Engaging Every Voter in the Lone Star State
Encouraged by the increased diversity of the U.S. electorate, Democratic strategists have mounted a new push to make Texas a swing state. The "Battleground Texas" campaign seeks to increase voter participation in the Lone Star State and builds on the groundbreaking "50 State Strategy" that Howard Dean launched at the DNC during the Bush years.
The Texas push comes after two national elections in which President Obama’s campaign debunked the long-held conventional wisdom among political consultants that the best way to win the presidency was by targeting the same small group of suburan swing voters every four years. Instead, Obama won by expanding and engaging a larger pool of overlooked voters including African Americans, Latinos, Asians, LGBT voters, and young people.
"Battleground Texas" -- led by Jeremy Bird, former national field director for President Barack Obama’s reelection and recent founder of the political consulting firm 270 Strategies -- will attempt to duplicate this strategy in a more focused way in Texas through a long term, well-financed effort that focuses on elections at all levels.
More grassroots engagement and political incorporation is badly needed in Texas. The state had an overall voter eligible population turnout in 2012 of 49.7% -- well below the national average of 58.7%. The 2012 racial undervote in Texas particularly illustrates the need for greater outreach. African Americans, accounting for 15% of the state's population, make up over 20% of the population of 17 counties in Texas and over nearly 35% specifically in Jefferson country. Latinos make up almost 40% of the voting eligible population, but only 26.6% of the electorate in 2012 with an estimated 2.1 million eligible Latino Texans unregistered to vote. Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) number more than one million statewide and approximately 20% of the population in Texas cities like Sugarland and Stafford . (AAPI voters lean more Republican in Texas than they do nationally. (40% vs. 21% respectively)
Yet all these groups report obstacles in Texas which discourage participation such as lack of voter outreach from the Republicans and Democratic parties and community organizations as well as a lack of basic tools for participation like language assistance in campaign literature and at polling places and general poll worker rudeness.
The following chart, provided by 2012 data from polling firm Latino Decisons, specifically looked at political party contact of Latino voters and illustrates the need for voter outreach in Texas and across the country.Texas, with its younger and poorer demographics, should be a natural fit for an invigorated effort to better incorporate all citizens into the political process. The current one-party statewide hegemony that the Republicans in Texas enjoy through both structural manipulation and Democratic Party disengagement not only creates public policy that misrepresents millions of Texans, but more importantly is an affront to true democratic ideals. The undemocratic notion of America’s great "Red/Blue" divide must be challenged by the major parties, civic institutions, and individuals in every state.
Only through aggressive political inclusion and incorporation can issues like improving public education, ensuring economic stability for families, and protecting our children be better addressed at the local, state, and national level. These issues must not wear a partisan badge but a democratic one.