TEXAS REDISTRICTING & ELECTION LAW

Updates about ongoing redistricting litigation in the Lone Star State and coverage of election law more generally. This website's goal is to try to make sure the redistricting process and litigation over voting law is as transparent and accessible as possible to the public. Hopefully, it will be of some use to a broad range of interested parties, both lawyers and non-lawyers. Have questions, comments, suggestions, additional content, or a redistricting joke (or two)? Feel free to contact me: Michael Li, michael.li@mlilaw.com, 202.681.0641.
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It’s axiomatic that turnout in the Texas primary is low - for both Democrats and Republicans.

But exactly how low is highlighted by a look back at the heyday of the Texas Democratic Party.

In 1926, for example, 821,234 Texans voted in the Democratic primary -  at a time when the state had just barely over 5.4 million residents.

Contrast that to the 546,523 Texans who voted in the 2014 Democratic primary in a state that now is home to over 26 million people and more than 13.6 million registered voters.

Now, there are plenty of reasons why turnout would have been higher in 1926. And, of course, the chief of these is that Texas back then was functionally a one-party state in which everything of consequence got decided in the Democratic primary. If you wanted your vote to count, you needed to vote in the Democratic primary.

But still it is striking by just how much primary turnout - for both Democrats and Republicans - has lagged the state’s remarkable nine-decade population boom.

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Indeed, for all the talk of Texas being a “red state,” recent Republican primary turnout has been no better in aggregate numbers than Democratic turnout in the 1940s and 50s (and lower as a percentage of the population).

And in only 8 out of 27 Republican primaries since 1962 - the year Texas Republicans began having regular primaries - has the turnout exceeded turnout in the 1926 Democratic primary.

In short, while many races today - as in 1926 - get decided for all intents and purposes in party primaries, it truly has become the narrowest of political elites who are doing the deciding.