This Star-Telegram story about turnout in the 2008 election versus turnout in the 2004 election has got some people talking.
The presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain sent more Texans to the polls last year, but the state still had one of the lowest turnouts in the country, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
After factoring in population growth, turnout in Texas dropped 1 percentage point from 2004.
About 8.4 million voters cast ballots in the state in the November election, roughly half a million more than in 2004.
But that growth didn’t keep pace with the rise in the state’s population, so turnout actually dropped, from 57 percent in 2004 to 56 percent in 2008. That puts Texas 45th among the states in 2008; it was 47th in 2004.
Turnout rose among black voters in Texas from 2004 to 2008, but dropped among Hispanics and Asians. An additional 263,000 blacks voted in 2008, increasing turnout from 58 to 65 percent. Hispanic turnout decreased from 42 to 38 percent, despite an additional 164,000 voters. Turnout among Asians fell to 34 percent from 43 percent, with 34,000 fewer voting.
In Texas, while 71,000 more voters ages 18 to 24 cast ballots in 2008, the turnout for that age group dropped from 39 percent in 2004 to 36 percent in 2008. Voters ages 65 to 74 saw the largest gain, from 69 percent in 2004 to 74 percent in 2008.
BOR expresses disappointment about the youth-voting numbers. EoW has some extra links. Marc Campos goes on one of his rants about the lack of a Latino voter outreach effort. My reaction is one of puzzlement. I have no idea where some of these numbers are coming from. Let’s take a look at some figures from the Secretary of State page on voter registration and turnout, and you’ll see what I mean.
2008 – November (Presidential) Registered Voters 13,575,062 Voting Age Population (VAP) 17,735,442 Percentage of VAP Registered 76.54 Turnout 8,077,795 Percent of Turnout to Registered 59.50 Percent of Turnout to VAP 45.55
2004 – November (Presidential) Registered Voters 13,098,329 Voting Age Population (VAP) 16,071,153 Percentage of VAP Registered 81.50 Turnout 7,410,749 Percent of Turnout to Registered 56.57 Percent of Turnout to VAP 46.11
So first off, I have no idea where the story gets the 8.4 million voters number, nor where it gets the 56% figure, as that implies a population of 15 million, and I don’t see anything to connect it to that. The Austin Business Journal refers to “56% of adults”, but I don’t see how “adults” differs from “voting age population”. Similarly, for 2004, the implied numbers are 7.9 million voters out of 13.9 million. At least I can see where that latter figure comes from, but not the former. Maybe we’re counting undervotes, or provisional ballots that were later rejected? I couldn’t say.
But be that as it may, it seems to me the story here isn’t one of turnout, which appears to me at least to have gone up as a percentage of voting age population (VAP), but one of voter registration, which clearly lagged the growth in population. It’s possible that some of that is due to more rapid growth among adults in non-citizens and ineligible voters. We also know, however, that in Harris County at least, voter registration figures were down from 2004 thanks to former Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt and his efforts to scrub the voter rolls as well as his frequent rejections of new voter registrations. Harris was unlike other big counties in this regard, so that’s just a part of it as well, but the point I’m making is that when the percentage of VAP being registered goes from 81.5 to 76.5 in four years’ time, that’s what we need to be focusing on. Democrats in Colorado have closed the registration gap with Republicans by aggressively pursuing previously unregistered voters. I’m not going to claim we can do what Colorado Dems have done because I know we can’t, but there certainly is some ground to be gained there. At the very least, I want to have a better understanding of why the percentage of registered voters was down so much. That’s the message I get from this.
UPDATE: The Contrarian has more.