Experts say voter turnout nearly 50% lower for non-presidential election years… but why?

Local News

LUBBOCK, Texas — Donny and Fran Brasher just moved to Lubbock, but they’re not letting their change of address stop them from voting.

“Even with filling out the forms, it only took a few minutes,” Donny said. “Painless.”

“Painless,” Fran emphasized.

They are just a few of the voters who will head to the polls to decide on 10 proposed amendments to the Texas constitution this election. However, the crowds will be smaller this year than compared to the 2016 presidential election, or compared to projections for next year’s voter turnout.

“They aren’t necessarily names on the ballot, so there is a smaller turnout unfortunately ,” Lubbock County Elections Administrator Dorothy Kennedy said.

Presidential Election Constitutional Amendment Election
55 – 60 % of registered voters
casting ballot
7 – 12 % of registered voters
casting ballot

The Lubbock County Elections Office said on a typical presidential election year, nearly 55 to 60 percent of registered voters will come cast their vote. On years where there’s just a constitutional amendment on the ballot, that number drops to closer to 7 to 12 percent of registered voters.

“I mean, if you can break double digits with one of these, then you really have something on the ballot that would get people’s attention,” political scientist and associate professor at Texas Tech Dr. Seth McKee said.

“When people get angry… they are going to vote,”

Dr. Seth Mckee, Political scientist

He calls voter turnout during these off-years “pathetic,” but says based on trends from the 2018 midterms, experts expect historic amounts of people to hit the polls in 2020.

“When people get angry, or they are upset and they see differences, or they don’t like what they have, or they wanna keep what they have they are going to vote,” McKee said.

He said candidate’s names are easier to identify with and rally around than an issue. That trend has been amplified recently, with the stark differences in the Republican and Democratic parties’ ideologies.

EverythingLubbock.com looked through public records at our local elected officials’ voter histories, finding a similar trend. City Council members and County Commissioners had voted in all the major elections, but attendance during some of the “off-years” wasn’t perfect.

“They’re human too,” McKee said, adding their records still sound better than the general public.

Meanwhile, County Judge Curtis Parrish encouraged voters to read up on everything on the ballot, because it might affect you more than you think.

“I get myself educated for our judicial races, the court of appeals; those are not usually names on the ballot people know,” Parrish said.

The Brasher’s said they were just “taking care of business” coming out to vote.

“I don’t think people understand the importance of it, even to your local elections,” Fran said. “It’s a very important privilege.”

For a list of where to vote and what to bring with you on November 5:

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