Other Voices

Voter turnout: One way Fort Worth can keep beating Dallas

How to use an early voting machine

Here is a short lesson in how to use the electronic voting machines used in the Tarrant County early voting locations. A former election administrator explains the system. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)
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Here is a short lesson in how to use the electronic voting machines used in the Tarrant County early voting locations. A former election administrator explains the system. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)

If we were to invite everyone who voted in Fort Worth’s last mayoral election to the TCU football stadium, about a third of the 50,000 seats would remain empty.

Only 8 percent of Fort Worth’s voters turned out to vote for mayor in 2017. According to a study by Portland State University, Fort Worth ranks second-to-last in the country in terms of voter turnout in local elections, only beating Dallas.

This semester, in our Introduction to American Politics Honors class at Texas Christian University, we have been examining what explains why people get involved in politics and how local, state, and national government works, as well as working on ways we can try to increase civic participation and knowledge in Fort Worth.

We focused specifically on Fort Worth, as we currently have an election for mayor, city council, school board, and water board on May 4, for which early voting is under way.

People often pay close attention to national politics but fail to realize that local elections can have the largest impact on our lives. We learned in class that while turnout in national elections can near 60 percent, in local elections many people don’t show up to the polls because local elections occur in off years when people are not paying as much attention.

But these local elections impact the communities that we live in and our children grow up in. We need well-funded school programs, stable and reliable infrastructure, affordable housing, a sense of safety and belonging, and all the things that make a strong community. Local elected officials are responsible for many of the things Fort Worth residents care about in the community that they love.

It can be hard to find information about the candidates or know the issues in local elections — especially as young people, who are even less likely to vote in local elections, according to research from the Knight Foundation.

So, as a class this semester we researched candidates for mayor and city council to make a nonpartisan voting guide to help us become more politically engaged and well-informed in our community. In turn, we want others to be involved and knowledgeable as well.

We also are hosting a public Mayoral Forum on Monday April 29 from 6-7 p.m. at TCU to hear from the candidates running to be the next Fort Worth mayor. All are welcome to attend! (The forum will be in the Brown-Lupton University Union ballroom. It’s not required, but you may register and request special accommodations by emailing officialeventsrsvp@tcu.edu.)

It is time that Fort Worth’s eligible voters demonstrate how much they care about their city through civic and political engagement for future generations, their peers, and most importantly, for themselves.

Please vote on May 4; it is an important election, and your voice matters.

And if for nothing else, vote so we can keep beating Dallas.

Dr. Emily M. Farris is an associate professor of Political Science at TCU. Hannah Vu is an honors student at TCU currently double majoring in Political Science and Philosophy.
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