Decreased voter turnout across the Valley: experts

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RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The primary elections decided who is moving on to the general election in November and who will face a run-off in May.

Voter turnout was down this year for all Rio Grande Valley counties compared to four years ago, the last time a Presidential primary was on the ballot.

Voting experts said turnout for primary elections is traditionally low.

For three previous election cycles, the average turnout for Valley counties was 17%.

In the latest round of voting on Super Tuesday, Willacy County led the way in participation with 19.7% of voters making it to the polls while 6.6% of Starr County voters participated.

University of Texas Political Science Lecturer Robert Velez said those numbers were to be expected.

"It's a primary election, so it’s not going to get the kind of turnout you get in a general election in November,” Robert Velez, political science lecturer at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley said.

While the number of voters might not be a surprise, there was a significant change in which party saw higher participation rates.

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“On the Democratic side, they were well below what we saw in 2020. On the Republican side, they were almost double what they participated in four years ago,” Remi Garza, Cameron County Elections Administrator explained.

Political science experts said there may not have been a lot of enthusiasm for the candidates at the top of the ticket.

Velez said the narrative is that a rematch isn't what the voters wanted and the numbers tell a different story.

“Well, millions of people voted for these candidates, so some people wanted this rematch. It might not be exciting, but is politics supposed to be exciting? I mean, I argue to my students that politics is supposed to be boring," Velez said.

Despite the fact Republicans cast more ballots than Democrats, Velez said those numbers can't necessarily be extended out to the general election.

He said each election is different. Different candidates and different circumstances can change the outcome in key races

“We also had a re-districting since the last presidential election in 2020. So District 34 and District 15 were both re-drawn,” Velez said.

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Garza said his office saw a much lower turnout than expected.

He said that even the low turnout numbers are consistent and there has been a noticeable trend in how voters select a candidate.

“The voters are choosing to use early voting to cast their ballots," Garza said. "Before, we used to see about 45 percent vote early, and now it’s looking closer to 65 percent.”

Garza added that despite the low turnout for the primaries, he anticipates a high participation rate for the general election.

He reminds voters that the numbers aren't official just yet.

Cameron County will re-canvass the votes to account for absentee, overseas and provisional ballots next Tuesday, March 12.

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