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Government/Politics

What brought Bexar County voters to the polls this election?

LionsFieldKirkhamNov2021.jpg
Bri Kirkham
/
Texas Public Radio
A sign outside of Lions Field on Nov. 2, 2021.

Voter turnout was low in Bexar County, and across Texas. But the folks who showed up to the polls had a specific amendment they fought for — or against.

About 32,000 Bexar County residents turned out for early voting ahead of Election Day.

Back in 2019, the joint election saw early and day-of voters exceed 106,000 people. But there was a controversial and confusing amendment on the ballot about state income tax. It didn't pass.

This time around, no state constitutional amendments have fanned the flames quite as much or received as much media attention. For the folks who have shown up to the polls in this election, what are they fighting for?

Voter Steve Mills, for example, is particularly motivated by Proposition 3, would forbid governmental bodies from restricting religious gatherings. The topic grew attention as in-person church services were restricted while pandemic numbers were soaring.

“I voted against that. I thought it was a reaction — an overreaction — to what happened during the pandemic,” Mills said.

“I think that amendment was basically trying to play off people's emotions that they had to restrict some of their behavior because of the pandemic,” he added.

Other voters were motivated to ensure a certain initiative does pass. Some have not always voted, but they felt inspired to cast a ballot this time. Marissa Carlisle says she falls into that category.

“I'm trying to get better at it. Now that I'm, you know, a full grown adult, I need to adult,” she said.

Proposition 6 encouraged her to show up to the polls. It would expand a homestead property tax exemption to include surviving spouses of military members who died from non-combat injuries. The current exemption in the constitution only includes service members who die in combat.

“I didn't realize for military spouses if their spouse died in action versus in the line of duty…they wouldn't get the same benefits,” Carlisle said.

Traditionally, almost all state amendments pass. In 2019, all 10 amendments passed except one. It would have permitted Texans to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.

Still, those sure-fire amendments can encourage sure-fire voters.

Cheryl Baumgartner says she votes in almost every election, and she has her eyes focused on Proposition 6 in this cycle. This was another measure introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It would require certain facilities to allow residents the right to name an "essential" caregiver for in-person visitation.

“I think it's important that they be able to designate somebody that they trust,” Baumgartner said.

For some Bexar County residents there's even a separate election happening to determine the winner in the House District 118 runoff race. While those constituents most vote separately from the amendment election, the special runoff has seen 5,600 early voters in Bexar County.

Still, this election cycle might not get as much attention as a presidential, midterm or even city council race, but it's giving some voters a reason to show up.

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