Early voting up, Election Day voting way down in Austin, city

The frigid winter weather may have had something to do with depressed total, in combination with other factors

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By Michael Romain

Editor

Despite the fact that both voter registration and early voting levels were up across Austin this year, actual voter turnout was among the lowest in history. 

Throughout the city, voter turnout was 32.7 percent, a near record low. But according to unofficial data, there were 23 percent more early voters in this year's election than in 2011. 

In Austin's 28th, 29th and 37th Wards, turnout was 22.9 percent, 30.3 percent and 26.3 percent, respectively; even though, according to unofficial data, the early voting totals in those wards were up 55 percent, 65 percent and 43 percent, over 2011 levels.

Voter registration totals had also increased this year over those for previous years. In Austin's 28th Ward, voter registration was up 5.2 percent over 2014 levels, 13.14 percent over 2011 levels and 5.57 percent over 2007 levels. In the 29th Ward, voter registration was up 3.74 percent, 25.65 percent and 48.52 percent. And the 37th Ward experienced 3.49 percent, 11.49 percent and 6.59 percent increases. This data, compiled by Aldertrack, does not include registration during grace periods. 

According to various media reports, the weather was probably a large factor in the depressed turnout. According to a report by Red Eye Chicago, a Weather Channel poll of 1,683 registered voters in the 2012 presidential election found that "people who make less than $50,000 a year are more likely to not vote if the weather is bad than those making more than $50,000 a year," the Red Eye notes.

Depending on the census tract, the median household income in Austin ranges between $20,000 and $40,000, according to the 2008-2012 American Community Survey.

But there's more that factors into weather-related non-voting than income levels, the Red Eye notes.

"The same poll found that Millennials are less likely to vote than their older counterparts if there's three inches or more on the ground or it's snowing or unseasonably cold."

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com 

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