National Report Calls Out the State of Texas for Failing to Increase Voter Participation


  • Erik (HASH) Hersman via Flickr creative commons
Texans may be a boastful bunch, but our electoral participation record is nothing to brag about. We rank near the bottom nationally, both in voter registrations and voter turnout.

Now, a new study from the Center for American Progress suggests the state could drastically ramp up voter participation by adopting tried-and-true policies already used by other states. It even ran projections modeled on existing voter data to show how many more Texans could be added to the rolls. Only 9 million in the Lone Star State voted in the 2016 presidential election.

Here's what the report's authors found:

Automatic voter registration. By July of next year, 14 states will have automatic voter registration, meaning once a resident turns 18, he or she is automatically registered. Another 10 states are set to vote to adopt the practice. If Texas was to join them, it could sign up 1.9 million additional voters, about 693,000 of which would likely cast ballots.

Online voter registration. Only 12 U.S. states don't have any form of online voter registration — and, you guessed it, Texas is among them. If the state chose to fall in line with the majority, it would add about 278,000 new voters to the rolls.

Same-day voter registration. States with same-day registration, or SDR, increased voter participation an average of 5 percent and experienced higher participation by underrepresented groups, including young people and African-Americans. Texas could add around 449,000 voters via SDR.

To be fair, the Center for American Progress' report also praises the benefits of early voting, which is allowed in Texas.

Beyond the streamlining efforts detailed above, the authors also argue that states should spend more on elections, restore rights for formerly incarcerated people, strengthen civics education and invest in voter-engagement projects.

Voting rights advocates have long argued Texas' lackluster efforts to ensure participation are by design. Low-income, minority and young voters tend to skew Democratic. And in a state where Republicans control all the levers of power, it doesn't take a genius to figure out a motive.

Indeed, Texas has actively fought efforts for more inclusive voter-registration. Democratic lawmakers have proposed online registration measures which failed in the Republican-controlled state legislature. What's more, after a federal court found Texas violated the U.S. "motor voter" law by not letting residents register to vote when they renew their driver's licenses, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the decision.

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