Texas Near Bottom Among States in Primary Turnout This Year

People stand in line to vote in the primaries at the Flawn Academic Center on the University of Texas campus on March 1, 2016.
People stand in line to vote in the primaries at the Flawn Academic Center on the University of Texas campus on March 1, 2016.

Texas saw record turnout numbers in last week’s presidential primaries, but it still had one of the lowest voting-age participation rates of the states that have held primaries so far.

More than 4.2 million Texans voted in the presidential primary race, the most in state history, according to the Secretary of State. However, among the 12 states that already have held primaries, Texas ranked second to last in voter turnout of residents 18 and older, at 21.5 percent.

The Lone Star State came ahead of only Louisiana, where 17.3 percent of residents of voting age participated in elections there Saturday. Louisiana, unlike Texas, uses a closed system for presidential primaries, meaning a person must be registered as a Democrat or Republican before the election to be able to vote in one of the party's primaries.

Rice University political science professor Mark Jones said low Democratic turnout and Texas’ diverse population accounts for the state's low percentage.

“Our population tends to be younger, more Latino and less well-educated than the population in [northern states],” Jones said. “And we know that age, ethnicity and income are correlated with your propensity to vote.”

Jones said that by using the voting eligibility population, an estimate that excludes undocumented immigrants and felons on probation or parole, Texas' turnout rate grows to 25 percent. On this scale, Jones said, Texas compares closer to other southern states, such as Tennessee, though its overall ranking among states that have held primaries this year doesn't improve.

“Were on the low side, but not dramatically on the low side,” he said.

 

Disclosure: Rice University has been a corporate sponsor of the Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

 

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