Texas voter turnout trends low, here’s what that means

Voter turnout in Texas is trending far below turnout four years ago, in the most recent Midterm Election.

As of Tuesday, 2.42 million ballots were cast during early voting in the Lone Star state, accounting for 14.5% turnout, according to the most recent L2 voter data. 

In 2018, 7.73 million people voted for a turnout of 46.3% turnout. 

With two full days remaining in early voting, numbers could trend toward higher turnout, but early voting would have to be quite robust to match 2018 turnout if trends from four years ago hold in this election.

Then, early voting accounted for more than 70% of overall turnout. That means that if no other early ballots were received, total turnout in the 2022 General Election would reach just 3.46 million ballots cast, fewer than half those cast in the 2018 General Election. While it’s almost certain more ballots will roll in before early voting closes on Friday, nearly 3 million more ballots would need to be cast during early voting to reach 2018 levels. 

In all likelihood, and based on historic trends, lower voter turnout is bad news for Democrats.

Lower turnout may stem from a variety of issues. Voter turnout in 2018 was 18 percentage points higher than in the 2014 Midterm General Election, an increase that outpaced the nation, which saw a 13 percentage point increase in turnout, according to the Texas Tribune. Then, voter engagement was higher than usual likely due to competitive races at the top of the ballot as Democrat Beto O’Roarke’s challenge to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz drew national attention amid what was expected to be a blue wave election. 

This year, O’Roarke is challenging Texas Governor Greg Abbott, but his race isn’t expected to be as competitive and it’s not drawing the same attention his Senate race did four years ago. Similarly, former President Donald Trump’s figurative presence is not on the ballot, a presence that increased turnout nationwide as stalwart supporters flocked to build a coalition to support him and frustrated critics turned out to defeat his agenda.

Texas also has restrictive voting laws, including stringent voter ID regulations that require identification to vote or proof of residence and a signed form swearing to a reasonable impediment to obtaining a photo ID. Such laws are widely accepted as a barrier to robust turnout.

Of those who have voted in Texas so far, more than 54% are Republicans, while just 41% were Democrats, though Texas is a modeled party affiliation state, which means voters don’t register with a party and are classified based on which political Primary they participated in. Still, in an election cycle where Republicans are wary of early voting because of unsubstantiated fears of voter fraud, the advantage among classified Republicans in early voting so far is noteworthy. 

Older voters, which tend to skew Republican, are also turning out at higher rates than younger voters. Of total turnout so far, nearly 40% has come from voters 65 and older and 31% came from those ages 50-64. Meanwhile, the youngest voters, those 18-29, accounted for just 7% of turnout, those 30-39 just 9% and those 40-49 13%.

Women may offer some good news, with nearly 52% of the ballots cast so far coming from that demographic, which may be more likely to vote for pro-reproductive choice Democrats. But, a new Wall Street Journal poll found Suburban White women have shifted support away from Democrats by a stunning 27 percentage points. That’s notable considering nearly 38% of ballots cast so far have come from suburban voters.

Urban voters, which tend to favor Democrats, have returned the most ballots, at 43%, while rural voters, more likely to vote for conservative candidates, have returned 19% of the ballots received so far. 

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