Thursday, November 06, 2014

The early take on turnout

Harris County results and analysis forthcoming.  First a word on electorate participation.

I thought the efforts made by the BGTX in Harris County and the rest of the state -- in conjunction and sometimes in conflict with the infrastructure provided by the HCDP and chair Lane Lewis, his lieutenant Chris Young, the myriad of volunteer workers in both organizations who walked blocks and made phone calls in the weeks and even months leading up to November 4 -- were substantial and a significant improvement over years past.  I thought that because I participated in them, saw the hard work being done, and even did a little of it myself.

But the results simply don't support the premise that they -- we -- made a difference in the historical record.  We may have made a difference if we could compare the results we got to results we would have gotten if no effort had been expended, or if the efforts we made were short-circuited as they have been in the recent past.  But we cannot, of course, do that.

We could blame some of it on photo ID legislation, or even the evisceration of the VRA by the SCOTUS.  But we don't know how much that might have affected turnout because essentially all we have is anecdotal data.  That's why the litigation rests upon interpretation of the law's effects by either a liberal judge ("harsh undue burden") or a conservative one ("personal responsibility").  From the beginning of this year, I blogged repeatedly that Democrats should not wait for the courts to come to their rescue in this regard; that they should actively assist new as well as old voters with the documentation to get themselves legal.  We won't know for awhile, and may never know for certain, if that was an effort which fell short and actually dented turnout.

I do not think that Dave Mann of the Texas Observer has an accurate premise here, either.

Update: Socratic Gadfly disagrees.  He and I rarely do.

What is accurate to say is that Democrats stayed home in droves across the United States, and more so in Texas and certainly in Harris County.  But as it turns out and as Charles is alluding, so did Republicans.  So my own premise -- still in need of some empirical support itself -- is that Houstonians and Texans and Americans are becoming less and less engaged in the electoral process for any variety of reasons.  Declining voter turnout is the only evidence I have beyond anecdotal at this time.

It's remarkable to me that so many Texans -- such a huge number of Americans -- just simply don't care about elections, candidates, issues, and so on.  And I don't have any suggestions to address this seemingly widespread apathy any more than anybody else does.  Having written that, I have some better understanding -- acquired during this cycle -- about those liberals and progressives who have quit on the process and given up on the system.  And that leads me to posit that a much larger group of people, thinking less about matters of the public interest than the rest of us, are similarly tuned out.  But theirs seems more out of disinterest than it does hostility.

Just an early observation.  Going to have to think about it some more before I know what to think about it.

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