Where Have All the Voters Gone in Texas?

by Alex Gonzalez

From 2010 to 2014, the Population of Texas has increased by 4 million approximately. Therefore, it would be logical to presume that this increase in population would be reflected in the total voter registration of the state. But this is not the case. Total voter registration in Texas remains almost the same as it was in 2010.

The current numbers from Texas Secretary of State (SOS) shows that from 2010 to 2014, only about 400,000 new voter were added as non-suspense voters (voters that can actually vote). See table

voter 1Texas is a state where about 4.6 million of Latinos are eligible to vote but they are not turning out in big numbers. Only about 2.3 million are registered voters. In a Hispanic state like Texas where approximately 250,000 native Latino Texas turn eighteenth each year, and voting age populating increased by about 3 million in the past four years, we cannot explain why voter registration has not increased exponentially following the population growth in the state. So what happened to all those voters?

One theory could be that, yes there was an increase of the Latino voter registration and a decrease in the “Anglo” due to the demographic shift, which would explain why voter registration in four years increased only 400,000 while the voting-age population increased by about 3 million. Thus, the total voter registration in the state is almost identical to 2010, but there was a change in its voter composition and in fact new Latino voters, and young Texans, replenished senior Anglo voters?

It takes about four weeks to receive official numbers from SOS to find out how many registered voters are Hispanic/Latino based on last name. So I am waiting for those numbers.

If this theory is correct, how will this new voter composition affect the election in November; a new composition in voter registration could be very important, even with stagnant, or very small increase, voter registration.

Why a new voter composition is important? In 2010, in the gubernatorial race between Rick Perry and Bill White, only about 5 million voted in Texas. Also, in 2010, Rick Perry received about 40 percent of the Latino vote.

voter 2But in 2010, Rick Perry was the embodiment of pro-Hispanic Republican message; Perry was opposing Arizona’s SB1070 telling Republicans that “this is not the direction Texas needed to go; “and he was promoting the “Texas Dream Act.” But this is not the current message now championed by Dan Patrick, Ted Cruz, or Texas GOP platform passed in Fort Worth in June.

Moreover, if in fact there was change in the total voter registration structure, will these voters be more “enthusiastic” about voting. Voter “enthusiasms,” or attitude, is what will drive this election in Texas more than any real growth in voter registration. But dismal stagnant voter registration is bad for the GOP too.

This dismal increase of only 400,000 can have influence in the gubernatorial race between a Republican Greg Abbott and Democrats Wendy Davis since the gap between Rick Perry and Bill White in 2010 was about 600,000. Greg Abbott is trying to stay away from the immigration issue keep a positive message with Latinos, but Patrick and Cruz may eventually drag his favorability with Latino voters in Texas.

With positive immigration message, Rick Perry got 40 percent of the Latino vote. Will Latinos vote 40 percent Republican again even though immigration has become a “hot” issue, and there is no positive message on immigration? It may not sound a lot, but 40 percent in election where 600,000 voters is what makes the difference. And immigration is going to a play a big role in this election since Obama will be granting a grating work permits to about 6 million of undocumented workers in the nation while Ted Cruz will be pushing for the repeal of DACA—Deferred Action for young Immigrants.

Republicans in Texas need at least 30 percent of the Latino voter registration locked-in to stay competitive, and about 50 percent of the Latino vote to remain competitive in the long run.; and a dismal voter registration, a and drop to 20 percent of the Latino vote, will doom the GOP for a generation.

So Republican Party bosses will be watching carefully this November election, because, even with a dismal voter registration among Latinos and “Anglos,” a surge of 500,000 voters can shape the state political ideology from solid Red to leaning Red or Purple.

meAlex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote! comments to vote@latinosreadytovote.com



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