Both mayoral candidates in the city of Mission are touting the possibility of a higher voter turnout for the City of Mission runoff election set for tomorrow, and they have the numbers to back it up.
According to unofficial results from the Hidalgo County Elections Department, 5,037 participated in early voting held from Tuesday, May 29 through Tuesday, June 5. This is an increase from the 4,664 people who participated in the early voting for the May 5 general election.
That election saw incumbent city of Mission Mayor Norbeto “Beto” Salinas receiving 49.97 percent of 6,174 ballots cast, falling just three votes shy of a majority win, according to the county elections department. His opponent, city of Mission councilman Armando O’caña, placed second with 41.63 percent of ballots cast while businessman Jaime Gutierrez placed a distant third.
Hidalgo City Manager Julian J. Gonzalez won about 42 percent of ballots cast for the Place 4 seat in the mission city council, meaning he’s facing off against attorney Gus Martinez in the runoff after Martinez received about 36 percent of the ballots.
The early voting counts for the runoff elections surpassed the counts for the general elections despite only lasting for one week, while the early voting cycle for the general election lasted eight days.
“Some of the people that should’ve voted in the [general election] didn’t go, and now that we were so close in winning we’re in a runoff,” Salinas said in a phone interview Wednesday. “The runoff has made it very enticing for more people to come out and invite others to vote.”
O’caña agreed with the mayor that the runoff served as a way to give potential voters a second chance if they missed out on voting during the May election. He argued that people may not have participated last month due to its closeness to the March primaries.
“It was probably overwhelming to a lot of people having to vote so many times,” O’caña said in a phone interview. “I think we will see an increase of total votes. I know approximately 1,500 people voted election day in the regular election, I estimate that number will increase by over 2,000 people on Saturday.”
Despite the potentially higher turnout, the votes will only represent a fraction of the 38,345 Mission residents who are registered to vote. At the May 5 general election, only 6,202 total votes were cast.
“I don’t want to use ‘voter apathy’ as the reason for a lack of participation, but it might be a possibility,” O’caña said, adding that as part of the campaign ads for the runoff election he’s focused on radio interviews and digital ads on Facebook. “We have people who don’t want to get involved in expressing their opinions as a voter…but voters need to wake up and express their opinion even if they are for or against me so we can have a mayor saying ‘I had 51 or more percent of all eligible voters, not just 51 percent of people who voted.’”
Salinas, meanwhile, said despite sending out television and print ads reminding people to vote Saturday, he is not worried about the low voter turnout. He argued the lack of more participation is good for the city.
“Everything is fine, there’s no problem in the city of Mission so when you have a city that is doing well with no problems…people are not going to vote because it is going fine,” Salinas said. “It’s always been like that, I’m fine with it. When you have everything running smoothly in the city. People are happy and just don’t vote.”
Election day is tomorrow from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. at the following locations: Bryan Elementary School at 1300 Elm Drive; Castro Elementary at 200 south Mayberry Street; Celestino Ramirez Fire Station #3 at 1804 N. Shary Road and Mission High School at 1802 Cleo Dawson Street.