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AN ELECTION OF FIRSTS

More than half a million “nonvoters” in Georgia and Texas actually voted early this year

"I Voted / Yo Vote" stickers sit on a table to be given to people after they cast their votes in the 2018 U.S. midterm election in Georgia
Reuters/Leah Millis
First-time voters are doing peachy.
  • Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Deputy editor, global finance and economics

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Democrats in reliably conservative Georgia and Texas tried a new tack this year: they bet on nonvoters.

The strategy seems to be paying off. The number of first-time voters who cast an early ballot in those states grew by more than 300% compared to turnout in the 2014 midterm elections, according to data compiled by Democratic political consulting firm TargetSmart. That’s nearly 600,000 voters.

Early voting figures are fairly limited as predictors of the final tally. While they can serve as a gauge for voter excitement, they don’t spell out party affiliation. Still, the big jump in newbie voters, especially young people and minorities, is a hopeful sign for Democratic candidates in close races in Texas and Georgia, states where those groups don’t generally vote in big numbers.

The big question now is whether the boost will be enough for overcome regular Republican voters.

Voting history

TargetSmart, which collects early data from local elections offices, breaks it down by how often people vote. Here’s the increase in voters compared to turnout in the 2014 midterm elections.

Super voter
56.4
68.5
Frequent voter
139.6
188.9
Infrequent voter
284.9
305.3
Never voted
327.1
306.6

While new voters showed up at much higher rates than their more experienced counterparts, they make a smaller share of the electorate.

Super voter
10.6
13.3
Frequent voter
13.9
17.9
Infrequent voter
6.1
7.2
Never voted
1.8
3.4

Courting minorities and young voters

Bringing out the minority vote was a big challenge for Democratic candidates like Texas’s Beto O’Rourke, who’s running for the US Senate, and Stacey Abrams, who’s vying for the Georgia’s Governor’s mansion. Both states have large shares of Hispanic and black populations, which usually vote at lower rates than Americans as a whole.

The early voting data show that minorities did turn out, whether lured by Democratic candidates or other reasons. Younger voters, too, went to the polls in bigger numbers than in the past midterm elections.

Here’s the breakdown of gains vs. 2014 by age, and race and ethnicity:

18-29
361.7
465.3
30-39
243.6
297.7
40-49
153.1
201.9
50-64
99.9
122.1
65+
77.4
86.8
Black
112.1
99.4
Asian
584.5
381.3
White
117.7
134.7
Hispanic
529.4
237.6

Despite increased participation, minorities and people under 40 years old are still outnumbered by whites and middle-aged Americans.

18-29
3.4
4.8
30-39
3.7
5.4
40-49
5.2
6.5
50-64
10.4
12.7
65+
9.8
12.4
Black
10.5
2.9
Asian
0.5
0.8
White
20.3
29.9
Hispanic
3.9
6.8

Less excitement in Florida

Democrats faced similar odds in the Sunshine State as in Georgia and Texas. Donald Trump won Florida in 2016, but not by a wide margin. Key races there are also close, including for the US Senate and the Governor’s mansion, polls show. The state also has big minority populations.

Like O’Rourke and Abrams, Andrew Gillum, Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida, also went after new voters and minorities. But participation among those groups didn’t expand by as much as in the other two states. (One reason, perhaps, is that Floridians already voted at much higher rates than Texans and Georgians.)

18-29 years old
148.0
3
30-39 years old
132.6
3.5
40-49 years old
85.9
4.5
50-64 years old
54.0
11.5
65+ years old
44.0
15.8
Black
87.2
5.26
Asian
132.4
0.7
White
48.4
26.3
Hispanic
121.9
5.1
Super voter
33.8
12.7
Frequent voter
78.2
16.9
Infrequent voter
109.9
7.4
Never voted
20.4
1.3

If early voting does mirror early voting, and proves partisanship models right, Democrats across the country will likely be poring over get-out-the-vote efforts in those three states for lessons for future elections.

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