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).
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.
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.