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Politics

Why Texas Is Still Waiting to See the Ripple Effect of Shifting Demographics in Elections

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Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT
While Texas is largely considered a bulwark for Republican support at the polls, demographers suggest Texas' growth among Latino communities could shift the dynamics of the state's electoral makeup.

More than 17 million Texans are eligible to head to the polls and vote in Republican and Democratic primaries, but that doesn’t mean they’ll all turn out tomorrow.

“A large percentage of them are relatively new voters," says State Demographer Lloyd Potter.  He says when you break down the population by age, the voter base in Texas is younger than the nation overall—which, he says, may be one of the reasons for the state’s relatively low voter turnout.

“Historically young voters are less likely to turn out than older voters," Potter says.

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Credit US Census Bureau

Many parts of Texas, including Travis County, continue to see rapid population growth, but Potter says that doesn’t necessarily equal more eligible voters.  

“Probably somewhere around a quarter of the population growth are international migrants," he says. "And, so, that section of the growth isn’t really going to influence the electorate weight.”

However, that influx of immigrants does contribute to the state’s unique racial makeup. Almost 35 percent of the voting age population in Texas is Hispanic — more than double the national figure. Some experts say that could lead to a political shift.

"Of course, it’s very red right now," says Austin’s City Demographer Ryan Robinson. "It’s a very hardcore Republican state, and people expect that to change as the State of Texas becomes more and more Latino."

Robinson says that shift hasn't been evidenced because Latinos have yet to turn out in large numbers.

“It’s just one of the serious challenges that Democrats face in Texas is to get Latinos to turn out and vote in rates that approach the voting rates of older, non-Hispanic white Texans," Robinson says.

Part of that could stem from the Texas Voter I.D. law. Recent studies have shown the regulation decreases participation among minority voters. Although, Texas officials and even opponents of the law say they don't know how many, if any, people have been turned away from the polls.

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