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Election Politics

Early voting, Day 7: GOP voters much younger than 2016, Democrats older

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Early voting in the March 3 Texas primary elections is underway and continues through Friday, Feb. 28. El Paso Matters is tracking the demographic profile of El Paso voters and will update the turnout details as data become available each day. If you have a question about voter demographics, email bmoore@elpasomatters.org. Here’s how things look after seven days of early voting.

Age

We’ve pointed several times that turnout among younger El Paso voters so far in 2020 early voting has lagged that of their older counterparts. But one reader asked how the age distribution compares to the last presidential primary four years ago. Good question. And it turns out that the two major parties are seeing quite different trends.

Voters under 30 are playing a far more prominent role so far in the Republican primary than they did in 2016. But for Democrats, it’s voters over age 60 who are exerting growing influence, at least in early voting.

It’s important to note that this comparison is for the first seven days of early voting in 2020 versus turnout for the entire 2016 primary, including both early voting and Election Day voting that year. (We don’t have access to daily early voting data from 2016.) These trends almost certainly will change by the time polls close March 3. But they’re still worth noting at this point in the election.

We’ve previously noted that the median age of Republican voters is much younger than for Democrats so far in the 2020 primary. But in 2016, the last presidential primary, the median age of both parties was in the mid-50s. What’s happening this year in early voting is that voters under 30 are casting a much higher proportion of Republican votes than in the last presidential primary. At least so far.

The picture for Democrats is quite different. Voters over 60 have long exercised outsized influence in elections in El Paso and across the country. So far in El Paso, voters over age 60 have accounted for almost three in five Democratic voters, up from two in five four years ago.

As we’ve mentioned previously, the heavy proportion of older voters is due in part to Democrats’ increased promotion of mail ballots for people over age 65. Those ballots go out before early voting starts and offer the convenience of voting from home.

Also, Democrats have a hotly contested presidential primary. Younger Democratic voters may vote later than older voters because they’re still making up their minds on what candidate to support. Younger Republican voters have a contested presidential primary in name only; they’re likely going to the polls to support President Trump.

Total turnout

The total number of voters through seven days of early voting continues to be more than double the 2016 turnout at the same point. Democrats have gotten 3.3 voters for every one Republican voter so far, higher than the 3:1 ratio at the same point in 2016 early voting.

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Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist and the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award. Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on border issues by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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