Currently there is a total of 6,676 voters in Runnels County according to Texas’s Secretary of State website. In 2006, only 34.51% voted in the various elections in the county. The elections in March of 2018 only had 1,602 of a possible 6,614 voters cast a ballot. That’s only 24.22% of the total voters in the county. In the US Senate election, Runnels County voters cast 1,291 ballots for senator Ted Cruz. The other 4 candidates combined for a total of 146 votes from Runnels County. This shows that of the 1,602 voters who cast ballots, 165 didn’t enter a vote for the US Senate race.
When you break it down to municipal elections, the numbers drop even further. In the November 2017 election, only 793 voters turned out in Ballinger. That’s a percentage of 11.93% showing that only about 1 person out of 12 cast a ballot. Ballinger’s longtime mayor, Sam Mallory, defeated his opponent by a count of 331 to 107. Of the 3,656 people in the city, and considering that at least 55.5% (national average) are eligible to vote, 2,010 people could have cast a ballot in the municipal race. In that election, Ballinger councilman Jason Gore (Single Member District #1), defeated his opponent by a count of 65 to 31. Councilman Rick Morrish (Single Member District #2) defeated two challengers with 70 votes (39.11%) while both challengers only garnered a total of 109 votes. One challenger received 32.40% and the other received 28.49%. The Ballinger Memorial Hospital District Board of Directors had a total of 1,444 votes cast.
Voting is a fundamental right in the United States when many countries are ruled by monarchies or whatever group happens to have taken power at any given time. From your local elections to the national elections, every eligible voter has a chance to have their say by casting their ballot, whether it’s voting for someone for an office or voting on a proposition.
In November of 2018, according to the Runnels County general election report, the election for Alderman, Miles was extremely close with Casey McCartney receiving 123 votes (24.60%), Jane Jeschke receiving 119 votes (23.80%), Larry Gilbert receiving 110 votes (22%) and Kirk Boatright receiving 148 votes (29.60%). In that particular election, you could vote for 3 people.
In Ballinger, Bob McDaniel ran for and maintained his position on the council in Single Member District 3 when he defeated Darlene Kelly by a margin of 16 votes (63-47). Kristi Goetz challenged incumbent Eloyed Fuentes and defeated him by a wider margin than the McDaniel-Kelly race (154-99). Lane Pickney was the only candidate for JP for Runnels County Pct. 1 and received 2,016 votes. Miles had a vote on Proposition A in that election with 203 voting FOR and 70 voting AGAINST.
This November Ballinger will have 3 elections for city council; Jason Gore is the incumbent for single member place #1. Rick Morrish for single member place #2; Sam Mallory for mayor. Clyde Kresta, Ballinger Fire Department chief, has signed up to run against Gore while Dawni Seymore has signed up to run against Mallory for mayor. In 2017 Mallory defeated Willie Covington 331 (75.57%) to 107 (24.43%). Chad Hardy has signed up as a write-in candidate running against Morrish. The City of Ballinger had a hiccup when they posted the wrong closing date on the election notice. The last day to register to run for a seat was August 19th but the notice showed the last day as August 20th. Since they could not move the final date to the 20th, they put on the official notice, Chad Hardy had to run as a write-in candidate. That error was only a matter of 24 hours but it was the difference between Hardy getting on the ballot or having to run as a write-in. There will also be several propositions to vote on.
Gore commented on the importance of voting, “Voting in your local governing bodies' elections is very important! These elections and candidates, for city, school, and county, are the ones that directly affect your life every single day. If you don't vote, is your voice really being heard? The voter turnout has been very poor in the past years here in Runnels County. I'd like to encourage every person to register to vote if you're not, and make it down to the polling stations on election day. Your vote does matter!”
Morrish also spoke about the importance of voting, “Every citizen has a right to vote. If you are not registered to vote, I urge you to go and register. Then in November go to the polls and exercise this right. It takes a short amount of time and you will have expressed you preferences. Every vote counts. Please use yours.”
Social media have become the preferred way of venting for people unhappy with the decisions and political landscapes in their town, county, state and nation. Out of 100 randomly selected political posts by the newspaper, 86 were negative. Using Ballinger voter turnout of 11.9% as an example, would indicate that of 86 people making negative comments approximately 9 might have actually voted.
Many of the elections in the towns and for county positions are decided by a handful of votes. Just a few votes can mean the difference between funding for a school district proposition or for your candidate getting into office. Another poll on the newspaper Facebook page asked how many people voted. When the poll was finished, 35 people had responded with 31 saying that they vote and 4 saying that they didn’t. According to the Facebook stats on that poll, the poll reached 740 people and had 96 engagements but only 35 responded to the poll. It’s a microcosm of the overall voter apathy that is affecting the political landscape now.
As it currently stands, this November will have 23 propositions on the ballot for Ballinger. Many of these propositions are critical and many cover the day-to-day administration of the city. One proposition is to increase the city council term from 2 years to 4 years. A poll on the newspaper FB page showed that and overwhelming 75% of the people who voted were not in favor of increasing the terms to 4 years. It’s not just elections that matter when it comes to citizen input. Every town as well as the county have budget meetings coming up. Budget workshops are open to the public yet at the Balling August 23rd budget workshop, only a handful of citizens showed up. The importance of the budget workshops can’t be overstated. This is how your town or county will spend your tax dollars during the next fiscal year. The budget workshop in Ballinger included a budget request of over one million dollars for the police department. The amount has since been lowered to under the million-dollar mark but it goes without say that one million dollars is an incredibly significant amount of money for a town the size of Ballinger. Ballinger will also have hearings for the tax-rate adoption on September 9th, 12th and 16th at city hall. Those hearings are not the city calendar, which adversely affects the public getting information about the hearings and workshops but they are on the newspaper’s Facebook page. Public input is critical to letting the city know your opinion on the tax rate and the budget. The councilmen and councilwomen and county commissioners that you elect are the ones deciding the future for your town, your county, you and your family. It’s your money that they’re spending.
Make the time in November to go cast your vote. Take the time to attend the meetings, hearings and workshops in your town and county. You don’t have to stay for the entire meeting, you can stay just to hear the agenda items or to give your input. The Ballinger city council gives the public a comment time so you don’t have to be on the agenda to address the city council. One person can speak or 20 people can speak but each person has the opportunity to address the council.
Only you have the final say in how you vote or don’t vote or what meetings you attend or don’t attend. Every person’s input is equally valuable, whether it’s the popular opinion or not. You make your voice heard at the polling locations and at the council meetings, hearings, workshops and commissioners’ court meetings. Your one vote can make the difference on a proposition getting passed and your candidate being elected to a given position.