Gay political leader attributes heavy voting in 5 precincts to LGBT community activism
It’s estimated that LGBT voter turnout for June 16’s runoff election was almost double that of the general election on May 12.
Among the five precincts that Stonewall Democrats considers to be “heavily populated with GLBT community,” turnout was at 29.3 percent, with 2,600 out of 8,872 registered voters casting their ballots. This is two and a half times higher than the overall turnout of 12.85 percent and almost two times the 15.93 percent estimated LGBT turnout in the first election.
Jesse Garcia, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, credits the increase in LGBT neighborhood precincts to “strong, charismatic and viable candidates like Ed Oakley and Joseph Hernandez,” but he also says that community activism played a huge role in increasing poll attendance.
In his explanation of the increase, he lists everything from Stonewall’s constant presence on the Cedar Springs strip from January through June, registering voters and reminding them of the elections, to businesses on the strip that stuffed early voting reminders in their bags.
“It was a beautiful community effort that stressed the importance of voting,” Garcia said. Even though Garcia is happy to see increased numbers show up to vote, he has mixed feelings about the turnout.
“I’m very pleased to see that more people were more emotionally invested in this election,” he said. “Unfortunately, we needed more of us in greater numbers, along with our straight allies that appreciate our community, to come out and vote. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people are able to come together during a Pride parade held on a hot September day, but for some reason a rainy Saturday in June was too much for some of us to show our pride at the polls.”
Longtime LGBT activist Mike Lo Vuolo was fuming about turnout after the first election, and he still is now.
“It’s nice to think that 100 percent more people got out and voted, but it’s no where near where we need to be,” he said. “For a community that doesn’t have the same civil rights as everyone else in this country, 30 percent is a disgusting turnout.”
To stress his point, Lo Vuolo directs attention to the fact that because of this election, an LGBT person won’t be sitting at the horseshoe for the first time in 14 years.
“It there is anything good to come out of this election, hopefully it will be that since we lost, people will wake up and make them realize that whether or not they get out and vote does make a huge difference,” Lo Vuolo said.
“The LGBT community needs to realize that just because we have gay bars, gay characters on T.V. and don’t get bashed over the head on a daily basis doesn’t mean we have freedom,” he said.
“We are not free. We can be legally discriminated against in work, housing and hospitals throughout the state. People need to register to vote, vote early, drag your friends to vote on Election Day, volunteer on campaigns and contribute whatever they can. That is how elections are won.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 22, 2007.