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Waving Back At The Women’s Wave

My campaign friends may not appreciate this admission, but I didn’t early vote in the Texas primary. I was at the polls on Election Day. And despite having worked on and for political campaigns which always push for folks to vote early (just in case you keel over dead beforehand), I really like to vote on the day itself and as late as possible to get a sense of how the voting went.

So late Tuesday afternoon, my nephew and I headed out to vote, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of going to vote with my mother and my sister in a long ago Texas primary. I remember how excited we were that year to vote in the hotly contested Democratic race for the gubernatorial nomination.

Imagine a three-way contest that included the Attorney General and a former governor trying to make a political comeback. But we were all voting for the state treasurer; her name was Ann Richards.

The three of us went to the neighborhood elementary school which served as the polling place. Getting inside the building, I could see the line that had formed in the school auditorium of people waiting to take their place at one of about a dozen voting booths. And, in a piece of Dallas serendipity, we were checking in right as Stanley Marcus, who lived a few blocks away, was leaving.

Once we got our ballots, I began to shepherd my crew to the auditorium to vote when the poll worker called out, “Y’all are here for the Democratic primary, right? Only the Republicans are voting in the auditorium.” And, as it turned out, the Democrats were voting in the lobby, where a single, lonely voting booth was available for our use.

And as it turned out, Mother, Linda and I were Democratic voters 12, 13, and 14 in the precinct at the tail end of Election Day. I had to wonder who the other 10 voters were, besides us and Mr. Marcus. A rather glaring reminder that we had moved into a very Republican neighborhood.

Fast forward 28 years, and my nephew and I find ourselves running a gauntlet of poll greeters before getting to the polls. We’re not voting at the school, but rather at a recreation center where polling for three precincts has been combined to save money.

And this time, there’s a line about 12 deep to get a ballot. And then there’s another line about the same length for a place at one of about a dozen polling booths. As I wait, I can’t help but notice that most of the voters in line are female. And when my completed ballot goes into the reader, it is logged as number 605. Even considering the precinct combination, that’s a long way from 12, 13 and 14. (In fact, there were well over 300 Democratic primary voters in my precinct.)

As to the results, I’ve not seen any demographic breakdowns of who the voters were in this week’s primary, so I can’t say conclusively that women participated in larger numbers than usual. But, in Dallas County, female candidates won out right or moved into runoffs in race after race against male competition. Some beat two or even three men in one fell swoop.

It’s not clear what any of this means for the general election in November. Texas is the first primary, and we’ll have to see what happens in the rest of the country. But what is clear is women voters will be determining what all this means. That is, if and when they show up.

While the pundits and prognosticators will talk about the “Blue Wave” and compare the enthusiasm of Democrats to Republicans, I’ll be keeping an eye on this “Women’s Wave.” And if voter participation among women has or does increase, female voters will have the lion’s share of determining who gets elected, who makes the laws, who applies the laws in courtrooms, and so forth and so on.

And should these two waves converge (if they haven’t already), things are going to get really interesting up in here. Really interesting.