they died.

County Elections Administrator Javier Chacon said he expects the early voting pace to pick up, and for El Paso to equal or surpass the 2008 general election early voting numbers.

At the end of the 2008 general election, a total of 189,119 El Pasoans had cast ballots, 116,246 of them did so during early voting.

"We haven't had any problems with the process," Chacon said. "Everything is running smoothly. We ask everyone to be patient with us because the lines are getting long at some of these stations."

El Pasoan Austin Amanambu, a therapist and mental health professional, was headed to Bassett Place on Monday to vote early.

"It's the right thing to do as a citizen," Amanambu said. "It's my civic duty, and I have the time, and there's no reason to wait any longer."

The Texas Secretary of State also reported early voting totals through Sunday for the state's 15 most populous counties, including El Paso. The early voting total so far is 1.8 million, or 21.67 percent of the 8.6 million registered voters in those 15 counties.

Early voting for the Nov. 6 general election continues through Friday at 18 voting stations and three mobile units.

Source: (c)2012 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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