This Op-Ed originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.
It’s hot out, I mean really hot. It’s the type of weather where you’re always sprinting – from air-conditioned spot to air-conditioned spot. The triple digit temperature alone could justify not turning out to vote in the July 31 primary runoff. But that excuse doesn’t cut it, or as we say here in Texas, that dog don’t hunt.
In Texas, if no one candidate in a primary race gets 50 percent or more of the votes, then the top two finishers go mano-a-mano in a runoff. In our May primary, there were several races from U.S. Senate to state and local offices that didn’t meet the majority threshold. That means our work is not done. We still need to decide who from the Democratic and Republican parties will go on to the general election in November.
At first sight the whole process of a run-off seems like a big pain. We already came out in May to help our parties pick our slate; why do we have to come back again? But the truth is, it’s not a pain, it’s a privilege voters in few states have. We are able to narrow down who it is we truly want to speak for us. Here in Texas we have that further say this week during early voting, on election day itself or through mail in voting. And the excuse about not voting in the runoff because you didn’t vote in the primary won’t work; any registered voter can vote in the primary runoff. If you did vote in one of the party’s primaries, you can only vote in the same party’s runoff.
Not too long ago, voting was a one-shot deal. If you didn’t get to your assigned polling place at some point during the day of the election you were out of luck. Today, we have a week of early voting with our choice of polling place within our county. In Austin where I live, there are 18 early voting spots – with more than half of them at grocery stores. Basically, I can do my voting duty and pick up the bananas and milk all at the same time. And those folks who can’t get around as easily because of their age or other reasons don’t even have to leave their homes. They can vote by mail. Finally, if you’re one of those who likes the thrill of election-day voting or you’re a procrastinator, you have from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the day of the election to cast your vote.
It’s easy to complain about politics, especially at the federal level where gridlock is an understatement. The tone of politics at home and in Washington, D.C., also doesn’t help. Politics, like football, is a contact sport and there’s going to be some ugliness, but that doesn’t mean we don’t show up to the game. It means we show up to the game and just make sure we cheer as loud as we can for our team. There are no excuses to stay on the sidelines for our primary runoffs and then our general election. Besides, I promise that all of the polling places this July will be air-conditioned.