Thursday, December 11, 2014

Charting 2014 Collin County Turnout

by Michael Handley

Over all, the national turnout was 36.3 percent; only the 1942 federal election had a lower participation rate at 33.9 percent. The reasons are likely voter apathy and negative perceptions of both political parties. Republicans ran a single-theme negative campaign against President Obama, and Democrats were unwilling to campaign on how much the national economy has improved or to point out significant achievements of Democratic policies over the six years of Obama's presidency.

Neither party gave voters an affirmative reason to show up at the polls so Millennials didn't bother to votesingle women were a little less pro-Democratic than usual, and the racial divide among voters remains stark. One number stands out above all others: 64 percent of older white men voted Republican. It's the "widest GOP advantage in this group in data since 1984," according to ABC News.

Nationally, Democrats maintained an edge among Latinos voting in 2014 midterm elections, but in some states, Republican candidates won more than 40% of the Latino vote, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of National Election Pool exit poll data as reported by NBC News.

In the Texas race for governor, Democrat Wendy Davis won 55% of the Latino vote with 44% of Latinos voting for Republican Greg Abbott.

Turnout for the November 2014 Texas midterm election was down by 252,662 votes, compared to 2010 turnout numbers, even though Texas' population grew from 25.2 million in 2010 to an estimated population of 27.2 million over the last four years.

2014 voter registrations also increase by 756,208 from 13.3 million registered voters in 2010 to more than 14 million for the November 2014 election, according to statistics from the Texas Secretary of State. Contrasting that increase in statewide voter registrations, 252,662 fewer Texas ballots were cast in 2014, yielding a disappointing turnout rate of just 33.6 percent.
The voting age population (VAP) increased from 18,279,737 in 2010 to 19,927,498 in 2014, as estimated by the Texas Department of State Health Services. An estimated 13.5% of the Texas VAP (2,690,212) are not U.S. citizens, and an additional estimated 500,000 convicted Texas felons are also not eligible vote.

The approximate Texas voting eligible population (VEP) for the November 2014 election was 16,737,286 Texans, putting the current Texas VEP registration rate at 84 percent.  Just 28.5 percent of Texans eligible to vote did vote. Texas eligible voter turnout ranked lowest among states with a statewide top-line race. The last time Texas voted for its governor in 2010, 32.1 percent of eligible Texans voted.
Increased voter registrations in Texas' fifteen largest counties account for 642,905 of the additional 756,208 Texas voters registrations over 2010.   In Texas’s five largest counties — Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, and Travis — the number of people registered to vote increased by over 2% since 2012, according to figures reported by the Houston Chronicle in October.  Over one third of Texans live in those five counties, which encompass the cities of Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin. At the forefront of the registration push was Battleground Texas, which become the de facto field organization of Democrat Wendy Davis’s campaign for governor.

Statewide, turnout for Democratic Party candidates was down from 2010, while turnout for Republicans Party candidates increased slightly. Greg Abbott defeated Wendy Davis by 960,378 votes, according to election results reported by the Texas Secretary of State. Abbott finished with more raw votes and a higher percentage of the total than Gov. Rick Perry in 2010. Davis finished with both a lower percentage of the vote than her 2010 counterpart, Bill White, and a lower vote count.

Across nine of Texas' fifteen largest counties, turnout was down, compared to 2010.  Six of Texas' largest fifteen counties, including Collin County, managed modest gains in their overall turnout numbers.
Votes cast for Texas Governor

Although all the big Texas newspapers endorsed Democrats for Governor, Lt. Governor, State Comptroller and Attorney General, all of them lost on turnout numbers down from 2010, and perhaps the lowest percentage turnout rates in living memory. As Rick Perry's campaign did in 2010, Abbott's campaign employed social media and big data analytics to essentially hold midterm Republican turnout even with 2010.

Among the fifteen largest counties, Democratic turnout declined in the usual Democratic strongholds of Harris, Dallas, Bexar, El Paso, and Cameron counties. In 2010, Dallas voted at a 37 percent clip, casting 424,511 votes for the top line race -- Rick Perry and Bill White's gubernatorial election. This year, despite the number of registered voters in the county growing by about 100,000, only 407,260 ballots were cast for 33.8% turnout.

With so much focus placed on Wendy Davis' home court territory of Tarrant County, turnout was up in that county. Turnout also increased in the Democratic stronghold of Travis County. In Collin, Denton and Williamson Counties, regarded as Republican strongholds, the combined efforts of Democratic Party candidates and County Party campaigns generated a slight increase in turnout for Democrats. Davis bettered Bill White's 2010 vote count in only 13 counties: Brooks, Collin, Denton, Duval, Haskell, Hidalgo, Kinney, Refugio, Schleicher, Starr, Tarrant, Travis, and Williamson. (Full list of counties at bottom of article)

Abbott's 2014 Collin County improvement over Perry's 2010 performance appears more impressive than it actually is because Perry significantly under performed other Republicans on the 2010 Collin County ballot. In 2010, the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, David Dewhurst, received almost 110k votes. Using Dewhurst's 2010 vote tally for comparison of 2014 Republican performance reduces Abbot's 2014 gain in Collin County to just slightly more than 6k votes.

Collin County cities lead Texas and the nation in population growth with a population increase of more than 61 percent since the 2000 Census. Collin County continues to grow at one of the fastest rates in the U.S., gaining almost 100 new residents every day.

According to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates for this year, Collin County cities rank in the top 15 fastest-growing ‘large’ cities in the nation.  Eight of the ten fastest-growing cities in North Texas are in Collin County, with growth rates averaging more than 250 percent. The 2010 census pegged Collin County,'s population at 782,000 residents. The population estimate for 2014 is 916,097, including 666,050 voting age persons. By the 2016 general election, the population is estimated to increase to 990,954 residents, including 729,430 voting age persons. (Population estimates from Texas Department of State Health Services)

Collin County's high population growth is reflected in voter registration numbers over the last quarter century, as shown in the chart below.  Note that the popularity of early voting has steadily increased over those years with a majority of voters now preferring to vote early.  Election Day turnout between presidential and midterm election years now varies little, with almost all the turnout variability between presidential and midterm years moving to early voting. Unfortunately, midterm turnout rates over most of the past 25 years has been stuck at or under 40 percent.

For the 2014 election, Collin County had 489,032 registered voters, an increase of 64,360 over 2010 registrations, out of an estimated 2014 VAP of 666,050 adults. Using the VAP number, Collin County had a registration rate of 73.4 percent.  But an estimated 12 percent of the county's VAP are not voting eligible citizens, and the county has about 10k felons who are also not eligible to vote.  That reduce the county's voting eligible population to 576,124 adults, yielding a registration rate of 85 percent.

As the chart shows, registration rates are weakest in the younger age groups and strongest in the oldest age groups. As usual, midterm election results were determined by the older generations because younger voters of every demographic group did not bother to vote. While efforts of Battleground Texas and other groups and candidates to register voters paid off with 39,605 new voters added the county poll book during 2014, only 18 percent of those newly registered voters voted.

While exit polling data isn't available for Collin County, it is likely demographic results are similar to statewide results. In the Texas race for governor, Democrat Wendy Davis won 55% of the Latino vote with 44% of Latinos voting for Republican Greg Abbott. The following chart gives the overall demographic view for the county.

36K Hispanic Americans are registered to vote in Collin County with 3.9K affiliated with the Democratic Party by primary vote and 2.8K affiliated with the Republican Party. 40K Asian Americans are registered to vote in Collin County with 4.5K affiliated with the Democratic Party and 1.7K affiliated with the Republican Party.  8,719 Hispanic Americans and 7,197 Asian Americans voted in 2014 midterm election.

About 83k voters have voted in a Republican primary only and a little more than 52K voters have cast ballots in a Democratic Primary only.  Another 12k voters have voted in both party's primaries since 2008.   Voters solidly affiliated with the Republican Party turned out at higher rates across all age groups, Republicans age 60 and older topping 80 percent turnout. Fewer voters have affiliated with the Democratic Party, however, a large portion of the 12k voters who have voted in both primaries self identify as Democrats. Democratic primary ballots in Collin County have so few candidates, so few challengers to Republicans running for office and so rarely have contested races that some Democrats occasionally cross over to vote in Republican primaries. That said, affiliated Democrats turned out at low lower rates than Republicans across all age groups.

Looking at key Collin County ballot returns shows that Democratic candidates down ballot from Wendy Davis held stronger numbers, relative to past elections.  Down ballot Democrats show particular strength as compared to the Democrat at very top of the ballot, David Alameel running for the U.S. Senate against Republican John Cornyn.  The numbers actually suggest that a few Democrats must of crossed over to vote for Cornyn instead of Alameel.

46% of the total vote was straight party Republican and 18% was straight Democratic Party. 70% of the Republican vote was straight party. 56% of the Democratic vote was straight party. Voter registrations increased 15 percent over 2010, but turnout increased only 12 percent.  (Goldstein was the 2010 Democratic candidate for the 5th Court of Appeals and Meyers was the Republican opponent. Molberg was the 2014 Democratic candidate for the 5th Court of Appeals and Stoddart was the Republican opponent.)

Democratic candidate Sameena Karmally ran against Republican incumbent Jodie Laubenberg for the district 89 seat in the Texas House of Representatives.  Laubenberg was unopposed in 2010.

Democratic candidate Denise Hamilton ran against Republican incumbent John Peyton for Collin County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3, Place 2. Democratic Rey Flores ran against Peyton in 2010.

For comparison and preview to the 2016 election challenge, here is the November 2012 election chart

Targeted GOTV programs in the 8 to 12 weeks before Election Day are essential. The Collin County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign ran those programs in 2014, including:
  • Road Signs at Major Intersections (Collected to reuse in 2016) 
  • Wendy / Leticia yard signs 
  • Voter’s Guide Newspaper and their distribution 
  • Paid Block Walk Program 
  • Phone Bank Calling
  • Meet the Candidates’ Breakfast 
  • Rally with Leticia at Collin College 
  • September Candidate Rally (600-700 guests) 
  • Targeted Web Advertising 
  • Signs placed a ED and EV polling places
The problem Democrats face is that the party organization, candidates and activist groups don't know the names, addresses, (cell) phone numbers, email addresses and social media site destinations of enough Democratic-leaning people to target for GOTV contact in this 8-12 weeks to reach a result close to 50.1% of the vote.

Getting younger voters to the polls must be a key strategy for Democratic candidates. There is currently no way to urge younger voters to get out and vote because the party leanings of individuals in younger age cohorts have not been identified through canvassing programs, and they have no primary election voting history to indicate party affiliation. Even if party-related organizations and candidates could identify those potential young voters, the only way to make contact with them is by knocking on their front door. That is because that part of the electorate has a cell phone mostly lifestyle and no voter information data base contains their cell number, email address, or social media site preferences.

Democrats have less than four years to prepare for the  November 2018 gubernatorial election - and less than two years to prepare for the November 2016 presidential election. The 2018 election cycle is actually more important for the state as a whole than the 2016 presidential election.  The 2021 Texas redistricting plan will dictate who controls the Texas Legislature until the year 2031. The Texas governor who will sign or veto state and congressional redistricting plans drawn during the 2021 legislative session will have been elected in 2018. The Legislative Redistricting Board, responsible to draw Texas' legislative districts, if the Legislature fails to do so in 2021, after the 2020 Census, is also set in 2018.

Collin County, being the sixth most populous county in Texas, has the potential to help the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate win election. Further, Collin County contains five state house districts - 33, 66, 67, 70, and 89 - with only HD33 bridging county boarders to include all of Rockwall Co. Of the two state senate districts in Collin, SD8 is largely within Collin boarders and dominated by Plano voters.  Collin County's five House Representatives and two Senators in the state legislature, who are currently Republicans all, will sway how district maps will be drawn for the next decade. 

Further, the Fifth Court of Appeals District is one of Texas' most important courts with jurisdiction over criminal, family and civil appeals cases for Dallas, Collin, Rockwall, Kaufman, Grayson and Hunt counties. No Democratic judges sit on this appellate court. While only two Fifth COA place terms are up in 2016, the terms of seven Justices of the thirteen member court line up to expire for the 2018 election, including the Chief Justice place.

Democratic candidates for this court can win only if the Collin County Democratic vote ratio improves by at least a few points, with the Fifth COA counties also adding an additional point or two, as an added buffer.  If the counties work together to build district wide infrastructure for the 2018 cycle, it is entirely possible to turn this appellate court a shade of purple, at least.

If Democrats do not start building their political base in 2015 to give Democratic Party candidates - especially the party's gubernatorial candidate - a chance of winning in the 2018 election cycle, and beyond, Republicans will continue to control every branch of state government through 2031, at least. 

Activists at the county and neighborhood levels must work every week to identify and contact Democratic-leaning voting age citizen, documenting their contact and demographic info, as well as their issue priorities. As Democratic leaning people are identified, county level organizations must plan and execute ongoing programs that build ongoing relationships with those people to make them an active part of the Democratic base.

Those programs must be designed to invite the disconnected non-voting part of the electorate to participate in regular conversations at house and town hall meetings, and on social media.  Democrats must do old fashioned base building work, and learn how to combine Internet and mobile communication with those traditional community organizing activities to accomplish that mission.

The American conservative movement has moved public conversation steadily rightward over the last 30 years, with far-reaching consequences for the country’s political governance. The conservative movement has succeeded through the actions of a well-funded and well-coordinated organizational infrastructure that follows a long-term, disciplined communications strategy.

The conservative infrastructure provides conservative politicians with both ideas and specific language for use in public statements and campaigns. It also presents these words and the associated conservative messages to the public through multiple media, making it appear as if the politicians are simply expressing widely accepted ideas. Thanks to their institutional infrastructure and its affiliated media, conservative ideology has become the dominant force in public discourse, and thus in American politics.

There is now widespread recognition among many Democrats that almost all of their programs, institutions, and activities are under attack by the Right, and that they have been unable, thus far, to mount an effective response. This has led to a growing awareness that Democrats must build a political movement for the twenty-first century, with the power to fund, generate, package, and disseminate ideas that lead society forward.

The indisputable success of the conservative infrastructure model serves as a continuing reminder that attention to marketing and communications, as well as organizational development, with coordination and appropriate funding, can yield enormous dividends. A strategic marketing approach by Democrats will greatly enhance the value and reach of new policy ideas, new Democratic media channels, and growing involvement of people across all demographic groups.

Given the conservative movement’s three-decade head start, Democrats must build traditional infrastructure components in order to achieve parity. If they want to achieve dominance in the marketplace of ideas, however, they must also tap their strategic competitive advantages. Democratic  advantages can be found in the creative sector, nonprofit organizations, academia, new media and the blogosphere, technology, and grassroots movements. A robust, highly effective progressive infrastructure will leverage these advantages.

To summarize, three elements are needed to make a progressive infrastructure work — toward building a multi-racial, multi-sector movement that can achieve major advances for economic and racial justice. They are:
  • Deep relationships that connect people beyond the campaign of the moment;
  • Identify and focus on shared worldview (values, beliefs, assumptions) and vision of Democratic-leaning voters at the grassroots;
  • Coordinated long-term strategy with a focus of building power and recognizing the different roles that are needed in that strategy.
Perhaps the most important function of a political infrastructure is to provide a disciplined and coordinated political strategy aimed at building a movement capable of exercising governing power.  The need to win immediate election victories is balanced with building power in the long-term. This is what we call the 51%-30% understanding.

Typically people think about winning in terms of doing whatever is necessary to get 51% of the vote. However, progressive organizations also need to put resources into building a base of, say, 30% of the population. That base, if it existed, would be the committed core, the constituencies acting on the basis of a progressive worldview, promoting a progressive agenda.

Building that base is absolutely crucial to the long-run ability to be competitive election to election, beginning with the 2016 election.
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2014 Texas County Vote Count Table

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