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Younger, less-frequent voters drove El Paso’s record 2020 turnout

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A surge in young voters propelled El Paso to a record-shattering turnout in the 2020 presidential election, an El Paso Matters analysis of county voting data shows.

Despite being engulfed by the worst COVID-19 outbreak in any major U.S. city, 269,007 El Paso County residents cast ballots this year, a 23% increase over the previous record turnout in 2016. More than 55% of registered voters cast ballots, by far the highest percentage in recent history. The El Paso County Elections Office posted final results on Tuesday.

While voting was up in all age groups, the greatest increase was among voters under 30, up 37% over 2016.

This year, 43% of El Paso registered voters under age 30 cast ballots, up from 38% in 2016 and 34% in 2012. As has long  been the case in the United States, participation was higher among older people. Among El Pasoans 65 and older, 67% of registered voters turned out this year. 

Turnout also was significantly higher among women — 59% of registered women cast ballots vs. 52% of registered men.

As would be expected with a record-setting turnout, new and irregular voters showed up in force in El Paso this year. 

Almost two in five voters this year did not cast a ballot in El Paso during the 2016 presidential election; more than one in five voters had never previously participated in any El Paso election.

Both presidential candidates could claim they benefited from increased turnout, though the net effect was the largest margin of victory ever in El Paso for a presidential race. Democrat Joe Biden received 93,795 more votes than Republican Donald Trump. That is more than 1,000 votes higher than Democrat Hillary Clinton’s margin in 2016.

Trump did get almost 29,000 more votes in El Paso County this year than he received in 2016. But Biden won almost exactly two-thirds of El Paso’ss presidential vote, the second highest percentage of any presidential candidate since Harry Truman won 71% of the El Paso vote in 1948. 

Put another way, Trump’s percentage of the vote in El Paso — 25.7% in 2016 and 31.6% in 2020 — are the lowest or any major party presidential candidate since Republican Thomas Dewey won 13.2% in 1944 and 25.8% in 1948.

Cover photo: Voters line up at Marty Robbins Recreation Center during the second week of early voting. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

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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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