Local parties fighting undervoting

Election season is here again, providing voters of both parties a long list of local and statewide primary candidates to vote for.

Voters, aware of it or not, may not always select a candidate in every category. This is known as undervoting, when a voter does not select a candidate in every category, though the option is available to them.

While it may seem inconsequential at first, undervoting has had effects in the past. In the November 2016 election, District 1 City Councilman Malcolm Hamilton won his election with a total of 1,189 votes, 266 votes more than his opponent, Jo Ann Davenport Littleton.

But of the 2,112 votes cast in that election, there were also 1,891 undervotes, meaning 1,891 voters had the option to vote in the election, but did not do so.

Ector County Elections Administrator Lisa Sertuche said there is no way of telling how many undervotes there have been in the current election so far until after polls have closed. She said the amount of undervoting can depend on the election, such as if it’s an election for constitutional amendments.

JoAnna Wells, Ector County Democratic Chairwoman, said undervoting is a chronic problem no matter the political party.

“They’re not getting the full weight of their full voting potential, particularly in local races,” Wells said about voters.

Wells said she contributed the problem of undervoting primarily to a lack of understanding of voting machines.

“When you have a ballot by mail, it’s easy. You can see to the end how many pages you have to go,” she said. “On a machine, you don’t necessarily know. You might be ready to cast your ballot and you don’t realize you’re making propositions.”

She also said another contributing factor could be people who want to vote for just one person, such as a candidate for president or governor.

“It definitely impacts the final numbers,” Wells said. “It lends itself to that issue of ‘well, my one vote isn’t going to matter,’ but that is one vote of a collective.”

Ector County Republican Chairwoman Tisha Crow said another reason for undervoting could have something to do with a lack of familiarity with local candidates. She said the Ector County Republican Party will host forums for local candidates so the community can become familiar with them, but their last forum for justice of the peace candidates did not have a large attendance.

“If they don’t know Paul or Steve, why would they vote for Paul or Steve?” Crow said.

Early voting in Ector County ends at 7 p.m. today, and Election Day is Tuesday, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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