Voter Registration Drive

State elections officials say they're expecting only about one third of the state's eligible voters to vote in next month's elections. That's why the League of Women Voters will hold a voter registration drive this week -- to get more people registered, and raise awareness of the election. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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Just over a month before the election Texas has about 13 million registered voters, which is about 78 percent of the state's voting age population. Scott Haywood in the Secretary of State's office says they expect that number to go up this week and next because of last minute voter registration drives.

"There's always a last minute surge, also, if you look at the numbers just in between a primary election in the spring and the November election you're going to see an increase, and we've seen that again this year. Hopefully we'll get up to around 80 or 81 percent, that's usually the number of registered voters we have for a general election."

Typically, off-year elections never draw as many voters as Presidential elections, but this year's Governor's race is not a typical race. For the first time in many years, there are more than two candidates. There are five. Along with the Republican and the Democrat, there's a Libertarian and two high profile independents. It means the person with the most votes wins, whether it's a majority or not. Haywood didn't want to predict what this unusual ballot will do for voter turnout.

"The Governor's race four years ago we saw about 36 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. We'd obviously like to see that number grow. I think more Texans need to be involved in the process and need to be casting a ballot, but, you know, it is generally lower than in a Presidential election. Our goal is to get that number up."

As they always do just before elections, various organizations are holding voter registration drives all over the state. Here in Houston, the League of Women Voters will register voters coming through several Metro Rail stops. Voter Registration Chairman Sam Keeper says they'll have tables set up at the downtown train plaza, the plaza in the Medical Center, and at the Fannin South Park and Ride, which is the end of the Metro line. Keeper says they'll help people fill out the registration form right there, and he promises it won't take long.

"The forms that we use are also self mailers, and a number of people take them away with them because they're in a rush, or they're trying to catch a bus or their ride. But our experience is that a large proportation of people who intend to do that -don't-, so we urge them to sign up right there. And it takes so little time, thirty seconds maximum."

The deadline to register to vote next month is the tenth of this month. Election day is Tuesday November 7th. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.