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Politics

Texas Is Currently Leading The Nation In Youth Voter Turnout

People line up to vote at the South Austin Recreation Center on the first day of early voting in Texas.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
People line up to vote at the South Austin Recreation Center on the first day of early voting in Texas.

About half a million Texans under 30 have voted so far, according to new data from Tufts University.

“As of October 21, more than 3 million young people (ages 18-29) have already voted early or absentee in the 2020 elections,” researchers wrote, speaking of the overall U.S. turnout. “The numbers are especially dramatic in a state like Texas, where at least 490,000 young people have already cast ballots.”

Voter engagement among young people has been growing in the past several years, said Kristian Lundberg, an associate researcher at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University. For example, in 2018, turnout among voters under 30 tripled compared to the previous midterm election.

Lundberg said this shows the possibility of an ongoing trend in the state.

“I think this early voting data is another encouraging sign from the standpoint of expanding the electorate and increasing youth political engagement in elections,” he said.

Charlie Bonner, the director of communications for MOVE Texas, said high turnout among young people is the direct result of years of organizing.

“I am feeling excited about what we are seeing and really proud of all the work that has gone into this over several years of young people on the ground registering, and talking to and empowering other young people,” he said.

Lundberg said that it’s still too early to tell whether this means turnout among young voters will exceed that of the last presidential election, because it's not clear whether new young voters are participating in the election; it’s possible some of the same voters are voting early now because of the pandemic, instead of on Election Day.

“It’s hard to know,” he said.

Plus, Lundberg said, there are significant barriers to voting for young people in Texas.

For one, Texas doesn’t have online voter registration, which disproportionately affects young people. The state also has voter ID laws that exclude student IDs, among other things.

“There are a lot more than 500,000 young people in Texas,” Lundberg said. “So, there are a lot more young people who could still turn out to vote but need to be brought into the fold.”

Early voting in Texas ends on Oct. 30, and so far almost six million Texans have voted early or by mail during this election. The state, overall, is leading the nation in voter turnout so far. Bonner said it’s exciting to also see that trend among young people.

“This is not traditionally a voter turnout state,” he said. “So, to see us leading voter turnout nationally across demographics, but specifically in the youth vote … is really incredible.”

Correction: A previous version of this article said Tufts researchers' data only included youth voter turnout from 23 Texas counties. However, Tufts researchers later clarified their data reflects turnout from all Texas counties.

Got a tip? Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.

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