Voter registrations have not kept pace with population growth over the past eight years. Despite a record 15M Texans registered to vote, a larger percentage of Texans are not registered than in 2008, and a significantly larger percentage of Texans did not cast ballots in the 2016 election.
The federal Census Bureau today released estimates for the voting-age population (VAP) in each state as of July 1, 2016. Almost 20.6 million people aged 18 or older were estimated to be living in Texas at that time, an increase of nearly 2.3 million from 2012.
Just short of 9 million Texans voted for one of the official candidates for president in 2016, which means that 11.6 million voting-age Texans did not.
In October, the Secretary of State issued a press release announcing that a record number of Texans had registered to vote. Based on its estimate of 19.3 million voting-age Texans, the Secretary of State said 78% of the VAP had registered to vote, an increase of 3 percentage points from 2012. We questioned that estimate at the time. Using estimates from the Census Bureau and the state demographer’s office, we concluded that voter registrations may have just barely kept pace with population growth.
Using the new Census Bureau estimate and the revised total of voter registrations, we find that voter registrations failed to keep pace with population growth. We estimate that 73% of the voting-age population was registered to vote. This would be 2 percentage points lower than in 2012 and 4 percentage points below 2008. Based on these numbers, it appears that the record number of voter registrations did not keep pace with population growth.
VAP includes an estimated 3.2 million voting-age Texans – 2.7 million non-citizens and 0.5 million ineligible felons – who cannot legally register to vote or cast a ballot. The Univ. of Florida’s U.S. Elections Project estimated that 17.4 million Texans were eligible to vote in 2016, so 87% of eligible Texans were registered to vote. This is a full 2 percentage points higher than in 2012 but 4 percentage points lower than in 2008. Even measured this way, voter registrations did not keep up with population growth.
Measured as a percent of the estimated voting-eligible population, voter registration rates peaked in 2004 at 95%.
Using the new estimates, we calculate that 43.6% of the VAP voted for one of the official presidential candidates on the 2016 ballot – up nearly 2 percentage points from the 41.7% who voted in 2012 and down nearly 2 percentage points from 2008 (45.6%). Looking only at the voting-eligible population, 51.6% voted in 2016, up from 49.6% in 2012 and down from 54.1% in 2008.
Texas finished 47th in voter turnout in 2016 measured as the percent of the voting-eligible population casting a vote for one of the official presidential candidates and 49th when measured as percent of the VAP casting a vote. General election turnout in Texas has ranked in the bottom four nationally in each of the last seven even-year general elections using the voting-eligible population estimates. Using VAP, Texas has been last or second-last since 2002.