Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Can Texas Democrats win in 2014 just by increasing the female vote?

The short answer is 'no', but let's dig a little deeper.

The above is a bar graph that Michael Li posted on his FB page a couple of days ago (by the way, he has the best public forum around on Texas politics and if you're not following him there and on Twitter then you're missing out). I responded: "So the way I read this is: women already registered to vote in Texas can easily elect Wendy Davis governor... if they will just show up at the polls and do so."

Li's response was that it isn't quite that simple. After crunching a few numbers I am forced to agree, but since he posted it to "suggest opportunity", let's explore that.

(I'm not going to post any more charts, graphs, or spreadsheets, and we already know math isn't my strongest subject, so if somebody wants to challenge my premise, I'll welcome that discussion in the comments.)

Without having access to Li's precise figures, I have to extrapolate from the bars above to determine what the potential Democratic gain might be, given some other assumptions like: "Can 10% of the registered but not voting women in the 18-24 age bracket be motivated to cast a ballot, or should a more reasonable goal be increasing  existing turnout by that percentage?" The difference in this case is 25,000 versus almost 70,000. And not all of those will be Democratic votes, of course; the split goes more red the older the demographic.

And there's got to be a lot of rounding and estimating, which clouds our analysis. I'm thinking I can still reach a more accurate conclusion than Dr. Mark Jones of Rice University, however.

So let's open with the following parameters.

-- Increasing existing turnout by a factor of 10% is perhaps the most liberal and the most conservative goal for Dems to realize. It might be greater in the younger demographics and less in the older ones, so this will be used as the average.

-- The percentage of Democratic votes in this increase should be fairly high. I don't think the Republican women (or for that matter, men) who did not vote in 2012 have much to grow on, no matter what Phylliss Schlafly says. Not in the country, not in Texas. Still, I'm going to use a conservative estimate of the potential increase for the Ds: 75% for the 18-24 and 25-34 demographics, 67% for 35-49, 60% for 50-64, and 50% for 65+.

So on that basis, what do we have?

-- In the age range from 18-24, it looks like about three-quarters of 25,000 votes, or 18,750.

-- From 25-34, 75% of 10% of almost 600,000 (we'll call it 575K) = 43,125 Democratic votes.

-- 35-49: Ten percent of 1.1 million women who voted in 2012 is 110,000 and two-thirds of that is 73,700.

-- Texas female voters from age 50-64 total over 1.3 million according to the bar graph above, but let's round down to that 1.3 figure and take 10% of it and then 60% of that. That equals 78,000 D votes.

-- Finally, in the 65+ category, half of 10% of something around 950,000 is 47,500.

18,750 + 43,125 + 73,700 + 78,000 + 47,500 = 261,075. Again, a conservative estimate of additional Democratic votes from Texas women who are already registered to vote.

In a recent article at the Texas Tribune they helpfully disclose the vote tallies by which certain Democrats lost to Republicans in recent statewide elections. Here's that excerpt.

The grim performance of Democratic candidates in Texas over the last 10 years is hard to understate. Over the previous decade, the closest Democrats have been to any of the big ticket offices were 11 points in the 2008 presidential contest (950,695 votes), 12 points in the 2002 and 2008 Senate races (540,485 votes and 948,104 votes, respectively) and 9 points in the 2006 governor’s race (406,455 votes). 

The TexTrib goes a little farther in that piece with their back-of-the-envelope calculations of what the Latino effect might be. But they reach the same conclusion as me.

Suppose that some combination of Battleground Texas, amplified mobilization and good old-fashioned political persuasion increases Hispanic turnout in the state from 48 percent to, let’s say, 60 percent (no small feat) and, further, that the Democrats maintain a nearly 3-to-1 advantage in their vote choice (based on that 71 percent figure). That would create an additional 356,560 votes — about a third of the way toward closing the 1 million vote shortfall the Democrats suffered in the 2008 election in Texas (and remember, that was on a good day). 

I prefer to look at gender demographics as opposed to ethnic ones just for the sake of simplicity. There are people with Latino surnames who are Caucasian, to use just one example. (Exhibit A: my pal Neil Aquino. Hurry up with that new blog, by the way.) But everybody is fairly identifiable as male or female.

So what we have learned here is that -- short of a massive die-off of dessicated conservatives in the next 18 months in Texas -- Democrats still have a long, long way to go. That doesn't mean they shouldn't keep pushing, of course.

The sun is rising and the tide is turning, sooner than later. The events in the state Capitol -- and the events that occurred over the weekend in Sanford, Florida -- suggest extra motivation for people who can be convinced that voting might change things for the better. Latinos should already have all the motivation they need, and represent the greatest untapped resource. But everybody who is motivated is going to have to get registered, make sure their ID is current, and then get themselves to their polling place armed with enough knowledge to make the right choices for the future of Texas.

A tall but not insurmountable order.

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