Sunday, March 2, 2008

In Houston-area early voting, Dems beat Repubs 3 to 1

By Paul Hill

HOUSTON – Early voting totals are in and 170,032 voted in the Democratic primary while 51,199 voted in the Republican primary according to the Harris County Clerk's office. That means 3 times as many Democrats voted as Republicans in the country's third largest county which is reputed to be a Republican stronghold.

The all time record early vote for a primary in Harris County was 165,958 in 2000 for the Republicans. In that year, 56,168 Democrats early voted in the primary. The numbers this year have flipped as compared with 2000.

What could account for this dramatic change in voter turnout?

When I attended an election school, the Republican officials talked about the fact that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign organizers were actively registering new people to vote. A friend told me that an African American neighborhood civic association meeting was focused on getting out the vote. Everywhere I go people are talking about change and how they are sick of low wages, no health care benefits and the devastating effects of the Iraq war.

It seems that although his popularity is soaring on Wall Street, George Bush's popularity among working people in his home state and his parent's home city is plummeting.

Both Sen. Hillary Clinton and Obama have impressive grass roots organizations in Houston. I have received many calls from both campaigns. Marches and rallies are ongoing at this point to support both candidates.

One amazing thing is that people are also talking about unity. A coworker today praised Obama's ability to unify people but also agreed that when the candidate is selected it will be important for people to unite and fight the ultra-right.

Most people here view McCain and his acolytes as crackpots whose policies would just further the destruction heaped upon the people of the world by Bush. Conversations I have had with union members indicate about 50/50 support for Clinton and Obama. No union member has told me they support McCain or any of the other Republicans.

Although Houston is hallowed ground among right-wingers, it should be recalled that one third of our population is Latino, one third African American and one third Anglo. It also has a large number of working people and a high rate of poverty.

The dynamics in this city were radically changed post-Katrina. The numbers of working and poor people increased when Katrina survivors arrived here after the storm. No one is talking at this point about how this will effect the 2008 elections, however it appears the change will be profound.

No one is talking at this time about how the victims of the sub-prime lending fiasco will effect the 2008 election, however it appears the change will be profound.

On my way to work this morning, I dropped by Obama's headquarters. There was a lot of activity and it was difficult to get a parking place. I approached a young man and he told me that 50 students from Morehouse College and Spellman College in Atlanta had come by bus to Houston to support Obama. They were about to leave to block walk in various neighborhoods to educate voters on the issues and support their candidate.

Brandon Avery, "class of 2010", Morehouse College, told me that "as a fellow Chicagoan I support his views. He is young enough not to be tainted by the dirty politics of Washington." Avery said he felt the critical issue for him was the "rising cost of education. Sen. Obama's plan for $4,000 to be allocated to students inspires me."

He commented about the war in Iraq, "I have a few friends who have served in Iraq…one of my friend's vehicle was attacked by a roadside bomb. It is a battle that can't be won with bullets, it has to be won with politics and reasoning."

On the right, students from Spelman college and Morehouse college gather in Houston to blockwalk for Obama. [Photo by Paul Hill (c)]

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