EL PASO, Texas - The number of El Pasoans who turned out to elect a mayor was the lowest in 16 years.
Only 30,085 voters cast a ballot in the contest between former state Rep. Dee Margo and businessman David Saucedo. Margo took 57 percent of the vote, or 17,148.
The low number of votes wasn't only due to people who didn't go to the polls. The number of voters who stood at the ballot box and chose to skip the mayoral race was a staggering 1,106 -- almost three times the number of undervotes in the May General Election a month before and by far the highest in the past 4 mayoral races.
The head of El Paso's Democratic Party, Chairwoman Iliana Holguin urged Democrats to cast an undervote in the race. The two men vying for the seat, Margo and Saucedo, were not connected to the party, have voted Republican in the past and espouse conservative values.
"This is another example of party over the people," Saucedo told ABC-7 on the days leading up to the election. "And at a moment when voter apathy is at an all-time high and people need to come out and vote, to be advocating for something like that is really unfortunate. And I believe the people of El Paso deserve better."
Holguin says she wasn't advocating, she just wanted voters to know there was another option. She also said she never thought voting was not important.
"We're not telling people not to vote or to stay home. We want them to come out and vote," she said, "but they can certainly not choose to vote for those particular candidates if they don't believe that they represent their personal beliefs."
In El Paso, the municipal election is non-partisan, that is, candidates do not declare a party. Margo said that allows people to focus on who the best candidate is.
"it should not have any basis whether we are Republican or Democrat from our prior lives or our historical voting preferences," he said.
The mayoral race hasn't had that high a number of undervotes in the past decade. The closest number came in 2005 when businessman Joe Wardy beat then-Northeast City Representative John Cook. That year, 585 voters skipped the race. In 2009 and 2013, the number of undervotes were 339 and 367, respectively.
"I think anytime an elected official sees that there's a large number of people that took the time to go to the polls and register their vote but chose not to vote for them...I think that's a way to hold elected officials accountable and I think that's exactly what we have to do now with Mr. Margo," Holguin said.