Will Thousands Of Newly Registered Voters Bring A ‘Blue Wave’ Or A ‘Brett Bump’ On Election Day?

Texas voter turnout, especially in midterm elections, is notoriously low. It’s unclear whether this year’s large number of new registrants will translate into actual votes.

By Rhonda FanningOctober 8, 2018 12:05 pm

Vice President Mike Pence is making the rounds in north Texas, Monday, stumping for fellow Republicans facing midterm challenges: notably Congressman Pete Sessions and Sen. Ted Cruz. Republicans are trying to seize on momentum from the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation on Saturday. But a month before the midterms, it’s not just the GOP hoping to rally the partisans; some Democrats say the battle has turbo-charged its rank and file, some of which considers Republicans’ handling of sexual-assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as emblematic of a win-at-all-costs attitude.

On Monday, the day before the deadline to register to vote, huge numbers of Texans signed up to cast their ballots.

Brandon Rottinghaus, political science professor at the University of Houston, says the Kavanaugh confirmation fight has probably hardened the already deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans.

“That hardening is really translating into what we see in the Senate race in particular,” Rottinghaus says. “I think that right now, Ted Cruz has got a slight lead, and the likelihood is that’s going to continue.”

Rottinghaus says Republicans feel they got a “Brett bump” from the Kavanaugh fight. But it remains to be seen whether either party can capitalize on high voter-registration numbers, or feelings of elation or grievance on the part of potential voters.

“Texas’ turnout has been just anemic,” Rottinghaus says. “It’s hovering in the 30s for most midterms. And even though you have a lot of people registered, you still have about 2.5 million people who aren’t registered.”

In Travis County, 93 percent of eligible voters are expected to be registered by the Tuesday deadline.

Carlos Huerta, political science professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, says that high number reflects a concerted effort to mobilize potential voters in the county

“Registering to vote is not the simplest of things,” Huerta says.

Voter registration is up in south Texas, too – an area where voter turnout is especially low in most midterm elections. Huerta says changing demographics may be responsible for more people getting registered. He speculates that more young people, and voters who are enthusiastic about specific candidates could be responsible for higher levels of registration in the Rio Grande Valley.

Some 2,000 new voter-registration applications have been rejected by the Texas Secretary of State’s office. The applications were filled out online, via a California-based site called vote.org, and submitted with a copy of the registrant’s signature. Though the forms were rejected by the Secretary of State, some county election officials have said they will accept the registrations, if the voters are otherwise eligible.

Find out more about voter registration in Texas at votetexas.gov.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.