Hoping for More Than "Pathetic" Voter Turnout

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Voter registration for this November's elections is over, but there's still plenty of work for Brazos County's tax office. Hundreds of forms are still being processed.

But when it's all said and done, how many of those people can be expected to vote?

When all the forms are processed, close to 88,000 residents will have registered to vote in Brazos County. More than a quarter of those are categorized as "suspense," meaning address information needs to be clarified. Many of those people won't end up voting, either because they have moved out of the district or just won't show up.

In the end, the final numbers will be very close to the number registered for the 2002 gubernatorial election, according to Kristeen Roe with Brazos County's tax office.

"When you have a governor running, you're going to see more interest come through," she said.

Roe says registering residents have talked up the four-person race for governor, as well as the hotly contested District 17. But the registration total that hasn't substantially changed comes in a fast-growing community. Also growing, Roe says, is voter apathy.

"That, to us, is frustrating because a large part of our job is to encourage people to be participants," she said.

"Texas only had 29 percent vote for their last governor, which is pathetic," said Jesse Ventura, the former independent governor of Minnesota. "I'd be embarrassed. Texans generally don't like to be embarrassed. They ought to be embarrassed over that."

Ventura's calls for increased voter turnout came during his visit to Texas A&M with gubernatorial canddiate Kinky Friedman, also an independent. Their target: young voters, one of the most apathetic blocks, and a reason why Brazos County isn't higher when it comes to voter turnout, according to Roe.

Still, Roe estimates, some 35 percent of registered voters turned out in 2002, and she says Brazos County is generally at or above the state average for turnout.

This year? "I'm hoping 35 to 38 percent at least," Roe said, a number that is "absolutely" realistic in her mind.

Friedman is running against Democrat Chris Bell and independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn, all looking to unseat Republican incumbent Rick Perry. Recent polls by Zogby, Rasmussen Reports and Survey USA show Perry in front with around a third of the votes.

The race to win the 17th District of Texas is between incumbent Democrat Chet Edwards and Republican challenger Van Taylor.

Early voting begins October 23 and runs until November 3. Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.