Voter turnout still low for Tarrant County local elections

Voter turnout in Tarrant County was just over 8.9 percent with 107,031 voters out of 1.2 million registered voters casting their ballots in various municipal elections on May 6.

Turnout for Tarrant County in the May 2021 municipal elections had 14.2% of voters going to the polls with 165,898 of 1.2 million registered voters casting their ballots.

However, that year there was a special election to the U.S. House of Representatives to replace District 6 Representative Ron Wright, R-Mansfield, who died in February 2021. The race was contentious with Wright’s wife, Susan Wright , which he ultimately lost on the runoff to Jake Elizey.

In the race for mayor of Fort Worth, 42,245 voters cast their ballots. In the May 2021 municipal elections, 66,658 voters voted to run for mayor.

A less competitive mayoral race at the top of the ballot often leads to lower voter turnout, said Emily Farris, a professor of political science at TCU.

After record turnout in 2021, turnout in 2023 is more in line with historical trends. Lack of voter engagement is a persistent problem in local politics in general, said Brian Adams, a professor of political science at San Diego State University.

Part of the low voter turnout can be attributed to the fact that many municipalities hold elections in an off-cycle year—in other words, an odd-numbered year in which there are no high-profile state and national races on the ballot.

Proponents say this maintains the non-partisan nature of local elections; opponents say holding local elections separately makes it more difficult to get voters to the polls.

“When you have low voter turnout, it generally means that the electorate is older, whiter and wealthier,” Adams said. “People dropping out of the voting pool will generally be young people, low-income individuals, and so on.”

While the city and the media work to inform voters on how and when to vote, Fort Worth is working from behind when it comes to turnout, Mayor Mattie Parker said. Larger cities like Chicago, whose elected officials are more involved in the city’s day-to-day operations, often see much higher turnout, he said.

“I am dedicated, even though I will not fill this seat again in the future, to making sure more people are participating and engaging and who is elected and who is running,” Parker said.

Early voting began on 24 April and closed on 2 May. The ballots will take place on 10 June.

Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at [email protected].

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