By Praveen Sathianathan – Staff Writer

Comparison of election returns suggest LGBT voters turn out in higher numbers on average than straight counterparts, especially this year


Nov 2006    . 1233                3459        2429           70.22

        1234                2119          956           45.12
        3006                3895        1157           29.7
        3200                1925          633           32.88
        4421                1000          347           34.7
        4430                1339          536           40.03
        4434                1449          538           37.13
        4436                2244        1314           58.56

(Dallas County Turnout average, 34.23%)

March 2008  1233                3172        1354           42.68

 ..     1234                2024          829           40.95
       3006                3583        1269           35.41
       3200                1893          718           37.92
       4421                  934          405           43.36
        4430                1279          550           43
       4434                1370          573           41.82
       4436                2140        1112           51.96

Nov 2008      1233
                3459        2429           70.22

        1234                2198        1543           70.2

                  3006                3844        2105           54.76
              3200                2282        1377           60.34
              4421                  949          574           60.48
              4430                1341          812           60.65
                4434                1476          901           61.04
                4436                2212        1664           75.23
(Dallas County Turnout average, 61.47%)

It is evident from news reports the 2008 presidential elections brought more voters to the polls than ever before. In Texas, alone, early voting one-day totals at precincts across the state were broken.

As political parties begin to look at voting patterns across demographic lines, it is apparent some people are more consistently involved in the political process than others. And the LGBT community is one of them.

Last spring, San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc. found gay men and lesbians had greater voter participation rates than their straight counterparts.

According to the survey, 92.5 percent of gay men reported they had voted in the 2004 presidential race and 84 percent said they had voted in the 2006 elections. Among lesbians, there was also a high turnout, as almost 91 percent cast votes in the 2004 race and another 78 percent cast votes in the midterm elections.

The company, known as the global leader in gay and lesbian market research, compiled the results as part of a larger study on the interests of LGBT consumers. The study involved 12,000 gay men and 10,000 lesbians, and had a margin of error of 1 percent.

Despite the survey, the question remains, if the LGBT community is such an effective and vital part of the election process, how accurate are election results in the areas with large concentrations of LGBT residents as predictors of the LGBT vote?

Questions such as this have been raised often in recent years, as the number of gays and lesbians in areas previously thought of as LGBT enclaves has decreased and more heterosexuals have moved into more expensive and trendier condos in the areas.

On Cedar Springs in Dallass vibrant Oak Lawn district, long a hub of gay businesses and nightlife, the effect of the gay migration out of the "gayborhood" has been evident as businesses have closed and suffered financial losses over the years.

Despite the migration out of the area, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Jesse Garcia, said the neighborhood’s LGBT identity remains strong.

"As one gay moves out, there are others moving in. Despite the whole movement of people moving into the area, we still feel like Oak Lawn is a gay neighborhood," he said.

Garcia said his organization has identified four precincts in Oak Lawn and four precincts in Oak Cliff that consistently have a high representation of LGBT people. He said that through his involvement with voter registration drives, he was able to see common areas, such as the same street address or the same zip codes coming up consistently on voter registration cards filled out by LGBT people.

"There is no hard evidence to identify same-sex households through the voter registration process," Garcia acknowledged. "Until we have census trackers going door-to-door" more concrete numbers won’t be available.

Still, he said, certain precincts are safe bets to have high concentrations of LGBT voters.

"Through the years we started noticing lots of people in the Oak Cliff area who were active in the political movement," he said. "Several of our members also live in the area and they suggested we should mail information to people there.

Garcia said unlike Oak Lawn where straight people are moving into a predominantly gay area, Oak Cliff is a predominantly straight neighborhood that gay people are moving into. He pointed out that Latina lesbian Lupe Valdez, who was re-elected as Dallas County sheriff this week, lives in Oak Cliff.

Garcia said LGBT people tend to be very active participants in the voting process, confirming the findings of the CMI study.

"When you’re a minority group, who is always attacked, you’re always playing defense," he said. "We at Stonewall and other LGBT organizations emphasize registering voters. In 2006 we had ,7000 registered voters in Oak Lawn and now we have more than 11,000 registered voters."

Garcia said that according to unofficial numbers from Dallas County, two of the four Oak Lawn precincts had a higher voter turnout percentages than the overall turnout in Dallas County in this election.

According to the Dallas County election Web site, the overall voter turnout for the general election was 61.47 percent, compared to 70.22 percent from precinct 1233 and 70.2 percent from precinct 1234. Lagging behind the overall voter turnout percentages were Oak Lawn precincts 3006 with 54.76 percent and 3200 with 60.34 percent.

Bob Salasky, 46, of Oak Lawn said: "Oak Lawn has always been progressive and it will always be."

In Oak Cliff, three of the precincts identified to have large numbers of LGBT residents were slightly below the general voter turnout, but precinct 4436 was almost 14 percentage points ahead of the general voter turnout.

All the eight precincts in Dallas identified as LGBT-heavy precincts showed voting percentages in the 2008 general election to be consistently —and significantly — higher than turnout in those precincts in the 2004 general election, and in the 2008 primaries.

Stonewall member Jay Narey said results "show the cohesiveness of the LGBT community, whether it’s in the inner city or the periphery of the outer suburbs."

According to U.S. Census Bureau data from The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, in 2005, there were 579,968 gay, lesbian, and bisexual people living in Texas.

American Community Survey, a project of the Census Bureau, reports the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area has the seventh largest lesbian gay bisexual population of any city with 183,718 people. This number represents 3.5 percent of the population.

Garcia said he believes the actual LGBT probably is probably much higher than reported numbers.

"In Dallas we have four functioning gay Latino nightclubs, which makes me think there are a lot of undocumented Hispanics who are under the radar," he said.



This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 7, 2008.

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