A slow and steady stream of voters shuffled in and out of Como Community Center May 1. Some came for school board races, others had their eyes on making a difference in their district’s city council race. 

“We always try to vote,” Kim Sallinger, who voted at the center with his wife Sophie, said. Even during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pair made sure to head over to the polls and cast a ballot. 

The community center, which sits in the 76107 ZIP code, was among the busiest polling sites in Fort Worth through the early voting period that ended May 2. 

While early voters interviewed by the Fort Worth Report say they try to vote in every election, the percentage of Fort Worth residents showing up at the polls varies from one ZIP code to another. An analysis of voter registration shows that more affluent areas of Fort Worth tend to have a higher number of residents registered to vote. 

Municipal elections are coming up. Here’s what you need to know:

Election Day is May 6, you can confirm your registered to vote, find out where you should vote, and get a sample ballot here.   
If you’re still deciding who to vote for, you can see candidate surveys for City Council, water district board and FWISD here.

Russ Fleischer, who voted in one of the most affluent and active ZIP codes, participates consistently in local elections. He said he enjoys the ease of early voting at the nearby Como community center, and recognized that voting is not so easily accomplished in other areas of the city.   

“We should make it easy for people to vote,” Fleischer said. “I just would like to see a continued moderating presence in our general local government. That’s what brings me out.”  

Marisa Mercer, with an ‘I voted’ sticker newly pressed onto her shirt, shared why she feels it’s important to show up to the polls for municipal elections, when voter turnout is historically at its lowest.  At the end of early voting, 69,211 ballots had been cast, accounting for 5.7% of registered voters.

“These are the important elections,” Mercer, who lives in the 76107 Crestwood neighborhood, said after casting her ballot with her husband at the Tarrant County Plaza Building in downtown Fort Worth. ​​

When asked what drove early voters to the polls, residents had consistent views: Concerns about the city’s infrastructure and school board elections. 

Affluent neighborhoods boast more registered voters 

The 76107 ZIP code has the largest percentage of registered voters relative to its population out of all Fort Worth ZIP codes, according to an analysis of the 2023 Tarrant County voter rolls by the Fort Worth Report. Sixty-seven percent of the ZIP code’s population is registered to vote.

Anne Hufstetler, who lives in Ridglea Hills, is not surprised that her area is among the most highly registered to vote in the city. 

“If you’re gonna live in the community, then I think you should participate in it,” Hufstetler said. 

She chose to vote at Como Community Center, in 76107, due to its close proximity to her neighborhood.

Fort Worth’s Cultural District, Arlington Heights neighborhood and Como neighborhood all fall within the ZIP code. The area has a median household income of $73,102, higher than most Fort Worth ZIP codes. 

The 76107 ZIP code also includes Westover Hills, where the average market value of a house is $2.1 million – among the highest in the state. 

Research on the connection between income and voter registration has shown that in many communities, residents in medium- and high-income brackets register to vote at a higher rate than those in low-income brackets. 

The 76135, which includes the Lake Worth region, and 76123 ZIP codes follow close behind, with about 61% of their population registered to vote. The 76123 ZIP code includes Hulen Springs Meadow and parts of Crowley ISD. Both areas have a higher median income than the city’s average. 

A majority of voters the Report spoke with were casting ballots in District 7, which includes some of the ZIP codes with the highest percentage of registered voters.

Carol Portwood, who voted at the county’s plaza building in downtown, said her top priority is restricting short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods. 

“I was born here. I want to die here. I want to protect our town,” Portwood said. “I want to protect the welcoming atmosphere that we have.”

High voter registration numbers don’t always translate to high municipal turnout

ZIP code 76107 has the largest percentage of registered voters in Fort Worth, and had the second largest percentage of voters who participated in the May 2021 municipal election. 

But when it comes to municipal elections, even the most active ZIP codes see their participation dwindle compared to general elections. In the 2021 municipal election, about 24% of 76107’s registered voters participated, compared to 60% in the 2022 general election.

Fort Worth’s low voter turnout at municipal elections has been an ongoing problem through the years. In the May 2021 election, only 14% of registered voters cast a ballot.

In 76123, voters casting their ballots at North Crowley High School said that their neighborhood is highly motivated to get involved with issues involving their schools and community. 

Jamie Majors, who is a Fort Worth resident with three kids going to school in Crowley ISD, said that infrastructure is a top priority for her when making decisions about city elections.

“I am all for infrastructure, building up Fort Worth if that makes it more accessible for kids and stuff,” Majors said. “You can walk down the street, have a sidewalk, and then it just disappears.” 

Joint-reserve base, TCU campus among the lowest in voter registration

The early voting location at the James Avenue Service Center in the 76115 ZIP code in south Fort Worth was mostly empty on May 1. The polling place’s ZIP code includes the area around La Gran Plaza, and has one of the lowest voter registration rates in the city. 

The area has a median income of $43,211, lower than the city’s average. Just 405 people voted at the James Avenue Service center during early voting, while Como Community Center, in 76107, saw 2,053 voters. 

However, the Fort Worth ZIP code with the lowest voter registration numbers doesn’t fit conventional wisdom about income’s correlation to voter registration. 

Despite a median income of $96,544, only around 5% of the 76127 ZIP code’s population are registered to vote in Tarrant County. The ZIP code encompasses the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth. Voting can be more complicated for military members, who frequently must request absentee ballots when they’re assigned to a location that’s different from their voting residence.

The ZIP code with the second lowest percentage of registered voters is 76129, which encompasses the Texas Christian University campus. There, 8% of residents are registered to vote in Tarrant County. Similar to military members, some of the reasons can likely be attributed to out-of-state students voting in their home state; 1,608 TCU students have a home residence in California, while hundreds of other students are spread across Illinois, Colorado, Missouri and other states. 

Other students say they don’t feel like they have enough information to head to the polls. Andy Mendez, a senior at TCU, said for most of the election cycle, he wasn’t aware there was a municipal election to begin with. TCU does not have an early voting or Election Day voting location on campus.

Mendez said he’d also be more interested in voting in local elections if he saw more emphasis on issues that affect college students like him.

“Off the top of my head, a focus on safety on campus, I know there’s been some incidents,” he said. “Tackling issues of mental health a little more, as it’s been an issue on our campus and other people the last few months.”

In elections where double digit votes can mean the difference between a win and a loss, turnout becomes essential, Mercer, who voted downtown, said. Even when she feels cynical about the direction of the city, she plans to keep showing up. 

“That’s the only thing we can do,” she said. 

How we analyzed voter ZIP code data

The Fort Worth Report requested the updated voter roll in Tarrant County, and then filtered that roll to only include Fort Worth ZIP codes. From there, we counted the number of active registered voters in each ZIP code, and compared that number to the total population in each ZIP code.

ZIP codes that were primarily in another city, like Euless, were excluded from the analysis. The remaining ZIP codes were then sorted by the highest and lowest percentage of registered voters relative to their populations to determine which ZIP codes are most and least active at the polls. Population numbers were taken from the five year American Community Survey.

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Emily Wolf is a local government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Round Rock, Texas, she spent several years at the University of Missouri-Columbia majoring in investigative...

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report in collaboration with KERA. She is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri where she majored in Journalism and Political...