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Low voter turnout following familiar pattern in city races
Monday, May 12, 2008 by Austin Monitor
Voter turnout for Saturday’s election was less than 8.5 percent, which means that just fewer than 36,000 people cast their ballots in the city elections. Winning candidates incumbent
Although that may seem like a lower-than-average turnout for a City Council race, a look at the city’s voting history shows several other elections with a similar turnout during the past 10 years. Prior to that, in 1997, voters adopted a $100 limit on campaign contributions. That campaign finance rule limited the ability of candidates to buy expensive TV advertising. While voter turnout was 17 percent in 1997, in 1998 it dropped to just 8 percent. Turnout was also low in the spring of 2000, when 7 percent of voters went to the polls. In 2002, turnout was up slightly to 9 percent.
The Council raised the limit to $300 per person last year but it still keeps many candidates without personal wealth—or at least retirement funds to use—from being able to compete in Council races.
During the past decade, ballot propositions have proven to be just as big of a draw as Council races. In 2005, when the public approved a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, 16.49 percent of the city’s voters cast ballots. The following year, slightly more than 11 percent of voters cast ballots in an election regarding the two amendments proposed by the SOS Alliance, both of which failed.
Consultant David Butts, who is working on the Morrison campaign and helped elect the woman who will become District Attorney in January, Rosemary Lehmberg, said about 85 percent of those voting in this year’s Council races were Democrats. And it is generally from the ranks of those reliable Democratic voters that City Council candidates look for support.
Prior to the “Clean Campaigns” charter amendment in 1997, voter turnout was 26 percent in 1994. That year, about 85,000 people voted on a number of Council seats and the question of whether the City Council should appoint the City Attorney. Voters elected
While the campaign-finance regulations have made it more difficult for candidates to raise enough money to buy TV time, several candidates in this race did get their message out on both TV and radio.
“We still don’t know how much money got spent by
While Leffingwell won re-election to the Place 1 seat by a commanding margin, Meeker did show strength in some precincts near Northcross Mall. The spokesman for Responsible Growth for Northcross won precinct 241, his home precinct. The ballot box at Brentwood Elementary showed Meeker with 50.16 percent of the vote, compared to 43 percent for Leffingwell and 7 percent for also-ran
In other nearby precincts, Meeker also pulled more than 40 percent, including precinct 243 in the Allandale Neighborhood and precinct 239 at Gullatt Elementary on
In the Place 3 race,
In Place 4, top vote-getter
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