The Perils of Low Voter Turnout

Houston and Charlotte mayoral elections show the consequences of staying home

Two Southern cities serve as prime examples of how important it is to vote.


Houston elected Annise Parker as mayor in 2009. Parker won again in 2011 and 2013, giving her three straight two-year terms.

Parker, who is gay, championed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, also known as “the bathroom ordinance,” which would have required all businesses open to the general public to allow anyone to use bathrooms, locker rooms or other gender-specific facilities based on their self-professed gender identity, regardless of their biological sex.

The city council, encouraged and aided by the influential Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s most influential gay lobbying group, passed the ordinance in 2014, but after a petition campaign by pastors and a lengthy legal battle—during which the city attorney tried to subpoena sermons of opposing pastors—the matter was added to the ballot last November. Houston voters soundly defeated it.

But it might never have come to that if a candidate holding Biblical views had run for mayor, and if more Christians had actually voted. In Parker’s three mayoral victories, the turnout of registered voters was 16.57 percent, 13.2 percent and 18.32 percent, respectively.

Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte offers a similar cautionary tale. Last November, Jennifer Roberts won the general election for mayor by fewer than 3,600 votes—with only 14.76 percent of voters participating. More than 548,000 voters stayed home.

Charlotte followed Houston in enacting a similar ordinance—drafted, just as in Houston, with encouragement and help from the Human Rights Campaign—that would have opened the way for sexual predators to enter facilities of the opposite sex under the guise of transgenderism. The state responded with the law known as HB2, which nullified the city’s ordinance and has resulted in the loss of several high-profile events by organizations more concerned with political correctness than with the safety of women and children.

The events in Houston and Charlotte serve as powerful reminders of how a failure to vote can have serious, long-lasting consequences.

“Every vote matters,” says longtime evangelical pollster George Barna. “Not only do evangelicals have a Biblical responsibility to vote, but their failure to vote hands the reigns of government and public policy to people who vote for worldviews and values that we do not embrace.”