PolitiFact Texas: Voter Turnout

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Nathan Bernier August 26, 2015 1:27 pm,

A Texas official says the United States is about 100th in voter turnout among industrialized nations, and Texas ranks near the bottom in voter registration and turnout.

Is that a fact?

Joining us is Gardner Selby of the Austin American-Statesman’s fact-checking project, PolitiFact Texas.

Who said this and why? Nobody is on a statewide ballot until next year…

Bruce Elfant, Travis County’s tax assessor-collector and voter registrar, made this claim while talking up the August anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965. His point was, Johnson might not like how few of us register to vote and turnout.

So, about 100th in the world, at least among industrialized nations. Did Elfant back that up?

An aide pointed us to research by the Sweden-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance showing the U.S. with turnout of nearly 67 percent of registered voters in the 2012 presidential elections, placing it 97th in the world among more than 175 countries with national elections—basically tied with Montserrat, Mongolia and Bahrain.

Then again, Elfant said 100th among “industrialized nations…”

Right you are.  When we asked him about that focus, he said he’d made a misstatement to KOKE – he meant to roll in more countries.

Did you look anyway into how voting in the US compares to voting in other industrialized countries?

Of course we did.  Of the nearly 200 independent countries in the world, there are about 35 developed countries– ranging from the U.S. and Canada to Germany to tiny Liechtenstein and Spain.

According to the International IDEA, U.S. turnouts have been among the lowest among these nations – though not the worst. For instance, our turnout in 2012 was better than turnouts of registered voters in Greece, Canada, Japan and five other developed countries.

OK, some wrinkles there. What about Elfant’s claim about Texas voter registration and turnout being near the bottom nationally?

According to a 2014 post-election Census Bureau survey, 59 percent of the voting-age U.S. citizens of Texas were registered to vote in that November. Texas ranked 45th in a virtual tie with New York and Nevada.

The survey indicated that nearly 35 percent of the state’s voting-age U.S. citizens turned out to vote, about the same share turning out as in Indiana – and narrowly better than turnouts in New York, Oklahoma and West Virginia, which each had 34 percent turnout.

In the end, how did his statement come out on the Texas Truth-O-Meter?

Texas is nearly last among the states in voter registration and turnout and U.S. voter turnout ranks about 100th internationally among all nations, not the limited number of countries considered industrially developed. Our editors settled on a rating of Mostly True.