Almost 35,000 El Pasoans cast early votes for Saturday’s elections – a record high turnout for an off-year election.

More than 33,000 of the voters live in the El Paso city limits, meaning they are eligible to vote on 11 proposed amendments to the City Charter, including Proposition K. Those ballots were cast during the early voting period from April 24 to May 2. 

Proposition K calls for the city government to expedite a path away from fossil fuels.

The early voting makeup suggests that Proposition K is unlikely to pass, barring an unusual surge in Election Day voting.

Just under half of the early voters in the City Charter election were over age 65, even though senior citizens make up only 21% of the city’s registered voters, an El Paso Matters analysis of voters showed. Only 5% of early voters were under age 30, although they’re 22% of the city’s registered voters.

The age makeup of the electorate could play a key role in the outcome of Proposition K, the Climate Charter amendment. People under 30 are more than twice as likely as those over 65 to support phasing out use of fossil fuels over time to rely completely on renewable energy resources, according to national polling. 

“I don’t see how Prop K passes without a major surge in young voters,” former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who supports the Climate Charter, said in an El Paso Matters op-ed last weekend.

Over the past week, volunteers with the Sunrise Movement, which worked to put Prop K on the ballot, have been using text messages and social media to get young people to vote.

“It’s our time to ensure that El Paso is part of the solution to climate change, protect the environment for future generations, and stop the long history of corporations poisoning our air and water,” the mass text message sent by Sunrise on Tuesday states. “Will you join us by voting for Prop K?”

Proposition K opponents, fueled by more than $1 million in contributions, continued to reach out to voters by TV and radio ads, billboards, text messages and other means.

Despite the social media blitz by proponents, other early voting signs point to trouble for Proposition K

The 10 precincts with the highest turnout – accounting for 14% of all votes cast in early voting in the city limits – all voted against a 2022 city bond issue to provide $5.2 million for modest efforts to study renewable energy and building efficiency. The bond issue narrowly passed citywide.

Most of the precincts with the highest turnout were more Republican leaning than El Paso as a whole. 

In seven of the 10 precincts with the most early voters, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott got more than 40% of the vote in his 2022 re-election win over O’Rourke. Abbott won 35% of the vote countywide.

Voters have one more chance to cast ballots. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at numerous vote centers across El Paso.

In recent elections in El Paso, two-thirds or more of all ballots have been cast in early voting.

Candidates in the Socorro ISD school board races line Marty Robbins Recreation Center in East El Paso with campaign signs ahead of the May 6 election. (Cindy Ramirez / El Paso Matters)

In addition to the City Charter propositions, voters in the El Paso, Socorro, Ysleta and Anthony school districts are electing board members. Anthony, Horizon City and San Elizario also are having municipal elections. 

The nearly 35,000 votes cast is the highest early voting total ever for an off-year election in El Paso, surpassing the 32,000 cast in the 2001 mayoral runoff, when Ray Caballero defeated Larry Francis.

In 2021, the last off-year election, only about 4,900 people cast early votes.

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986.