“Texas isn’t a Red State. It’s a non-voting state.”
When most people hear this, they tend to laugh out loud. Much of contemporary American politics hinges on the stalwart truth that Texas is and will always be a Red State. The national Democratic Party, including President Obama, haven’t spent a lot of time in Texas because of this “truth”… they view the state mostly as a fundraising tool for more competitive races in other states. Even with strong candidates like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the majority of the country has written off the quiet, but persistent work of groups like Battleground Texas. After all, who cares how many Tweets you post saying you are doing something? It’s not real until official numbers start to come in.
Well this week, the Lone Star State got its first indicator of whether the coordinated efforts of BGTX, Texas Democrats and other groups have made any sort of difference. It is not unfair to say that many around the country may be in for a shock. Here’s what’s going on, starting with the Houston Chronicle…
The number of Texans registered to vote in the state’s five largest counties increased by 2 percent since 2012, a reversal of the decline in total voter registrations that was seen before the last midterm election.
Nearly 150,000 more Texans in these counties are eligible to vote in November’s election between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis than could vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to tallies released by Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis counties midday Monday, the last day to register.
Voter registration groups hailed the uptick in registration before a midterm election, which traditionally sees much lower turnout than during presidential years, as evidence that their efforts to register low-propensity voters had paid off. Five percent of those voting in Harris County are new registrants.
The Chronicle is comparing totals from the last presidential year, but a much clearer comparison to 2014 would be the non-presidential election year of 2010. This was done by venerable blog Off the Kuff, who added in El Paso County and aggregated the numbers. He found that the 6 largest counties in Texas now account for a whopping 373,000 more voters registered when compared to 2010 (the last non-presidential election year). Kudos to blog author Charles Kuffner on this, whose research just became national news.
Kuff’s numbers aren’t even the end of the story, as one quick virtual trip to the Rio Grande Valley will reveal. Here’s more from Zachary Roth of msnbc.com on that…
It’s not just the state’s most populated counties that have seen registration increases, either. Hidalgo and Cameron counties in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas saw increases since 2012 of 15,000 and 6,000 respectively, according to a local news report. The area has long had low rates of political participation, but was a focus of Battleground Texas’s campaign. According to Sackin, officials with both counties told Battleground volunteers that the group had registered more new voters than any previous effort they’d seen.
And the number of registered voters in the six counties that make up southeast Texas increased from 2012 by 8,000, the Beaumont Enterprise reported.
“If Latinos and Hispanics in Texas came out to vote, we’d be talking about a completely different electorate in Texas,” Daniel Lucio, Battleground Texas’s deputy field director, told msnbc earlier this year.
If you’re noticing a pattern with these counties, then you might be familiar with this blog’s Operation Think Swing Texas post, which lines out the counties that Democrats have to focus on if they want to win this year’s and any future elections in Texas. So here’s some research on one more of those critical counties: Fort Bend. Here are their numbers from previous elections, including the 2014 number obtained as of October 1st (there were so many registration forms, they are still counting)…
2010 Registered Voters: 308,985
2012 Registered Voters: 341,523
2014 Registered Voters: 362,711
Even Lubbock County, home of Texas Tech and the panhandle city of Lubbock, has seen a substantial boost from 2010 to 2014…
2010 Registered Voters: 150,291
2012 Registered Voters: 156,140
2014 Registered Voters: 157,275
That’s 22,323 more registrants than in 2012, and 60,710 more than the last gubernatorial election in 2010, with more to go. Add Fort Bend and Lubbock to Kuff’s total without the actual numbers from the RGV, and you’re up to 433,000 more voters on the books in Texas than in 2010. The numbers in Texas’ largest counties are now surpassing 2008 registration levels, setting the stage for possibly historic turnout in the Lone Star State.
Those living on the front lines of Texas politics can definitely tell you that something special is going on right now. We have to be careful of making too many assumptions before the votes are actually cast. But one thing is for sure from these totals… the first goal of groups like Battleground Texas and state Democrats has been met: register more voters. Now that all of these citizens are on the books, they at least have the option of making their voices heard this election day.
Let’s see just how loud Texas’ “silent majority” can get in 2014.
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