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Early Voting Turnout Is High, But The Impact Latino Voters Is Still Unclear

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
Students march from the University of Texas at Austin to the Texas State Capitol in February as part of the Migration is Sweet demonstration hosted by Jolt Texas.

From Texas Standard:

We're just 12 days away from Election Day, and four days into early voting across the Lone Star State. Many polling places are reporting record early-voting turnout. Sharon Navarro, a professor of political science at University of Texas at San Antonio, says that shows voters are energized this year.

"This is unique for Texas and San Antonio because, particularly when you think of our low voter turnout in midterm elections and in elections in general," Navarro says. "We are a low voter-engaged state."

But it's not yet clear which candidate or party is benefiting from the high turnout. Typically, Republicans vote earlier than Democrats, and Democrats start to turn out closer to Election Day, especially young Democrats. Navarro says that national pattern aligns with voter patterns in Texas; she says 76 percent of Republicans who identify as conservative tend to vote.

But that doesn't mean their candidates will win in the end because there's a large percentage of Latino voters in Texas whose voting patterns are unpredictable; they tend not to turn out, but that could be different this year, Navarro says.

Indeed, the Latino vote is the biggest potential political force in Texas because of the numbers, but again, Navarro says it's hard to predict what that will mean for the election.

"We expect about 1.5 [million] to actually go out and vote," Navarro says.

But she says Beto O'Rourke has specifically tried to tap into nonvoting populations, including Latinos.

"He attempted to reach the voters that were inconsistent and that included Latino voters and those that hadn't voted in a long time," Navarro says. "We will see whether he wins, and if his strategy for getting out Latino voters actually worked."

At the same time, the caravan of Central American migrants is moving northward through Mexico, on its way to the United States, and President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he will send at least 800 troops to the border ahead of their arrival. While Navarro says it's likely the issue will energize Republican voters who take a hard-line stance on immigration, but it's less clear how or if it will affect the Latino vote.

"That being said, you have sectors within both political parties ... who believe that issues of immigration and separations of families are humanitarian issues," Navarro says. "At this point, it'll be difficult to say, but one can conclude that it will only help Republican turnout."

Written by Caroline Covington.

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