The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


For the Texas Democratic Party (TDP), the ability to win statewide elections hinges on the ability to raise turnout in South Texas. Voter turnout in South Texas is consistently lower than the state average in general elections. Impediments to voting, like a lack of resources in the region, complicated voting logistics, and more traditionally emphasized barriers to turnout (such as socioeconomic status) contribute to low turnout. The South Texas region, however, reported exceptionally high performance in primary elections, where incentive structures and competition operate well. Nonetheless, the typically cited problems cannot on their own explain low voter turnout in general elections. Low general election turnout primarily stems from two sources: a lack of local competitive races in general elections and the dominance of political factions in the region. These problems cause incentive structures that do a major disservice to the TDP. South Texas has been isolated based on assumptions that voters here simply are not engaged in politics. There is, however, a substantial untapped potential in South Texas for Democrats. Specific strategies to increase voter turnout in South Texas must directly address the underlying systemic problems of incentives and competition of political actors. The TDP must engage South Texas communities, encourage political activity from fresh sources, and increase its presence in the region. The TDP has an opportunity to substantially reshape politics in South Texas before the 2010 elections and to practice new and innovative methods of increasing general election turnout that would simultaneously build leadership capacity in the region.

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St. Mary's University School of Law