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Texas Turnout

One chart that proves Texas is a battleground state

The electorate in Texas is growing - and the growth seems to be entirely in one direction.

In looking at Texas presidential election year turnout and adding in the 2018 numbers we see a remarkable pattern: The electorate in Texas is growing - and the growth seems to be entirely in one direction.

The chart tells us 2 things: 1) the Democratic vote is demonstrating a steady growth rate in presidential years and most recently in the 2018 midterm election. And 2) that the Republican vote is holding steady which means crossover voting - attrition - is not their immediate problem but that the lack of growth - stagnation - is the more imminent threat (this also helps to explain why conservatives are so intent on finding ways to slow down the vote in Texas with laws like voter ID, and a recent bill to eliminate mobile voting locations).

Let’s dig into these numbers…

From 2012 to 2018 Texas Democrats increased their vote haul by 737,508 votes statewide - and almost all of that increase came from the state’s biggest counties. There is a reason for that - it’s where nearly all of the state’s growth is taking place (click here to see our analysis of the state’s growth in those areas 2012 to 2016). 

The big counties now account for roughly 70% of the Texas population, and Democrats have gotten much better at running up the score in these areas.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton bested Barack Obama’s 2012 performance in Texas by 569,744 votes. Of that number, 568,073 came from the state’s 20 largest counties. Thus, a mere 1,671 votes came from the state’s other 234 counties (and before you think those were all Republican crossover votes, let me point out that Trump’s 2016 performance bested Romney’s 2012 haul by 115,204 - and also it’s pretty unlikely that a substantial number of Texas Republicans were crossing over to vote for Hillary Clinton).

Then in 2018, Beto O’Rourke added another 167,764 votes to the tally. Thus Beto’s performance wasn’t an outlier - it was a trend dating back to 2008.

And Democratic turnout in Texas is higher in a presidential year. It may be news to some outside of our state, but keen observers of Texas elections know that presidential years are generally better for Democratic turnout. But what may be less obvious is that Texas - one of the fastest growing states in America - has added so few Republican voters to the equation.

Here’s what Texas Democrats have to show for it (so far): A gain of 19 legislative seats in the last two elections. What may also not be obvious to those outside of Texas is that margins in the Texas Legislature have narrowed considerably. Democrats picked up 5 legislative seats in 2016 and another 14 seats in 2018. Heading in to 2020, Democrats are a mere 9 seats away from a majority - that’s substantial progress.

Yes, Texas is a battleground state - and the numbers prove it.