Midterms 2018: Early voting by young people up 500% in Texas and Georgia

Tom Embury-Dennis
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Midterms 2018: Early voting by young people up 500% in Texas and Georgia

Early voting among young people in key US midterm battleground states has surged dramatically, the latest data shows, suggesting a potential jump in enthusiasm for Democratic candidates.

With six days to go until election day, Texas and Georgia, two traditionally Republican-leaning states, have increased their early vote rate among 18-29 year-olds by nearly five times or more compared to 2014.

America’s early voting system allows voters to cast their ballot early, either via postal voting or at designated polling stations, in a bid to increase participation and relieve congestion on election day.

In Texas, young voter turnout is currently up 508 per cent, while African-American and Hispanic – both traditionally Democratic constituencies – vote rates have more than doubled.

It comes amid a fierce senate contest between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, a prominent Trump-supporter, and Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic candidate tipped by some as a future presidential candidate.

Elliott Morris, an elections specialist at The Economist, noted turnout thus far in Texas’ 15 biggest counties had surpassed total early voting turnouts in 2014.

“Can't overstate how crazy this level of engagement is for a midterm,” he said on Twitter.

A national poll, released on Monday by the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, found 40 per cent of 18-29 year-olds plan to "definitely vote" – double the 2014 figure – while 66 per cent of young respondents said they would vote Democrat.

Georgia, a state facing voter suppression claims, has similarly seen 19-28 voter turnout up 476 per cent, African-American early voting up 165 per cent, and Hispanic turnout up a massive 571 per cent, according to data provided by TargetSmart.

The numbers also reveal early voting in Texas and Georgia among the over 65s and white people, two traditional Republican blocs, is significantly up, though not as dramatically as young people.

While the numbers suggest a surge in early voting enthusiasm – especially among young people and ethnic minorities – the data does not reveal how these groups are voting, or even what the final vote count will be.

It is possible a significant number of people who would always have voted are casting their ballot earlier than in previous years, rather than the rise being down to citizens who failed to vote in 2014.

Nonetheless, the surge in young early voters will be seen as a boon to Democratic candidates battling their Republican counterparts and a president in Donald Trump who has attempted to cast the 6 November elections as a referendum on his performance.

In Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida and Arizona – all traditional battleground states – young voting so far has at least doubled, and in the case of Pennsylvania, is up four-fold.

The four states have also all seen rises in the African-America vote, as well as Caucasian votes and the over 65s.