The impact of Sun City on elections

Posted in Commentary, Elections, Williamson County at 1:26 pm by wcnews

It is a fact that Sun City has a big impact on elections in Williamson County. Just look at these numbers from the 2012 Presidential Election:

PCT 381 85% voter turnout, 72% Romney, 27% Obama - 2,906 ballots cast
PCT 394 88% voter turnout, 72% Romney, 27% Obama - 3,716 ballots cast
PCT 396 81% voter turnout, 70% Romney, 29% Obama - 2,881 ballots cast

The business newspaper, Community Impact, has an article in the current issue on the impact Sun City has on local elections in the Georgetown area, Voter participation higher in Sun City community. Most anyone who pays attention to the minutia of election data in Williamson County is familiar with Sun City and it’s impact on elections. Not just with the high numbers of voters that turnout, but that they vote overwhelmingly for Republicans. Which is a part of the reason Democrats have struggled to win county-wide in Williamson County.

With a higher voter turnout and a greater concentration of registered voters than the rest of Georgetown, the Sun City master-planned community has gained a reputation for having a significant influence on local elections.

“In any election, Sun City is critical. The support of Sun City is critical for passage,” Georgetown ISD Superintendent Joe Dan Lee said. “There’s large numbers of residents in Sun City, but a large percentage of those residents [also] vote.”

During the 2012 presidential election, there were 11,184 registered voters in the three voting precincts that include Sun City addresses, and of those, nearly 85 percent voted, according to the Williamson County Elections Office.

“If you look it up by precincts, you can see that people in those Sun City precincts are voting at a really high rate,” Williamson County Elections Administrator Rick Barron said, adding that voter participation in Sun City is higher than the rest of the county. “More people are voting, and most of them are voting early. People always say that older people don’t want to vote early, but Sun City seems to buck that trend.”

But there’s a part of this article that needs to be unpacked a bit. These are the last two paragraphs of the article:

[Georgetown ISD Superintendent Joe Dan] Lee said the school district is appreciative of Sun City’s support and eagerness to vote but said he hopes others in the district would look to Sun City as an example of being engaged in elections.

“It would be our desire to get all of our voters in the district to vote like Sun City does, but for some reason they just don’t get out and participate and voice their opinion with their vote in the percentage number that Sun City does,” Lee said. “People have fought and died to give us the right to vote, and then a vast majority [of citizens] choose not to. I’m very pleased our Sun City folks do choose to vote.”

First there’s nothing wrong with what Lee says and most, if not all of us, wish we had voter turnout at an 85% clip in our county, state, and country. By all accounts residents of Sun City are a very involved and informed in the political process. And it’s likely the demographics of the area are much older, much wealthier, and much whiter then the rest of Georgetown and Williamson County.

There are many reasons why people in Sun City vote at a higher clip then most others. Voting is easy and accessible to them, there’s an early voting location in the middle of their community and open at times convenient to them. Of course this only highlights the advantage this area has over many others.

But to get the desired result we have to look at the many reasons why people don’t vote, as Forrest Wilder points out here:

Texas has one of the lowest voter-turnout rates in the nation. Grieder posits that this is because “Texans have been happy enough with the status quo. The government might not do much, but at the same time it doesn’t meddle with people that much, nor does it ask for much in terms of taxes.”

This is lazy political science, but it’s a view one often hears among the thousand or so people who constitute the politics-media-lobby elite in Austin. Texans who don’t vote are largely poor and minority, groups that vote less frequently than their counterparts in other large states, and at much lower rates than affluent whites, who still by and large run Texas. If poor minority Texans decline to vote as a means of expressing satisfaction with the system, then do rich white people vote to express dissatisfaction?

The former group tends not to vote for many reasons: lack of engagement with the political system, weak labor unions, a hobbled Democratic Party, poverty, barriers to voting, etc. There is no shortage of reasons; none of them argues for a healthy, wise electorate.

Add to that inconvenient hours (when most “working people” are working) and early voting locations (not on major highways) and the “why” starts to become more clear. There is no explicit right to vote in the US Constitution. And we vote on a Tuesday, which is not a holiday - Why Tuedsay?

It’s a lot more involved then a bunch of people who don’t care about the right to vote that so many have fought and died for over the centuries.

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