2017 McAllen mayoral race had a 42 percent drop in turnout since 1997

Othal Brand Sr’s 1997 runner-up vote totals were greater than Jim Darling’s winning totals in 2013 and 2017.

McAllen – Around 88 percent of eligible registered McAllen voters were not moved to vote in last Saturdays mayoral election, according to the unofficial election results provided by the City Secretaries Office.  Ultimately, their passiveness proved costly to challenger Othal Brand Jr, who had spent nearly two times as much as the Darling campaign, in effort to convince McAllen voters to elect him over incumbent Jim Darling.  Darling was declared the winner of the highly contested race with a comfortable margin of 4,409 votes to Brand’s 3061 tally.  While other traditional media outlets were quick to congratulate voters that turned out, a lingering question remained.  How could a city of over 134,000, with approximately 66,000 registered voters, have a major election decided by a very few?  Since 1997, the City of McAllen as seen a sharp decline in voter turnout for local races.

Taking a look at the May 3rd, 1997’s Official Election Results, both Leo Montalvo and Othal Brand Sr accounted for a combined total of 13,476 votes.

Both 1997 candidates had individual totals that are greater than Jim Darlings winning totals in both 2013 and 2017.

Now looking at 2017’s Unofficial Election Results, the difference because apparent.

Combining the totals for Brand, Carranza, and Darling, their collective total votes amount to 7,720.  This amounts to an 11 percent voter participation rate when measured against 66,884 total registered voters. These results favored Jim Darling, who pretty much maintained his vote totals, receiving 4214 in 2013.  Darling’s retention of his 2013 support base  was seen as surprising, considering Darling was perceived as a vulnerable candidate, primarily in part of his support of a Healthcare Taxing District, the 2015 Enrique Inglesias scandal, and issues with city government transparency.

Between 1997 and 2017, McAllen’s registered voter rolls increased by 39 percent. However, with the majority of registered voters remaining indifferent towards local races, candidates, particularly the challengers, must find a way to engage these voters in order to have a chance at winning.

The trend of voter apathy is likely to continue as the older generations, who tend to participate in local races, fade from voter rolls, while millennials and generation z, who will make up 70 percent of eligible voters in 2021 continue to opt for voting in Presidential elections rather than local contest.

This issue is not exclusive to the McAllen area.  Nearly all cities races see a sharp decline in voter participation in contrast to national contest.  With McAllen, Pharr, San Juan contest in the record books, many eyes now turn towards Edinburg mayoral and Hidalgo County Judge’s race.  And for the non establishment candidates, the keys to victory may ultimately lie with these unmotivated voters.  The question is, what more can be done to bring them out to the polls?

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