For the first time in its history, Texas has over seventeen million registered voters.
According to Jeremy Wallace of the Houston Chronicle, the state added roughly 2 million voters over the past four years and more than 3.5 million since eight years ago.
As a result of this expanded electorate, at least 1 in 5 voters have never voted in the Lone Star State before 2014.
“You have a largely new electorate that is unfamiliar with the trends and the personalities in the area,” observed Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “That rapid turnover leads to a lot of uncertainty for candidates.”
These numbers raise interesting questions about how the 2022 midterm elections will play out as Texas’ electorate has diversified and its politics become more competitive.
Wallace listed off the counties with the largest increases in voter registration since 2014:
Fort Bend: 153,592
The increase in voter registrations has been primarily concentrated in Texas’ most populous urban centers and suburbs, with Harris County leading the way.
Among Texas voters, Joe Biden defeated former president Donald Trump in major metro areas such as Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties by 58%-40%, 65%-33%, 56%-43%, and 72%-27%, respectively.
Democrats’ strong performances in these regions have led many pundits to believe that Texas could have more competitive elections at the federal level in 2024 and beyond.
“What we’re seeing is an increase in ethnic group activities,” declared Michael Adams, a Texas Southern University political science professor. “Big money is pouring in, and there are a lot of boots on the ground registering people.”
Former Congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke‘s surprising performance against Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in 2018, when he lost by only 2.6 percentage points, helped spark discourse about the growing competitiveness of electoral politics in Texas.
In 2020, Trump defeated Joe Biden by 5.6 percentage points in the state of Texas. By contrast, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000 by 21 percentage points. However, the increase in voter registrations doesn’t guarantee a Democratic victory.
For example, Trump was the first Republican to win Zapata County, a predominately Hispanic county, in 100 years, capitalizing on a growing Tejano vote that is beginning to break decisively for Republicans. “There is a Trump factor,” Adams asserted.
Adams believes that Trump has activated working-class voters who form a significant part of the voter registration increase in the Lone Star State.
In 2022, the Texas governorship, the U.S. House, the Texas House, and half of the members of the Texas Senate will be up for re-election. Further, the agriculture commissioner, attorney general, land commissioner, lieutenant governor, and state comptroller will be up for re-election in the 2022 election cycle.