Turnout numbers are bad news for Democrats


A “Vote” sign at the Lamar County Services Building, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 in Paris, Texas.
A “Vote” sign at the Lamar County Services Building, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 in Paris, Texas.

Throughout the first three days of early voting, more than 485,000 Texans had already voted early, either by mail or in person, for this year's general election. Governor, lieutenant governor, senator, most of the state legislature and a plethora of county officials, judges and local propositions, including Austin's urban rail question, are on the ballot. And while that number that is close to half a million may seem impressive, it only represents a little more than 5 percent of registered voters.

To put that in comparison, the number is insignificantly different than totals at this time from the 2010 election, when a pitiful 38 percent of registered voters cast ballots to determine their leaders. (When accounting for the entire voting-age population, only 29% of Texans could be bothered to participate in the process.)  

Turnout is a little bit higher in Travis County, standing thus far at about 7 percent. But turnout in large Democratic strongholds, namely Dallas and El Paso, have plummeted since the last midterm election. While some Republican areas, such as Galveston, have similarly seen turnout drops, some other conservative suburbs, particularly Denton, have seen even bigger spikes in the number of people showing up to the polls.

For Democrats such as Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the nominees of that party for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, increased turnout had always been the key to ever-elusive success. It was the only pathway to any modicum of success, come to think of it. Democrats had ignored polls that painted bleak pictures because, so the rhetoric went, those pollsters were not taking into account the huge number of so-called "dropoff" voters who would show up this year. I sure don't see them, do you?

With early turnout comparable to 2010, and a public sentiment somewhat reminiscent of that election cycle (a deeply unpopular and ineffective president), there is little reason to think this year’s result will be anything meaningfully different from that year’s.

Horwitz is an associate editor.