Texas voter registration surged before today’s deadline. But will voters turn out?
AUSTIN — Today marks the final day for Texans to sign up to vote on November 6 in an election year that has already seen a surprising surge in registration. Yet, despite a new record in midterm voter registrations, experts warn the challenge will be getting voters to the polls.
Texas ranks bottom of the pack nationwide in voter turnout. The last time more than half of registered voters cast a ballot in a midterm election was 1994, when Democratic Gov. Ann Richards lost to Republican George W. Bush, according to state data.
Competitive races, like that one, help drive turnout, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. Since that year, Democrats haven’t won a statewide election.
“If elections aren’t competitive, then one side of the partisan divide feels like they are not being included in the process,” Rottinghaus said.
But this cycle, a barn-burner race for U.S. Senate and a handful of hotly contested Congressional seats could help drive more voters to the ballot box, he said.
“From a tactical point of view, the fact so many groups have been registering voters for so long gives a competitive candidate an opportunity to harness those votes,” Rottinghaus said.
By the end of September, Texas voter rolls reached a record 15.6 million people — roughly 1.6 million more since the last midterm election in 2014, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office.
There have been some hiccups, however. The Texas Secretary of State rejected more than 2,000 voter registration applications recently due to concerns with the electronic signatures on them.