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Nonprofit VOTE

We still could have done better on turnout

That’s always how it is, isn’t it?

Despite holding the most expensive and closely-watched U.S. Senate election in the nation last year, Texas still ranked among the ten worst states for voter turnout in 2018, according to a new report on voting trends.

About 46 percent of eligible Texas voters cast a ballot in the November election, up from 29 percent four years earlier, according to “America Goes to the Polls 2018,” a report from Nonprofit VOTE and the US Elections Project. While the number of voters jumped, the turnout places Texas 41st in the country for voter turnout — up from 50th in the 2014 election.

The national report blames Texas’ poor ranking on a deadline that cuts off voter registration four weeks before Election Day. Most states in the bottom 15 for voter turnout require people to register to vote at least a month before the election. Most states with the highest turnout allow for same-day voter registration, according to the report.

“The November midterm election shattered records for voter turnout,” says Brian Miller, Executive Director at Nonprofit VOTE, “but beneath the record-setting turnout is a vast gap in turnout between states that speaks volumes about the impact state policies play in voter turnout.”

The League of Women Voters of Texas argues it’s time that the state “joins the modern age” and allows for same-day voter registration, according to an email Tuesday from the group representing more than 8,000 voters who encourage participation in government.

Here’s the executive summary if you don’t want to read the full report. The authors do look at other factors, including voting by mail, automatic registration, and competitive elections, so while same day registration is correlated with higher turnout, it’s not the only thing. I’d suggest that voter ID laws and other barriers to voting need to be taken into account as well. Be that as it may, there is a bill in the House to enable same day registration, and perhaps surprisingly it has two Republican authors and seven more Republican co-authors. It also doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Piedras Negras of getting past Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott. But the idea is there, and it’s bipartisan. We’ll get there eventually. The Dallas Observer has more.

Nonprofit VOTE report on voter turnout

For your perusal.

NATIONAL TURNOUT

Voter turnout exceeded 2012 at a level consistent with the last three presidential elections.

  • 60.2% of the nation’s 231 million eligible voters cast ballots, according to ballots counted and certified by state election boards, compared to 58.6% turnout in 2012.
  • Four in ten eligible voters didn’t vote. Among the most common reasons voters cite for not voting are a lack of competition and meaningful choices on the ballot or problems with their voter registration or getting to the polls

STATE TURNOUT RANKINGS

The two factors that consistently correlate with higher voter participation are the ability to fix a registration issue when you vote and living in a battleground state.

Same Day Voter Registration

  • The six highest-ranking states offered same day voter registration (SDR), which allows voters to register or fix a registration problem when they vote (In order – Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin and Iowa).
  • Voter turnout in states with SDR was seven points higher than states without the option, consistent with every election since the policy was first introduced in the 1970s.
  • The significant turnout advantage of SDR states has persisted even as four new states (Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois and Maryland) implemented the policy since the 2012 election.

Automatic Voter Registration (AVR)

  • Oregon, the first state to implement AVR, saw the highest turnout increase of any state over 2012 – 4.1 percentage points. AVR pro-actively registers citizens at DMV transactions.

Battleground states

  • Five of the six highest-turnout states, and 12 of the top 20, were battleground states.
  • The campaigns dedicated 99% of their ad spending and 95% of campaign visits to the 14 battleground states – well over half going to just four states – FL, NC, OH and PA.
  • The voices of 65% of the electorate – 147 million voters – were left on the sidelines from determining the presidency – living in the 36 non-battlegrounds states whose electoral votes were pre-ordained. That, in fact, is largely what happened.
  • Latino (75%) and Asian American voters (81%) lived disproportionately outside swing states and, as a result, experienced 10-16% less voter contact than their swing state counterparts and a reduced voice in the election of the president.

Lowest ranking states

  • Hawaii, West Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas were at the bottom five for the third consecutive presidential election. None were battleground states. All five cut off the ability to register or update a registration three to four weeks before Election Day.
  • National turnout was reduced by a full 1.5 percentage points due to low turnout in three of the four most populous states – California, New York and Texas.

That’s from the executive summary. The full report is here, and the index page with other links is here. I have been saying, and I continue to believe, that the large increase in voter registrations in Harris County was key to the blue surge this past November. It’s absolutely a top priority for 2018, and it needs to be one for Democrats all over the state. The fact that we don’t make it easy to register voters in Texas is just the cross we’re going to have to bear until we are in a position to change the laws. You want to make a difference in 2018? Become a deputy voter registrar, and get busy with it. Link via Rick Hasen, and the Dallas Observer has more.