A lot of the focus on the Census Bureau’s estimate of 2012 voter turnout has focused on ethnicity. But there’s also a story to be told about turnout by age - and for Texas, it’s not a pretty one.
As shown, in the chart below, Texas turnout in 2012 lags every age the US turnout rate in every age group except the eligible voters over 65+, where Texas slightly outperforms the nation as a whole.
The result isn’t especially surprising given that Texas ranked 47th in the nation in voter turnout in 2012 (after coming in 50th in 2010). But what does stand out is the sharp fall off in Texas among voters 18-24 when benchmarked against the national turnout rate.
As with everything these days in Texas, a big part of that no doubt has to do with the state’s changing ethnic demographics. The chart below shows that younger Texans are considerably more diverse - and, as we’ve seen, Hispanics as a whole continue to undervote their Anglo and African-American peers.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story - because younger voters in Texas also are underperforming their peers in other heavily Hispanic states - some of which were 2012 battlegrounds and others not.
And taking a slightly longer view, it doesn’t get better looking for Texas.
Texas also lagged the other states in 2008 in turnout among 18-24 year olds, and, in 2010, only New Mexico did worse.
Likewise, in 2012, while every state, with the exception of Colorado, saw a drop off compared with 2008, Texas’ was steeper. (In Colorado, a marijuana legalization proposition may have had something to do with that state’s anomaly.)
And there’s some suggestion, that Texas’ youthful population may be less engaged in other ways as well. While Texas’ CVAP population has boomed in recent years, the overall number of registered voters in the state has grown only slowly - leading to the emergence of a growing registration gap.
And to the extent Texas’ turnout problem with younger voters is wrapped up with ethnicity, things are only likely to get more interesting. Between 2012 and 2016, Texas is expected to add a net of 1.56 million eligible voters - of whom 87.6% are projected to be non-Anglo and fully 58.1% will be Hispanic.