Key to winning the primaries: voter turnout

Key to winning the primaries: voter turnout

By Shayne Woodard and J Pete Laney
TAD government relations

Important Texas primary elections – choosing the Republican and Democrat candidates who will run in the November general election – will be held Tuesday, March 6, for hundreds of offices across the state, from local school boards all the way up to the Texas governor. Early voting begins Feb. 20.

Texas is the first state in the nation to hold its primaries. In some cases, if only one party is fielding candidates for an office, the primary election could determine who wins that office, making exercising your right to vote even more critical.

Here, we’ll explore some interesting trends and expectations when it comes to voter turnout in Texas.

Voter turnout. The Texas population is 27.86 million people, of whom 19,502,633 are of voting age population (VAP). Of those, 15,099,137 (77 percent of eligible voters) are registered to vote (RV). It’s these individuals who have the ability to vote in political elections that impact the policy of the great state of Texas. The key (and goal of every political campaign) is to get these people motivated to go to the polls for the upcoming primary election, as well as others that will follow this year.

If a candidate does not get 50 percent of the vote plus one, the candidate will have to turn out voters for a primary runoff on May 22. Then, primary winners go before the voters again (if there are still candidates for both parties) in the general election set for Nov. 6.

Of the Texans eligible to register to vote, how many are actually registered? More importantly, how many of those registered actually go to the polls to vote? We looked at election turnout numbers for several recent statewide elections.

As you can imagine, non-controversial elections don’t drive very large turnouts, while presidential election years attract a lot more voters. Stuck in the middle of non-controversial elections and the presidential elections are years like the election cycle we have in 2018, where the turnout is essentially down the middle.

Remember, turnout is critical for candidates for office. Recall, most of our statewide elected officials are up for re-election, most for four-year terms. A couple of statewide races (U.S. Senate and Texas Railroad Commission) will be for six-year terms.

November 2017 “Constitutional Amendment Election”
Texas had 15,099,137 registered voters out of 19,502,633 people of voting age population (VAP). Of those, 877,603 voters – only 5.81 percent of registered voters – turned out to support or oppose numerous constitutional amendments. That is only 4.5 percent of VAP.

November 2016 “Presidential General Election”
Driven by the Trump/Clinton race at the top of the ticket, 59.3 percent of registered voters (46.5 percent of VAP) turned out to give Donald Trump 52.3 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 43.2 percent of the statewide vote.

November 2014 “Gubernatorial General Election”
Driven by the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner races, 33.7 percent of registered voters (25 percent of VAP) turned out to give all of the Republican statewide candidates wins with anywhere from 58-61 percent of the vote.

May 2014 “Republican Primary Runoff Election”
The Republican primary runoff election turned out 752,780 or 5.5 percent of registered voters (4.0 percent of VAP) to give lieutenant governor candidate and eventual winner Dan Patrick 65 percent of the vote, attorney general candidate and eventual winner Ken Paxton 64 percent of the vote and 53 percent of the vote to agriculture commissioner candidate and eventual winner Sid Miller.

March 2014 “Primary Elections”
The Republican primary turned out 1,358,074 or 10 percent of registered voters (7 percent of VAP) while the Democrats turned out 560,033 statewide voters or 4.1 percent of registered voters (3 percent of VAP).

In conclusion, Texas has been and will more than likely continue to be a Republican statewide elected official state in the November general election.  The difficult race for Republican candidates is getting through the March primary and then the May runoff elections. Think about it: In the May 2014 runoff election, approximately 500,000 voters out of nearly 20 million voting age population in Texas determined who were going to be the statewide Republican candidates.

The primary season is critical to get out and vote for your candidate. The difficulty of winning in March and doing it again in the May runoffs is very under estimated by the electorate. Good luck to all the candidates!




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