Registration versus turnout

Ross Ramsey throws a bit of cold water on the surge in voter registrations.


Turnout isn’t nearly as volatile as registration. Over the past 10 presidential elections in Texas, the percentage of Texas adults registered to vote has gone as low as 65.3 percent in 1992 to as high as 85.4 percent in 2000.

The registered voter numbers have a problem, though. At any given time, some number of the people who have registered in Texas have moved or died. Election officials purge the rolls from time to time to correct for that, but using registered voters as a base for turnout calculations is messy.

The voting-age population, on the other hand, is based on population estimates. It starts with a census and changes with births and deaths — or, to be more accurate, deaths and the numbers of people turning 18 each year.

Using that number instead of registrations, Texans appear to be much more consistent in their voting turnout: 41 percent of Texas adults voted in 1996, the low year, and 47.6 percent showed up in 1984 and 1992, the two years with the best turnout over the past 10 presidential elections.

Those numbers don’t sync very well. If you’re measuring turnout by counting the number of actual voters among people on the registered voter rolls, you’ll get a relatively high number — and one that’s as volatile as the state’s database of registered voters.

If you measure it by comparing the number of adults in the state with the number of actual voters, you’ll get a more predictable result. More than four — and fewer than five — of every 10 adults has voted in each of the past 10 presidential runs.

You can run the voter rolls up with an active registration push, but it doesn’t necessarily mean turnout will improve.

These are fair points, and to be sure most of the interest around the higher voter registration totals is centered on the belief that This Year Is Different. Which it unquestionably is, but that doesn’t mean it’s different in a way that will necessarily lead to a greater-than-usual number of people casting votes. So let’s take Ramsey’s figures and use that as a basis for estimating statewide turnout this year.

According to the SOS Turnout and Registration page, there are 19,307,355 adults of voting age population in Texas. Let’s apply four different turnout levels to that and see what we get.

40.97% turnout = 7,910,223
43.73% turnout = 8,443,106
45.55% turnout = 8,794,500
47.64% turnout = 9,198,024

The 40.97% and 47.64% values are the high and low totals cited by Ramsey. The other two, the ones in the middle, are the actual turnout of voting-age population numbers from 2008 (45.55%) and 2012 (43.73%). To put that in some perspective, due to the overall population growth in Texas, a turnout level equivalent to what we had in 2012, which I think we can all agree was generally considered “meh”, would still represent an increase of 450,000 voters over 2012 and 365,000 voters over 2008. Consider that 2008’s actual total of 8,077,795 represents 41.84% turnout of 2016 VAP, and 2012’s actual total of 7,993,851 is merely 41.40% turnout of 2016 VAP. Unless 2016 is a historically low year for turnout, more people are going to vote this November than they did in 2012 and 2008, quite possibly a lot more people.

So, to Ramsey’s point, we are almost certainly going to have more people vote this year than have ever voted in Texas, but sheer population growth will account for much of that. We need to crack nine million before we can really talk about a new high-water mark, and we have to push ten million to get to a point where we can say that more than half of adult Texans cast a ballot. It remains to be seen just how different this year will be.

Oh, and by the way, voter registration numbers continue to climb.

Texas is closing in on 15 million registered voters who will be eligible to cast ballots in the November election after a surge in registrations that probably will outpace the run-ups to the last three presidential elections, according to an analysis of state registration data by the former research director for the Texas Republican Party.

“The biggest takeaway is there is significant interest in this presidential election,” said Derek Ryan, the former Texas GOP data guru who is now an Austin-based Republican consultant who specializes in voter lists. According to Ryan’s analysis of the Texas secretary of state’s registered voter database released Monday, Texas actually passed the 15 million threshold last week. He puts the number at 15,002,412. But the secretary of state’s office said its most recent count had the state at 14.9 million registered voters.

The Texas voting age population is 19.3 million.

With another week to register before the Oct. 11 deadline, Ryan said he expected new registrants between the primary and general election to exceed the numbers logged in the past three presidential cycles. As of last week, Ryan said, 764,000 voters had registered since the March 1 primary, compared with 834,000 post-primary registrations in 2004, 823,000 in 2008 and 581,000 in 2012, when the primary was held in May.

Ryan said that of the new registrants, there were nearly 20,000 more women than men, that people with Hispanic surnames made up nearly a quarter and that the average age of the new registrants was 36.4 years old, with 43.1 percent under 30 and 34.1 percent ages 30 to 49.

On the face of it, that should all be good news for Democrats and their presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, who polls better in Texas with women, younger voters and Hispanics. But Ryan said that considering the provocative nature of Donald Trump’s campaign with regard to women and Hispanics, he was surprised their numbers did not spike higher.

Women outnumber men in the electorate generally, and the 2.3 percent differential between female and male new registrants is pretty much par for the course.

The 23.3 percent of new registrants with a Hispanic surname is identical to the 23.3 percent of all registered voters with a Hispanic surname, Ryan said, and the real test is turnout in a state that regularly places at or near the bottom for voter participation nationally and where Hispanic turnout is historically especially low.

Ryan also cautioned that the use of Hispanic surnames to identify Hispanics is inexact.

The deadline to register is October 11. We’ll see where we are then.

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21 Responses to Registration versus turnout

  1. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Not sure that normal way of seeing things will work this November. Emotion will play a big part on people voting both on the left and the right and let us not forget the middle. This time there is a bogeyman running that is scary as shit.

    People that look Mexican have to be scared as Trump and his racist supporters have promised a deportation force. That means that they come knocking at doors, stopping vehicles and deporting people. Last time that happened hundreds of thousands of American Citizens that looked Mexican were deported. Tens of thousands of them died during the deportation, trains, buses, boats, any method and all methods were used. One such incident was described as similar as to how people were sent to America from Africa on slave ships, with bodies just being thrown overboard.

    There is not one bogeyman but millions of racists like Trump that support that.

    Bill I had you on my mind as I wrote the above.

  2. Paul A Kubosh says:

    Neither here nor there

    Very racist post. Very racist statement. The new Moral Majority hard at work.

  3. Mainstream says:

    I find it hard to compare registration over time, because the standards for purging deceased voters and those who have moved away keep changing over time, and are applied differently in different counties and even neighborhoods. Comparison to CVAP might be more valuable.

  4. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Paul you and Bill are very similar. How is it racist? It is the truth, since when is the truth racist, you may not like it if you are part of that deplorable basket, but it is still the truth.

  5. voter_worker says:

    My understanding is that purges and registration cancellations for reasons related or unrelated to residence are uniformly governed statewide by the Texas Election Code. Registered voters who fail to update a residence change when it happens are given a four-year interval (two federal election cycles) during which they can update their registration record before being subject to a purge.

  6. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Here is but small sample of the truth that some deplorables call racists.

    In her book Impossible Subjects, Mae Ngai writes that many Mexicans were deported by ship. A congressional investigation, according to the book, compared the conditions on the ship to that of an “eighteenth century slave ship.”

    In another case, immigration authorities dumped hundreds of thousands of braceros across the border. She continues:

    “Some 88 braceros died of sun stroke as a result of a round-up that had taken place in 112-degree heat, and [an American labor official] argued that more would have died had Red Cross not intervened. At the other end of the border, in Nuevo Laredo, a Mexican labor leader reported that ‘wetbacks’ were ‘brought [into Mexico] like cows’ on trucks and unloaded fifteen miles down the highway from the border, in the desert.”

  7. Mainstream says:

    voter_worker: I am sure these regulations are intended to be applied in a uniform manner. But mail delivery in a multi-unit apartment complex may vary from the reliability of mail service in a single family home community, or even between two postal workers. I have personally supplied 100 or more names in the past year to the local Registrar for further research which I discovered while campaigning door to door and finding voters registered at a vacant lot, or an elderly voter who had moved away to be with family in Florida and then died, etc. Maybe in the grand scheme of things, such localized activity does not impact these data enough to make a difference; but I think it could.

  8. voter_worker says:

    @Mainstream, you’re observing phenomena that are inevitable in a large system being operated by limited numbers of human beings in agencies working with restrained budgets. Thanks for bringing these situations to the attention of the VR. By the way, it’s perfectly acceptable for a homeless person to register at a vacant lot. Sometimes houses are demolished and the people who lived there haven’t updated…in a metropolitan area as large as ours, a lot can happen.

  9. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Mainstrean, most registration are in suites such UPS mail boxes, which one can refer to as apartments or suites or anything else one desires. My research has shown that most of such registration are in areas that vote Republican. It has been brought to the attention of the proper people but they were not interested. Those people being Republican with one exception and that person is a Republican masquerading as a Democrat.

  10. voter_worker says:

    @Neither, Harris County is required to register applicants at private mailboxes, businesses etc. under the terms of an agreement it made in settlement of a lawsuit a number of years ago. IIRC the plaintiffs suing for relaxed residency standards were on the D side of the political spectrum.

  11. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Voter Worker the fact remains that those addresses are primarily in areas that vote Republican. I guess you are referring to the 2008 lawsuit, but it could be the 2012 lawsuit. Those lawsuits had to do with rejections by the Republican in charge of registering voters. They were denying people primarily in areas that would tend to vote for Democrats and or names that could be associated with minorities.

    So, if you have evidence that somehow Democrats are responsible for allowing registering from P.O. Boxes please provide a link.

    As to the 2012 lawsuit,

  12. Bill Daniels says:


    Other than promoting “stop and frisk,” which I think is patently unconstitutional, the Donald hasn’t proposed any deportation plan that involves “going house to house.” What he has proposed is, taking the gloves off the deportation force we are already paying for, and ending the policy of turning a blind eye to illegal aliens. As a practical matter, that means, when an illegal with no DL and no insurance hits you, that illegal gets arrested and processed for deportation, not just let go to injure or kill again.

    If you equate that with “going house to house,” you are either being purposely obtuse, or are engaging in hyperbole.

    Personally, I’d like to see ICE officers at places where taxpayer handouts are given, like WIC offices, Medicaid offices, schools, etc. Why is it a radical concept that a US taxpayer provided education should be limited to people in the US legally?

  13. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Bill about 6.5 million on day one, using his deportation force, explain that?

    I don’t think I am being obtuse or engaging in hyperbole. If you know of how you would deport 6.5 million people in day one, 2 million the first hour without going door to door, please explain it. Maybe Trump engaged in hyperbole to attract those that are in the basket of deplorables and he may not actually mean it, but he has said it.

  14. Neither Here Nor There says:

    As to ICE officers at places where people get handouts, who do they question Bill, the Spanish speakers, the Mexican looking, everyone? What if they question an American any problems with that? What if they make a mistake, you do know that profiling is illegal, right? We have e-verify why not do that? Why not a a National ID for everyone and they must be carried, no exceptions. E-verify is expensive would you be willing to pay more taxes so that businesses could use it? Will require attorneys, accountants, everyone ask for verification before they can represent someone? Just wondering where you may draw the line.

  15. Bill Daniels says:


    From your own link:

    “Up to 2 million people would be subject to immediate deportation based on having violated any laws, including misdemeanors.”

    This doesn’t sound like going “house to house,” this sounds like going to a house where an illegal is known to live and arresting that illegal. Do you object to constables going to specific houses, serving warrants for known criminals?

    From your article, there are up to 2 million illegals who have committed crimes here in the US. Why were they not deported after serving their sentences? We know where they are (or used to be, since they are known to be transient). Round ’em up.

    The government also knows where millions of illegals live who file income taxes with TIN numbers or just flat out bogus SS numbers. You know, the illegals who claim 35 dependents and collect a big EITC bonus each year, courtesy of you, the taxpayer. Round ’em up. Those addresses ought to be current, because they want to make sure and get that EITC check.

    And as to the Donald telling you he will deport millions of people almost instantaneously, yeah, that’s hyperbole. It isn’t a big secret that that’ part of his schtick. It’s gonna be YUUUUGGGE! That doesn’t mean it can’t be done on a more realistic time table.

    I can’t understand how you are so pro-illegal alien. Want to raise wages? Want to make the streets safer? Want to free up scarce government resources for education, health care, etc.? Deport the people who shouldn’t be here. A side benefit will be, once enough people are returned to their home countries with tales of being arrested, detained, and legally deported, it might be a deterrent to the next generation of would be illegal aliens.

  16. Bill Daniels says:


    Who should the ICE officers question?

    a: Everybody trying to get free stuff from the government. Maybe you don’t need a DL or state ID to vote, but you should be required to present proof that you are here legally before you get handouts from the taxpayers.

    If you are signing up a minor to receive free stuff, the legal guardian should have to prove that not only is the child here legally, but so is the guardian.

    Of course, the only folks who should be interviewed by ICE at these offices are people who show up with their hands out that can’t produce proof of citizenship.

  17. Ross says:

    So, Bill, you are good with denying benefits to American citizens, simply because their parents are not here legally?

  18. Bill Daniels says:


    Absolutely not. American citizen is American citizen, period. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t deport the parent(s) when they show up with their hands out. We didn’t “go house to house” to find those illegals…..they came right to the government office. We are supposed to overlook that?

  19. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Bill, that is not what I said, those are from Trump, it is a link that I provided as to what he says, please save the misdirection for people that think like you.

    So would one round up two million people in one hour? 6.5 million in one day? I want you to answer that if one is not going house to house. That is what “Operation Wetback did”. That is what Trump said he wanted. He has had various positions through the campaign, so one never knows what he actually thinks, but one can figure out whom the audience is.

    How “Operation Wetback” worked, “In June of 1954, he appointed retired General Joseph “Jumpin’ Joe” Swing to head “Operation Wetback,” which sent local and federal officials on sweeps of Mexican neighborhoods looking for illegals.” Bill that is house to house.

    Source of above quote, THAT is a source that thinks like you do so you won’t accuse me of picking liberal sources, because that is the typical response from people like you. Liberal sites don’t tell the truth.

  20. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Bill will they stand and ask at every place in the United States where free stuff is given out? In Kansas? Where will they stand and ask Bill?

  21. brad moore says:

    Anyone have information on what the Republican aligned US Chamber of Commerce’s position is on Trump?

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