BY CALVIN MAYNARD
As temperatures went down and roads froze, voter turnouts were expected to freeze as well. However, as temperatures went up, so did the number of voters Tuesday.
“We’re in pretty good shape now,” said Alicia Pierce, communications director for the Office of the Texas Secretary of State. “Some voting centers in central Texas had to open two hours late, but none have been shut down. We already had early voting, and most people voted then, so inclement weather now wasn’t as big a deal as it could have been.”
The inclement weather was primarily expected to affect the number of senior citizens that voted, but, according to Ms. Pierce, “people 65 and older can vote by mail, and most have chosen to do that instead of driving.”
In fact, turnouts were much higher than expected this year.
“We were seeing a light turnout early on, but as the weather warmed up and the ice melted, more people started thinking it was safe to go out and our phones started ringing more,” Smith County Republican Party Chairman Tim McCormick said. “The weather always has some effect, but we had enough contested races and enough races that it didn’t affect the vote that much.
“This was actually quite a good year. We had more show up than we usually do on an off year with no presidential elections, since there were a lot of contested local and state races and a senate seat. It’s a long and diverse ballot.”
That diversity mostly applied to Republican races, as County Commissioner Precinct 4 was the only Democratic seat contested.
“The primaries are mostly for dedicated voters,” said David Henderson, chairman for the Smith County Democratic Party. “Our turnouts were abysmal, but we never expect big numbers because there’s little impetus. It’s partially due to the weather, but it’s mostly just political.”
Smith County residents turned out in force for early voting, eclipsing previous early balloting for gubernatorial primaries. There were 11,812 voters, compared with only 7,600 in 2010.
All things considered, inclement weather has not proven to be any significant barrier to voters.
“We’ve been working very closely with counties across Texas,” Ms. Pierce said. “Our priorities are to make sure that voters are all safe and that they have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.”