Texas Elects First Independent in More Than Half a Century

The last time voters sent an independent to the Texas Legislature was more than half a century ago. This means that yesterday's special election to temporarily fill the House District 120 seat, which was vacated when longtime local lawmaker Ruth Jones McClendon retired earlier this year, was an historic election with what appears to be remarkably low voter turnout. 

Unofficial returns last night showed that Independent Laura Thompson, a freelance writer, beat local insurance agent Lou Miller for the honors of filling the remainder of McClendon's unexpired term, which is up in January. Voters in November will decide who represents HD 120 after that—when there's actual lawmaking to be done. (Thompson has already qualified to appear on the November ballot as an Independent.)

While Tuesday's election wasn't exactly high stakes, it was worth watching for one other reason: it was the first election to take place under new voting regulations after the federal Fifth Circuit appeals court ruled that Texas' current voter ID law couldn't stand because it discriminates against minorities.   
Voter ID, as it turns out, was a non-issue in Tuesday's special election. The Texas Tribune reports that county election officials say none of the 1,220 people who voted in the race needed to use any of the provisional options established by the court—all had forms of ID mandated under Texas' law, which the courts have ruled violates the Voting Rights Act. 

The Trib reports that Legislative Reference Library records show that the last time an Independent served under the pink dome was in 1959 (a Fort Worth Democrat who briefly flipped to Independent before flopping back to Democrat for the rest of his legislative career), which means that Tuesday's otherwise sorta-worthless election actually managed to kinda make history. 


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