The 2016 presidential campaign generated a daily reality show of candidate theatrics; unfounded charges of fake news; and real fabrications paraded as truth.
A population that tends to have the attention span of a gnat on amphetamines was fixated on every audacious twist and turn. The campaign was entertaining in its own dark way, as people inflamed or energized by the candidates’ antics left the sidelines and signed up to vote.
In Texas, a record-breaking 15 million people registered to vote before the November presidential election.
According to the Texas Secretary of State, that was 78 percent of our voting-age population, and more than 1.3 million additional registered voters than four years earlier.
It’s doubtful Texas will break voter registration numbers this year as we prepare for midterm primaries in March.
Let’s face it- the brash unpredictability of Donald Trump is what drove voters — those who love and despise him — to join the fray two years ago.
But voters and would-be voters, don’t ignore the important Texas elections you will decide in the coming year. Donald Trump’s name won’t be on the ballot. But the policies of his administration will be there. And they’ll be a starting point for debate among the candidates who want your support.
Our message — put these two dates on your early 2018 calendar:
▪ February 5, the last day you can register to vote in Texas primaries.
▪ March 6, primary Election Day when you cast your ballot.
We’re gearing up for an election year that will determine whether Ted Cruz remains in the U.S. Senate; whether Democrats can gain a toehold in new Texas territory; and which brand of conservative politics will win a Republican primary.
If you care about taxes, access to healthcare, the cost of education and whether immigrant Dreamers should be deported, take the first step. Register to vote.
We unfortunately know many Texans stop there. When Election Day rolls around they stay home. Despite the frenzied excitement surrounding Trump’s election only 59.4 percent of Texans voted in that presidential election.
So, we have some work to do. More Texans might participate if the state didn’t cut off voter registration three to four weeks before Election Day, just as campaign events and media coverage peak.
And this is a state where Republicans dominate. Texans who support other parties and their candidates may not feel like it matters if they vote.
But for now, get past that.
Consider what happened in the last presidential race. The anticipated victor didn’t win.
Given voter disenchantment, division within parties and deep differences in what we want for our country, 2018 could also hold a few surprises.
So sign up. Get involved. Who we choose to lead in 2018 begins with that.