Over the past two weekends, Dallas — like the entire country — has seen an unprecedented string of demonstrations and protests. The Women’s March on January 21 was one of the largest in city history. Over the weekend, crowds showed up at DFW Airport to protest the president’s executive order on immigration. Some hope that these demonstrations are a sign of a growing movement. Perhaps, like the immigration reform marches of 2006, they will result in expanded political participation.
I hope so. Because according to the most basic indicator of political engagement — voter turnout — Dallas is pretty disengaged, particularly when it comes to local elections.
Here is a depressing statistic: Portland State University found that voter turnout in 10 of America’s 30 largest cities was less than 15 percent, and in Las Vegas, Ft. Worth, and Dallas, turnout was in the single digits. In the 2015 Dallas mayoral election, a measly 6 percent of eligible voters turned out in Dallas, the absolute lowest of the 30 largest U.S. cities. And when you breakout the numbers by age, things get even bleaker . Only 1.7 percent of registered voters aged between 18 and 34 voted in the 2015 mayoral election.
Over on the Dallas Observer‘s website, Stephen Young breaks down the numbers further, including outlining what parts of Dallas vote more than others and what demographics exert out-sized influence on local elections. For example, Hispanic neighborhoods tend to have much lower turnout, while voters aged 65 and older have 22 times more impact on election outcomes than voters aged 18-35. Voters in Dallas’ local elections are 21-years older than the average registered Dallas voter.