Texas ranks near last in voter turnout, political participation

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Texas continues to have one of the lowest rates of voter turnout and political participation in the country, according to a new report released by UT.

Texas ranked 47th for voter turnout and 44th for voter registration, according to the report, commissioned by UT’s Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, the National Conference on Citizenship and UT’s Ronya and George Kozmetsky Center for Philanthropy and Community Service.

Susan Nold, director of the Annette Strauss Institute, said there is a significant amount of work Texas needs to do to encourage greater voter participation and voter turnout, especially with the upcoming midterm.

“With so many new Texans and so many young Texans becoming eligible voters for the first time, it’s a never-ending effort for us to stay on top of our growth and work to improve our standing,” Nold said. “It’s very discouraging to see Texas so far toward the bottom of 50 states.”

Nold also said there are many barriers that keep individuals from voting, including discouraging media coverage, conflicts with work and lack of overall interest in the candidates and their issues.

“All those sorts of things don’t give voters the sense that they’re being invited and that they have power in the process, which is unfortunately the messages that we have to overcome as voters and look beyond,” Nold said.

Jay Jennings, postdoctoral fellow at the Annette Strauss Institute, said despite the lackluster findings in the report, the UT community has had success registering people to vote and increasing turnout in Travis County.

“We’ve seen a lot of efforts that have been happening here on campus to reach out to young voters,” Jennings said. “So I’m hoping that this year’s election can be a good beginning habit for people to start voting, get involved in the system and see what it’s like to participate.”

Ariana Hayaud-Din, communication studies and political communications junior, said she believes students have recently realized they can make a difference and have the power to choose representatives in the midterms who really reflect their views.

“All we can hope is that people realize how much all of this matters,” Hayaud-Din said. “There is no room to be complacent. Now is the time to voice what you believe, and that voice begins when you show up and vote.”