On Saturday, El Paso Voters will go out to cast their votes for the city council run-off election for districts 1,6 and 8. The most contention race has become the district 6 race between incumbent Claudia Lizette Rodriguez and challenger Peter Art Fierro. Since November 30th, El Paso voters in the three districts have cast their votes during the early voting period, which ended on Tuesday. El Paso News analyzed the voting data for the early voting period. This is what we found.
During the early voting period, 6,337 ballots were cast. Of those ballots, 3,067 voters voted in district 1. District 1 is the runoff between Brian Kennedy and Analisa Silverstein. In the district 8 race between Chris Canales and Bettina Olivares, 1,606 ballots were cast. It is the district 6 seat between the incumbent Claudia Rodriguez and the challenger Art Fierro that is the most closely watched race. In that contest, 1,662 votes were cast during the early voting period.
The last time a city council contest had a runoff election was in 2020. In that contest Oscar Leeser faced off against Dee Margo. Two city council seats were also forced into a runoff. They were the Alexandra Annello versus Judy Gutierrez for Annello’s district 1 seat, and Joe Molinar versus Sam Morgan for Molinar’s district 4 seat. In that election, 39,678 voters cast a ballot during the early voting period.
In January 2020 there was a runoff for the district 6 seat, currently held by Rodriguez. On January 25, 2020, Rodriguez faced off against Debbie Torres to replace Claudia Ordaz Perez who resigned her city council seat to run for the Texas House of Representatives, which she won. During the December 2019 special election, Rodriguez led the election with 28% of the vote out of four candidates, where 1,070 ballots were cast.
In the January 2020 runoff, 1,215 ballots were cast. Rodriguez won by 75 votes (645-570). In the Rodriguez versus Torres contest, 835 votes were cast, out of the 1,070 cast in total that election day. Slightly over 78% of the ballots cast were cast during the early voting period. For the current runoff in district 6, in early voting, 1,662 ballots have been cast.
According to our analysis of the voting records, it appears that the uptick in voters this election cycle in the district 6 contest is led by a slight higher-than-normal turnout by the Democratic Party after this city council election became partisan. This has also resulted in higher than normal ballots cast by voters who identify as Republicans. The data suggests that as high as 20% of the ballots cast in the Fierro-Rodriguez faceoff have been cast by Republican voters in early voting.
Should the Republican trend continue Saturday, Election Day, where Republicans are likely to turnout in greater numbers, their votes may end up determining who wins on election night. Because of the partisan nature of the race, Rodriguez is likely to benefit from the uptick of Republican voters.
Exit polling shows that the race between Fierro and Rodriguez is close, with about 6 to 8 points separating the two candidates.
The early voting period ballots include those cast by mail. In the district 1 race, 459, or 21% voted by mail. In the district 8 race, 414, or 27% of the votes were sent by mail. And in the district 6 race, 438 ballots, or 27% were cast by mail. In the district 8 race, two ballots came from México and one each from Hong Kong, Germany and Trinidad and Tobago.
The early voting period ended on Tuesday. Election Day is on Saturday. El Paso News will be watching the results and will report the results as soon as they become available.
Disclosure: Candidate Claudia Rodriguez contracted technical support from the author’s technology company. These services are provided separately from the publication and have no influence on our reporting.