AP FACT CHECK: Did Beto O’Rourke boost Texas voter turnout?

Politics
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Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke speaks during his presidential campaign kickoff rally in Houston, Saturday, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has said in recent weeks that his visiting all 254 counties in Texas during his failed Senate bid last year helped boost the state’s voter turnout. That may be, but he’s giving the wrong numbers on how much turnout among young people increased.

Since joining the presidential race last month, O’Rourke has said in events from Iowa to Texas that youth voter turnout boomed during the race he narrowly lost to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

A look at his claim, most recently made during an event in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday:

O’ROURKE: “The state saw young voter turnout up 500% over the last midterm election.”

THE FACTS: Voter turnout by people under 30 did not jump nearly that much last year. Texas did see a large increase in those young voters, though.

More than 1 million young voters cast a ballot in the 2018 midterm election, a 234% increase from the 2014 midterm elections, according to voting data from the Texas secretary of state’s office.

Initial reports suggested young voter turnout increased as much as 508% during early voting in Texas when compared with early voting in 2014, according to data released by a political consulting firm a week before the 2018 election.

O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans acknowledged his candidate used those figures without making the distinction that they represent an incomplete portion of early votes cast – not total turnout in the election.

Overall, voter turnout in the 2018 midterm election increased 77% in Texas over 2014 totals.

Dozens of other states saw gains in young voter turnout, according to Abby Kiesa, who researches youth turnout at Tufts University.

Kiesa said the 2018 midterm elections experienced a “strong trend” of voters under 30 casting ballots. A competitive Senate race and a number of groups that registered college students helped push those voters to the polls in Texas, where young voter turnout has been historically low.

“Something really significant happened in Texas,” Kiesa said of the 2018 election. “It’s likely attributable to many factors.”
 

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