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Here’s why young voters in Texas have a quieter voice than older ones in elections

In World
February 25, 2024

When it comes to elections, older residents have more power in deciding the outcomes of races up and down the ballot. At least that’s what a snapshot analysis by a leading Texas political number cruncher shows of the first few days of early voting for the March 5 primaries.

Let’s take a look at the recent findings from Derek Ryan, an Austin political consultant who for the past several election cycles has taken a deep dive into the numbers behind the numbers on who actually votes. He breaks down the data by separating voters into sundry buckets, such as first-time voters, recidivist voters, voters who always vote in one primary or another, voters who toggle between the primaries depending on who’s running for what, and so forth.

But the age buckets are perhaps the most eye-catching thus far for the first 2024 contests.

The biggest bucket on the Republican side, according to the early trend, is filled with voters who have already reached their 70th birthday. In fact, just a whisker under 47% of the earliest of the early voters were 70-plus. Next come voters 50 and up, and that bucket had almost 40% of the voters.

In layman’s terms, just about 87% of the early GOP primary voters qualify for just about every discount and perk available through AARP. If we round up slightly, about nine out of 10 of those voters were alive when Richard Nixon was president.

A cynic might say: “There’s no surprise there. Republicans have had a lock on the gray-haired vote since forever.” Perhaps, perhaps not.

So what about voters on the Democrat side? Spoiler alert: That age bucket is not exactly made up of the Gen Z and millennial demographics. In fact, the blue side of the ledger pretty much tracks that of the red.

Voters north of 70 years old actually accounted for a slightly larger share of the earliest Democratic early vote, with nearly 48%. The number for those 50 and older was 36%. The 30-49 age bucket for the Democrats was 12%, which was just fraction above for Republicans.

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And both parties were scarcely, if at all, raking in votes from people in their 20s or younger. For Democrats, it was 4%; Republicans managed a paltry 2.3%.

So let’s boil it all down to the basics. For voters in their 20s or 30s, and perhaps even their 40s, the same people who have made all the rules — from the time those younger voters left the maternity ward to when they trotted off to college, or the military, or the full-time job market or down the aisle — are still the ones driving much of the rule-making for what those voters’ grownup options are out here in the real world.

Here are a few other findings from Ryan’s initial analysis of Texas’ voter turnout so far in the 2024 elections. The numbers are by no means impressive. Through the first three days of early voting, about 1.8% of all registered voters had cast a ballot. And about twice as many opted for the Republican primary as the Democratic election.

If there’s a plus side for Democrats, whose featured draw is to decide who’ll face incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in November, the raw numbers are running slightly ahead of 2022, when the governor’s race was the driver. The downside for Democrats is this year’s primary is far sleepier than in the last presidential election year, when Joe Biden’s nomination was not quite settled by Super Tuesday, when Texas and many other states hold their primaries and caucuses.

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Republicans, though the presidential nomination is seemingly wrapped up by Donald Trump and there are only token challenges to Cruz’s nomination, are outdrawing Democrats. And though Republicans until the 2020 cycle were willing to avail themselves of the mail-in voting option, Ryan sees reluctance this go-round, with less than 10% of the voters turning to the post office.

Finally, the ongoing gender gap between the parties seems to be holding. Women were outvoting men 54% to 43% on the Democratic side, with about 3% not identifying their sex. Republicans have a lower gap on their side — about 52% of the vote was from men and just over 46% from women. Voters who didn’t specify a sex matched the Democrats’ 3%.

Let’s close with a couple of reminders: Voters may cast ballots in either primary, and doing so does not make one a “registered Democrat” or a “registered Republican” — at least not under Texas law. Voters can go back and forth from election to election, but if someone casts a ballot in one party’s primary, that person may not vote in the other party’s runoff. However, people may vote in a runoff even if they didn’t cast a ballot in a primary.

Early voting will end Friday. Though it’s too late to register to vote in the primaries, if someone wasn’t already enrolled, there’s still time to register for the Nov. 5 general election.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: In Texas elections, the older the voter, the louder the voice. Why?

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