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We need to understand why our voters didn’t vote

So now we know that Battleground Texas wasn’t pursuing a base turnout-increase model for the 2014 election, for reasons that have not yet been adequately explored. I’m mad about that, but I don’t want to get bogged down in that. I want to learn from what happened and I want to move forward, in whatever form. I refuse to accept that the way things are now is the way they will always be. It’s just ten years ago that much (mostly virtual) ink was spilled about how hard it is for Democrats to win the Presidency, what with Republicans having such a lock on the Electoral College. Things are a bit different today, and I daresay they will continue to evolve, usually as a result of things most of us (though not all of us) didn’t see coming.

Basically, at a national level we have had two elections in which that “Emerging Democratic Majority” has held sway, and two in which they stayed home. Here in Texas, Democratic turnout was significantly higher in 2008 and 2012 than it was in 2004, but turnout in 2010 and 2014 was basically indistinguishable from 2002. Here’s that chart again from my previous post:

County 2002 GOP 2002 Dem 2010 GOP 2010 Dem 2014 GOP 2014 Dem ===================================================================== Harris 330,801 272,032 423,275 334,098 358,425 299,255 Dallas 218,496 198,499 196,103 209,001 179,014 206,546 Bexar 133,733 124,129 161,443 131,397 156,144 134,876 Tarrant 195,384 125,416 208,976 123,200 213,812 138,944 Travis 93,524 110,026 95,431 127,803 91,372 155,335 County 2002 GOP 2002 Dem 2010 GOP 2010 Dem 2014 GOP 2014 Dem ===================================================================== Harris 17.64% 14.50% 22.05% 17.42% 17.53% 14.64% Dallas 18.08% 16.43% 17.13% 18.25% 14.83% 17.11% Bexar 15.14% 14.05% 17.88% 14.55% 16.27% 14.06% Tarrant 22.42% 14.39% 22.30% 13.15% 21.37% 13.89% Travis 17.18% 20.22% 15.80% 21.16% 14.00% 23.81%

We can argue all we want about why Travis County is “different” and whether or not Battleground Texas had anything to do with it, but the fact remains that Travis is the only county to improve performance over 2002 and 2010. Harris County saw a huge improvement in Democratic turnout in 2010, and then it basically disappeared in 2014. What I want to know – what I hope everyone would want to know – is why this happened.

Look at those numbers. Some 35,000 people that voted Democratic in 2010 did not turn out at all in 2014. Forget the Presidential year/off year conundrum for a moment. What happened to those voters? Why didn’t they vote last year? Maybe it would be a good idea to take a sample of 400 or 500 of those didn’t-show-up voters, and call them and ask them that question. Why didn’t you vote this year? What if anything could we have done differently to have gotten you to vote? I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to know the answer to those questions.

And why stop there? Nearly half of the people who generally voted Democratic in 2012 didn’t show up in 2014. That’s true in Harris County, and it’s true in the state of Texas as a whole. Maybe instead of cursing our fate we could contact some of those people and ask them why they didn’t vote this year. We probably won’t like a lot of the answers we’d get. Some will be nonsensical, some will be deeply frustrating, some will be of the “shit happens” variety. But at least if we knew what those answers were, maybe we could do better the next time. We might also check on some of those brand-newly registered voters, and as those that voted why they did, and those that didn’t why they didn’t. Wouldn’t that be nice to know?

As I see it, we can accept that our turnout sucks in non-Presidential years, as it has done in the entire history of the United States going all the way back to 2010, or we can try to understand it and maybe do something about it. I don’t care who tries to find out the answers to these questions – this isn’t a scientific poll, it shouldn’t be a big expense; hell, a half dozen or so volunteers could probably make the 500 calls needed to get a decent sample of answers in fairly short order – as long as they share the answers they get. We can try to learn about what happened, or we can just give up and nominate Jim Hogan for Governor in 2018 and save us all a lot of heartache. I know which choice I prefer.

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4 Comments

  1. John cobarruvias says:

    When you havea beer in one hand and a remote to a large flat screen TV in the other there is little motivation to vote.

  2. Andrea says:

    I’ve got 2 other recruits ready to dial, smile & chat up the drop-off voters. I’d appreciate it if someone with a strong grasp of what a truly representative sample would look like to draw up the list & we’ll git’r done. Comment here if you want to join the call party.

  3. Bill Shirley says:

    I’d wager that the new Austin split into districted city representation interested more people in participating in the election.

  4. Manuel Barrera says:

    Andrea, will be happy to provide the information, but wait until 2018 (non presidential year).