July 31, 2008
How many eligible voters are there?

On Tuesday, I asked the question how many eligible voters there were in Harris County, so we could put the number of registered voters into some perspective. Yesterday, I got an answer to that question. The folks at Houston Votes sent me an analysis they had done by Dr. Richard Murray, which gives a pretty good estimate. I'll go through the elements of Dr. Murray's math. First, how many people are there?

Based on the Jan 1, 2007 US Census number, Harris County had, as of that date, approximately 3,935,000 residents. If the annual population increase for this decade holds true for 2007 and 2008, which is around 75,000 people per year, then as of November 2008 the population will be probably around 4,080,000 (3,935,000 + 75,000{2007} + 62,500{2008 - 2 months}= ~4,080,000).

1) Under 18 years old: -1,179,120 (28.9% under 18, US Census 2006 for Harris) of 4,080,000).

2 ) Non-Citizens: -300,000 (22% of the general population are foreign born according to the US Census for 2000 . Dr. Murray estimates that of that population in Harris County (897,000), about 300,000 are non-citizen adults).

3) Felons on probation/parole: -100,000 (High estimate of 100,000, according to Dr Murray).

Put all that together, and you wind up with about 2.5 million people who are eligible to vote in Harris County. That answers my first question, as it suggests we're at around 75% registration. But there's more to this, as Dr. Murray elaborates:

1) Projected fully registered voters: 1,900,000. As of 3/4/2008, 1,809,000 were people were registered to vote in Harris County. We are awaiting latest numbers from Paul Bettencourt, which are likely to be around 1.9 million.

2) Current suspended voters: -307,000. These voters were on the suspense list as of 3/4/08, meaning they have left, died, or moved. (Voters who have moved must go to their new precinct and file an affidavit and are therefore not classified as fully registered in this count.)

3) Projected new suspended voters: -100,000. Approximately 150,000 additional otherwise eligible people will die, move etc and are added to the suspended voter list each calendar year. (The estimate of 100,000 new suspended voters takes into account the fact that there are only seven months between the last count, 3/4/2008, and the voter registration deadline of 10/6/2008.)

So, if you subtract the names that are or will be on the suspense list, you'll be at about 1.5 million fully registered voters by the registration deadline, as your baseline. That means there's room to add a million more people to the rolls.

Now, as I understand it, the folks on the suspense list who have moved can still vote, even if they don't do the affidavit; I'm told about 100,000 to 150,000 of them will correct their registrations on their own. Generally speaking, if they vote early, the discrepancy between their current and registered addresses will be caught and fixed. If they vote on Election Day and they're in a different precinct, they'll be sent to the new precinct to vote. That of course may be problematic for some of them, depending on when they arrive at the polling place, and one assumes that some of them will wind up not casting a ballot. I have no idea what the numbers there may be.

So, depending on how you look at it, there's between 600,000 and one million people who are not correctly registered to vote. Looked at in that context, you can see why there will be so much effort put into registration drives. You can also see why Diane Trautman has made this issue part of her campaign. Maybe if Bettencourt's office made registering voters as much a priority as they did scrubbing them, we'd have a higher ratio of eligible adults on the rolls.

One last thing: Using Dr. Murray's numbers, I estimate the total eligible population in Harris County in 2004 was a bit more than 2.3 million. If as the earlier story said 1.94 million of them were registered to vote, then we would need to have almost 2.1 registered voters this year just to have the same percentage as we did in 2004. That means another 200,000 registrations between now and October 6. I'd say we have our work cut out for us.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 31, 2008 to Local politics