Red State? Texas’ Status as a Non-voting State Creates Opportunity for Democrats
Three Actions Democrats Must Embrace to Make Texas Blue, Part One
Voting in Texas: A 2016 Summary
In the 2016 Presidential primary, Texas ranked 42nd out of 50 states for voter turnout. A sad state of affairs, but an excellent opportunity for Democrats hoping to turn this apparent red state blue, or at least purple. In the general Presidential election, despite more actual voters turning out over 2008 (~800,000 more voters, in fact), the actual percentage of voters that voted (compared to the voter-age population, or VAP) dropped from 46.1% in 2008 to 42.6% in 2016 (Texas Tribune). When less than half of eligible voters are voting in elections, this is opportunity for Democrats.
How can Guadalupe County Democrats take advantage of this opportunity? There are three key actions we must take if we are to elect more Texas Democrats into office:
- Voter registration drives
- Voter ID law education
- Getting out the vote
In Guadalupe County, specifically, our voter-age population is approximately 119,596, according to a recent Texas Tribune article. Out of that number, only approximately 57,534 votes were cast in the 2016, or 48.11% of potential voters. This was down slightly from 2012 (48.23%) and significantly down from 2008 (55.08%.) It’s also worth noting that out of 119,596 voting-age persons, only were only 93,935 registered voters for the 2016 elections in Guadalupe County. That’s 78.5% of the voting-age population, though the actual voting-eligible population is slightly lower.
78.5% isn’t a low number; but it is lower than Texas as a whole. According to electproject.org, there are approximately 20,671,564 voting-age people in Texas, of which 17,396,296 are likely voting-eligible. In 2016, only about 8,975,000 voters turned out for the general election, or 51.6%. There are actually 15 million Texans registered to vote, representing 82% of all voting-eligible people. In Guadalupe County, we have room for improvement.
Of course, while voter registration drives are necessarily non-partisan events, that doesn’t mean we can’t work them in our favor. County Democratic Chairs and active participants in the party can help local groups identify neighborhoods and towns that lean blue. By targeting such locations, we can hopefully increase the number of registered Democrats.
Voter ID Law Education and Assistance
Helping Texas citizens understand the current Texas Voter ID law is vital to improving voter turnout and ensuring voter ballots count; best of all, much can be done at the same time as voter registration drives! While many Democrats would agree that restrictive voter ID laws are primarily instituted as voter suppression tools that unfairly target minorities, as long as the laws are in place, compliance is necessary to ensure our votes count. Here are a few ways local Democratic groups can educate and help Texas voters overcome Voter ID restrictions:
- Hand out Texas Voter ID Fact Sheets (here is one you can use: English Spanish) at voter registration drives, democratic party or candidate events, and online through social media. In addition, here is a great guide for Volunteer Deputy Registrars to read and use during a Voter Registration Drive: Providing Identification for Voting in Texas
- Create additional flyers that include information/instructions on how non-drivers, students and others can obtain state-issued ID, such as Texas election ID certificate, Texas personal ID card, US Citizen certificate with photograph and/or passport.
- Consider holding a fundraiser to create a fund to help local financially-challenged voters afford a valid ID
Voter registration drives and Voter ID Law education are two very important steps toward shifting Texas from a non-voting state to a blue state. However, neither action will have any impact at all without a concerted effort to get out the Democratic vote during election time. Stay tuned for Part Two of this post to learn more actions we can take to help Get Out the Vote!