Saturday, February 15, 2014

Millions of Texas voters, mostly Ds, are MIA

Ross Ramsey, talking about things some people are painfully aware of.

The biggest chunk of the state’s growth can be attributed to an increase in the minority populations, and the biggest part of that growth has been Hispanic. And that is where the hype about politics revs up: To the extent that they vote, minorities in Texas tend to vote for Democrats more than Republicans. If the number of minorities rise along with the population, and if those new voters behave like their voting counterparts, then the electorate should grow to favor the Democrats.

That was the idea behind the Democrats’ “dream team” ticket in 2002, which included a couple of big-city mayors, Ron Kirk and Kirk Watson; a wealthy Hispanic oilman, Tony Sanchez Jr.; and a mix of proven veterans and promising prospects. It didn’t work, but there were some hopeful years, when Democrats in the Legislature made gains.

Then the 2008 presidential race arrived. The Democratic primary that year had 2,874,986 Texas voters. Most of the time, presidential contests are all but settled by the time the campaigns reach Texas. But in 2008, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton had clinched the nomination, and their battle over Texas lifted turnout considerably. The excitement over a contested national race even helped increase Republican turnout that year.

The Republicans held their numbers, turning out about the same number of voters in each of the two primaries that followed, but many of the Democratic primary voters who came out in 2008 never returned. In 2010, only 680,548 Texans voted in the Democratic primary. Two years after that, only 590,164 voted. In general elections, their top-line numbers also fell. Obama received 43.7 percent of the overall vote in the 2008 general election. Former Mayor Bill White of Houston got 42.3 percent in 2010 in a race for governor, and Paul Sadler lost the U.S. Senate election to Ted Cruz with 40.6 percent.

The population may be booming, but the electorate is not, and the Democratic electorate got smaller.

These figures have been previously identified; there is a large number of Texans who are citizens and are of voting age -- between 2.5 and 3 million -- that are not registered to vote.  Those are the prime targets for Battleground Texas.

But there are some eight million Texans registered to vote who did not do so in 2012.  They might not all be Democrats, but you can rest assured that a large majority of them are.  And that is precisely where the turning of Texas to a purplish shade of blue rests.

Republicans are confident their firewall can prevent that from happening.  Between the biweekly stoking of Tea Party outrage to the efforts, legal and extralegal, to keep potential Democratic voters from doing so (photo ID requirements and thug tactics practiced by the King Street Patriot/True the Vote pale mafia), the job lies with the Texas Democratic Party, their candidates, activists, and assorted supporters to make the case for change.  To persuade those millions of Texans who have no habit of regularly performing their civic function -- of participating in the selection of the leaders of the state -- into those that do.  Here's some Census statistics from a worthwhile article by Patti Hart, in the Chron...

46.3 percent of Texans earning more than $75,000 voted in 2010, compared to 26.7 percent of those earning less than $35,000 

52.4 percent of Texans with college degrees voted, compared to 22.8 percent with less than a high school diploma 

16 percent of Texans under 30 voted, while 42.7 percent of the over-30 crowd participated 

43.8 percent of white Texans voted in 2010, compared with 38.7% of African Americans and 23.1% of Hispanics

That task makes turning a battleship around look like a walk in the park.  Back to Ramsey...

The Republicans have more money, and their steady, habitual turnout has given them a list of stalwarts who vote no matter what. The Democrats have a list of stalwarts, too, but it is considerably smaller.

So they are looking for first-timers, people who haven’t voted before because they just moved here or just recently came of age or haven’t been involved in elections before and are just waiting for someone to ask them.

And there is the other group, the 2.2 million Texans who turned out in March 2008 and haven’t been seen in a primary location since then. The Democrats already have their names, if not their votes.

GOTV is a door to door, block to block effort.  Turning out one's precinct means visiting your neighbor, calling them on the phone, or mailing them a postcard.  We'll get a glimpse, beginning next week as early voting for the March primaries gets under way, as to whether Battleground Texas' initial efforts are bearing some fruit.

Eye on Williamson has more detail, and links to other analysis.

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