Hot-button issues have driven Denton voters to the polls in years past.
But not this time.
Turnout for early voting in the Nov. 7 election is pathetic. In the first four days, about a half of 1 percent of registered voters have turned out in Denton and countywide.
Statewide, Texas voters are deciding the fate of seven propositions to change the state constitution. The Denton City Council also is asking voters whether they agree with five changes to the city charter.
“I think it [voter turnout] clearly depends on the issue,” said Denton County Elections Administrator Frank Phillips. “If you’re talking about an issue that’s been in front of the public, that can bring a big turnout.”
Politicians and pundits can make much sound and fury about democracy’s governing documents. But few are making much noise at all about changes to the fundamental documents that govern the state and local government in Denton.
“Most people haven’t heard of the constitutional amendments before they show up to vote on them,” Phillips said.
Denton resident John Czapko said he was shocked how few people came to vote over the lunch hour Friday. He was one of three voters casting ballots at Denton County Elections Administration. He made a point of reading about all the propositions before heading to the polls, he said.
“It’s critical that we take the time, as little time as it is, to vote,” Czapko said. “With all that’s going on right now, we should take the opportunity.”
The pace over the first four days of early voting does not bode well for the final count. An average of about 100 Denton city voters have mailed in their ballot or shown up the first four days. At that pace, voter turnout may not even reach 4 percent of the city’s 74,987 registered voters by Election Day, Nov. 7. If so, the turnout would be the worst in a Denton municipal election in several years.
Denton’s high-water mark for voter turnout was in November 2014. That’s when the city’s voters overwhelmingly approved a citizens' initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city limits.
More than 39.5 percent of Denton's registered voters cast ballots in that election.
“For a municipal election, that level of turnout is almost unheard of,” Phillips said.
(The ban was later nullified by Texas House Bill 40 and subsequently repealed by the Denton City Council.)
Buoyed by the new political energy, more voters began showing up for other municipal elections, which often hadn't reached 5 percent turnout. The City Council election in spring 2015 saw a range of turnout in the four districts, ranging from 4 percent to 11 percent in the contested districts. In the spring 2016 election, turnout for the mayoral and at-large races reached 8.6 percent, the highest Denton had seen in some time.
In 2017, turnout passed 11 percent. Both heated district races and a contentious proposition drove people to the polls. Denton voters narrowly approved a city property tax freeze for homeowners who are disabled or age 65 and older.
Some credit for the numbers lies with Robson Ranch, a large retirement community on Denton’s southwest side. Voter turnout in Precinct 4003 consistently boosts the overall numbers.
As of Thursday, turnout in Precinct 4003 makes up one-quarter of Denton’s ballots (187 of 760).
Early voting continues through the weekend and ends Friday.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.
By the Numbers
Registered voters in Denton County
County ballots cast (as of Thursday)
Registered voters in Denton
City ballots cast (as of Thursday)
Denton voters are being asked to vote "yes" or "no" on the following changes to the city charter:
Proposition A: Shall Section 2.02 of the City Charter be amended to clarify that councilmember residency qualifications apply to the councilmember's domicile (principal residence), where the councilmember must have resided for at least one year prior to the election?
Proposition B: Shall Section 4.13 of the City Charter be amended to increase the percentage of petitioners required to trigger a recall election from twenty-five percent (25%) to thirty-five percent (35%)?
Proposition C: Shall Section 6.04 of the City Charter be amended to clarify that the internal city auditor shall be a permanent, full-time position and clarify the responsibilities?
Proposition D: Shall Sections 14.04 and 14.05 of the City Charter be repealed and replaced with a provision requiring the adoption of an ethics ordinance by the city council in accordance with Texas law and adheres to certain minimum standards?
Proposition E: Shall a section be added to the City Charter providing for councilmembers to receive an initial monthly stipend of seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00) and the mayor to receive an initial monthly stipend of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) during their respective terms of office and providing for restrictions on subsequent increases to the stipend amount?
Voters will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" on the following changes to the Texas Constitution:
Proposition 1: The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead and harmonizing certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution.
Proposition 2: The constitutional amendment to establish a lower amount for expenses that can be charged to a borrower and removing certain financing expense limitations for a home equity loan, establishing certain authorized lenders to make a home equity loan, changing certain options for the refinancing for home equity loans, changing the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, and allowing home equity loans on agricultural homesteads.
Proposition 3: The constitutional amendment limiting the service of certain officeholders appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate after the expiration of the person's term of office.
Proposition 4: The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to require a court to provide notice to the attorney general of a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute and authorizing the Legislature to prescribe a waiting period before the court may enter a judgment holding the statute unconstitutional.
Proposition 5: The constitutional amendment on professional sports teams' charitable foundations conducting charitable raffles.
Proposition 6: The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.
Proposition 7: The constitutional amendment relating to legislative authority to permit credit unions and other financial institutions to award prizes by lot to promote savings.
Early voting for the Nov. 7 constitutional amendment election continues through Friday. On Tuesday, Nov. 7, voters must go to their voting precinct to cast their ballot. For more information, visit www.votedenton.com.
EARLY VOTING SITES
The following early voting sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today; 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday; and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday:
Aubrey ISD Building, 415 Tisdell Lane, Aubrey
Carrollton Public Library, 4220 N. Josey Lane
City of The Colony Annex Building, 6804 Main St.
Copeland Government Center, 1400 FM424, Cross Roads
Corinth City Hall, 3300 Corinth Parkway
Denton County Elections Administration, 701 Kimberly Drive, Denton
Denton County Southwest Courthouse, 6200 Canyon Falls Drive, Flower Mound
Flower Mound Police and Municipal Court Building, 4150 Kirkpatrick Lane
Frisco Fire Station No. 4, 4485 Cotton Gin Road
Frisco Fire Station No. 7, 330 W. Stonebrook Parkway
Highland Village Municipal Complex, 1000 Highland Village Road
Justin Municipal Complex, 415 N. College Ave.
Krum ISD Administration Building, 1200 Bobcat Blvd., Krum
Lake Dallas City Hall, 212 Main St.
Lewisville Municipal Annex, 1197 W. Main St.
Little Elm Library, 100 W. Eldorado Parkway
Pilot Point Senior Center, 310 S. Washington St.
Timberglen Library, 18505 Midway Road, Dallas
SPECIAL EARLY VOTING SITES
The following early voting sites will also be open, but with limited dates and hours:
Aubrey High School, 510 Spring Hill Road, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday
Aubrey Middle School, 815 W. Sherman Drive, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday
Brockett Elementary, 900 Chestnut St., Aubrey, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday
Chavez Elementary, 2600 Hart Road, Little Elm, 4 to 9 p.m. Friday
Denton Civic Center, 321 E. McKinney St., 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday
Little Elm Athletic Complex, 1151 E. Eldorado Parkway, 5 to 8:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday
Little Elm High School, 1900 Walker Road, 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday
Sanger Church of Christ, 400 N. Locust St., 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday; and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday
Dates to Remember
Mail-in ballot deadline — 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7 (extended to Wednesday, Nov. 8, if postmarked by 7 p.m. Tuesday)
FEATURED PHOTO: Early voting began Monday and runs through Friday, Nov. 3. Voters could report to any of two dozen early voting locations to cast a ballot, but turnout was generally anemic this week.
DRC Jake King