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Michael Li posted an interesting chart showing voter turnout in Texas since 1926:

In 1926, for example, 821,234 Texans voted in the Democratic primary -  at a time when the state had just barely over 5.4 million residents.
Contrast that to the 546,523 Texans who voted in the 2014 Democratic primary in a state that now is home to over 26 million people and more than 13.6 million registered voters.

And about 1.3 million voted in the 2014 Republican primary compared to the 821,234 voters in the 1926 primary (obviously the Republican Party wasn’t exactly a force to be reckoned with in 1926).
Overall, Texas ranks dead last in voter turnout and 47th in voter registration (Source).
There’s a lot to digest in those numbers.

Michael Li posted an interesting chart showing voter turnout in Texas since 1926:

In 1926, for example, 821,234 Texans voted in the Democratic primary -  at a time when the state had just barely over 5.4 million residents.

Contrast that to the 546,523 Texans who voted in the 2014 Democratic primary in a state that now is home to over 26 million people and more than 13.6 million registered voters.

And about 1.3 million voted in the 2014 Republican primary compared to the 821,234 voters in the 1926 primary (obviously the Republican Party wasn’t exactly a force to be reckoned with in 1926).

Overall, Texas ranks dead last in voter turnout and 47th in voter registration (Source).

There’s a lot to digest in those numbers.

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From 2008 to 2012, Colorado’s voter registration rose by 443,943 new voters (or 13.8%) and had the nation’s 2nd highest turnout behind Minnesota. The state also saw a 65 percent increase in mail ballot returns - credited to the electronic ballot delivery system and the extended grace period (8 days after Election Day).

On Election Day, Pres Obama defeated Mitt Romney by about 5 percentage points and won Colorado’s 9 electoral votes (Source).

(h/t: Michael Li)

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Voter ID and Poll Taxes

During the debate over Voter ID, which I have endured ever since I began working in and around the Pink Building (about a decade now), photo ID requirements have been compared to poll taxes; the implication being that photo ID requirements would have a similar effect on turnout.

So, what were the effects of the poll taxes? In Texas, after the implemention of the poll tax, turnout dropped by over one-third (Wilkison, p. 169). In 1904, Cecil Lyon, a TX Republican leader, wrote to Theodore Roosevelt that “out of a colored population of some 650,000 not more than 25,000 qualified voters” (Barr, pp. 207-08). It should be noted that V.O. Key noted a sharp decline in Texas voter turnout began prior to the poll tax (Key, p. 534-35).

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Texas Run-Off: Voter Turnout

Early vote turnout for the Republican primary run-off was not far off the mark of the regular primary, and we saw the same with the total turnout.

During the regular primary, 1.4 million people voted, and during the run-off, 1.11 million people voted. Early voters (549,993) represented 49.5 percent of the total turnout [slightly higher than the 48 percent in the regular primary]. 

This year’s statewide run-off had the 2nd lowest drop off between run-off turnout and primary turnout, behind only the 1972 run-off between Ralph Yarborough and Barefoot Sanders, out of the 11 such statewide primaries held since 1950 (Source).

Conventional wisdom suggested the high turnout would benefit Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, since it was thought low turnout would play into the hands of activists/movement conservatives who were supporting Ted Cruz. But conventional wisdom, which proved right during the regular primary, was proved wrong during the run-off, as Cruz beat Dewhurst by 13.6 points (56.8 to 43.2 percent).

Public Policy Polling’s final poll of the TX Senate race [pdf] showed Cruz with a 10 point lead in the race, including a 15 point lead among those who already voted (the actual results for early voting were 52.9 to 47 in favour of Cruz). A lot of interesting numbers in the PPP poll showing where support for each candidate was coming from that might have some bearing on future GOP primaries, but I’ll leave that for another time.

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Texas Primary: A Look at Turnout

In a prior post, we looked at the early vote numbers in the 15 most populous counties. In the Republican primary, there were 692,866 people who voted in early in the Presidential election, which was 48 percent of the total 1.4 million people (11 percent of registered voters) who voted in the Presidential primary. In the Democratic primary, there were 303,203 people who voted in early in the Presidential election. which was 52 percent of the total 587,146 (4.5 percent of registered voters) who voted in the Presidential election.

How does this compare to prior years? In the 2010 Republican primary, 1.5 million people voted, which represented 11.4 percent of registered voters, and in the 2008 Republican primary, 1.4 million people voted, which represented 10.7 percent of registered voters (Source). Turnout for the 2010 Democratic primary was 680,548 (5.2 percent of registered voters) and 2.9 million (22.54 percent of registered voters) in the 2008 Democratic primary (same source). [Note: voting age population percentages are obviously lower than the registered voter percentages cited].

While turnout has been bemoaned as low and blamed on the lack of competition in the Presidential race, the statewide turnout for the Republican primary has actually been comparable to 2008 and 2010 when there were competitive races for President and Governor respectively. The Democratic primary similarly returned to a norm; the 2008 primary would be the exception due to the excitement over the contest and the belief that Texas would have an impact on the race.

You can see the results for all the races here; many will be decided two months from now, since we’re going to have some run-off elections.

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While perusing one of the political forums I lurk on, I saw this op-ed from the New York Times posted for discussion. There wasn’t much discussion on the topic, but I had some thoughts on the op-ed.

The author of the editorial has placed a lot of emphasis on race, but race is only incidental (more minorities support Democrats); I think anyone would be hard pressed to prove race as the cause for these proposals. The real issue is partisanship and a genuine, if mistaken, belief in the abundance of in-person voter fraud.

A couple of other quibbles with the op-ed: 1) I haven’t heard of efforts in other states to reduce early voting, nor does the author produce any, so it hardly seems there is a well-coordinated effort across the country; and 2) there was never really a period when people wanted more people to vote (incumbents generally don’t like high turnout). Indeed, early voting may depress voter turnout.
 
Further complicating the author’s argument is that one of his sources - the Early Voting Information Center - actually praises the Georgia early voting legislation - Georgia improves its early voting system - saying that “it reduces any possibility of inequities in access to the ballot based on a county’s wealth, geographic size, or population.”

My own state - Texas - was an early pioneer in early voting. And with each election the number of early voters goes up. In the past several elections, the number of Republicans who have been showing up to early vote has been growing as well, particularly in the last election cycle. However, the overall turnout has not increased. From my own experience, Texas Republicans have done a fair job of encouraging their voters to show up at the polls during early voting.
 
With all this in mind, the only actual obstruction to voting would appear to be voter identification requirements, because restricting the early voting period would not appear to have a negative impact on voter turnout (considering that early voting itself may depress turnout). At this point, I do not believe we have had a sufficient number of elections and data to determine the effect of voter ID requirements. See also this study from the Election Law Journal: "Modeling Problems in the Voter Identification—Voter Turnout Debate". The author of the editorial is making several bold claims - all of which are lacking in evidence.