Robert Rivard Voted

Today was the last day of early voting in San Antonio, so I took a half hour out of my morning, strolled down the River Walk from the Weston Centre to the Bexar County Courthouse, and cast my vote for Mayor Julián Castro.

Next time someone, somewhere asks me about our high profile mayor, I’ll be able to say, “Yeah, I helped him get re-elected.” Okay, that might be something of a stretcher, even if technically true, but it makes me feel good to vote. The mayor would have breezed to re-election without me, but I like the idea of being part of something larger, something built one vote at a time. After all, he did have several opponents. You never know, you people who don’t bother to vote.

The good people in the basement tunnel of the courthouse, the early voting poll site, sat forlornly as I turned left at the Jury Room and headed their way.

“There’s a lot more people coming down to use the ATM machine than there are coming down to vote,” the gracious but bored poll worker told me.

The Express-News published a story today in which local officials expressed concern about the low turnout for early voting, which ends tonight at 8 p.m., this election, and the dearth of young voters at the polls. The early voting concept is supposed to appeal to young voters by making it more convenient. If we want young people to vote, we better figure out how to let them do it from their mobile device. Seriously.

Until recently, I always waited for Election Day to take in the campaign signs, the party workers, the friends and neighbors I’d encounter at the polls. It’s always been a privilege and a pleasure to cast my vote, especially in a world where so many people can’t freely choose their leaders. Most countries might have elections, but too many are neither free nor fair. Any U.S. citizen who has ever lived or worked abroad in countries ruled by regimes rather than the rule of law knows what I mean. I started voting early some years ago when business travel meant I’d be absent on Election Day. Since then, it’s become a habit.

I’ve asked several young people about not voting this time around, even though they uniformly support Castro. There is no doubt that negative advertising turns them off, and some sounded like they were still detoxing from the November campaign ads. But many seem apathetic. They’re really busy, they say.

If I were a local candidate looking for the young vote, I’d follow the food trucks. And I’d keep it positive.

One more point: I think election officials should list every candidate for office, even unopposed candidates. My City Councilman is Diego Bernal and I wanted to vote for him today. His name wasn’t on the ballot. I was told his re-election was automatic. How does someone win office without a single vote? My new school board representative will be Steve Lecholop, a lawyer with Cox/Smith. I like him and wanted to vote for him as he replaces Ruben Cuero, who decided not to seek-re-election. But Lecholop is running unopposed so his name is not on the ballot. He, too, apparently wins without a vote.

There have been times when I’ve passed over an unopposed candidate listed on the ballot, letting my non-vote send a message of no-confidence. Now that’s not an option. This time, however, my votes for Bernal and for Lecholop would have been votes in confidence, one for a job well done in City Council, and the other a vote of educated optimism.

Congratulations, Mayor Castro and City Councilman Bernal. This has been the most progressive City Council in contemporary history in my view, and I hope the incumbents win re-election. Some are better than others, but a lot can be accomplished in the next two years.  One note of farewell: This city will miss District Eight City Councilman Reed Williams. His maturity, experience and financial acumen served voters well in all districts. I hope he finds a way to stay in public life. Hard to say who will win his seat. Williams has endorsed engineer Rolando Brioñes, who has been hammered in a series of front-page Express-News stories detailing ethical violations. Radio station executive Ron Nirenberg has campaigned hard to win the seat, but my guess is, well, I shared it with some friends on a bike ride this weekend and will stay out of it until the voting  is finished.

You can still vote Saturday, people.

Follow Robert Rivard on Twitter @rivardreport or on Facebook.

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is editor of the San Antonio Report.