AUSTIN (KXAN) – Part of having a healthy democracy is getting people involved in their community and in politics. But a new study shows Texans are among the worst in the country when it comes to civic participation.
“Civic health is sort of a way of tracking or measuring, kind of quantifying our connections to each other and the degree to which we as Texans take actions for each other,” said Susan Nold, the director of the Strauss Institute.
The study measured three key components, including political participation, philanthropy and if Texans are being “good neighbors.”
Texas ranked 47th in the nation in voter turnout and 44th in voter registration.
With early voting for the Texas primaries set to begin Tuesday, those numbers are concerning for experts.
“There’s a lot more we need to be doing,” Nold said. “We’re a growing state and so as we bring new Texans in, as people move here from other countries or other states, we need to make sure our institutions and organizations and our citizens are bringing them into the fold, getting them connected to their voter registration.”
Among other questions explored in the study were reasons why people did not vote in 2016. Texans cited disliking candidates and the issues the most. The second-most commonly cited reason for not voting was people being too busy with work or school.
As a small business owner and member of the Texas Association of Business, Valerie Salinas-Davis said she keeps an eye on election cycles to make her choice based on what’s best for business.
To help her employees navigate through barriers that the study shows is keeping Texans from the polls, she gives her employees at EnviroMedia up to two hours to go vote and encourages early voting.
Of Texans who did vote in the 2016 election, only 32 percent were ages 18 to 24.
To get young people to the polls, Salinas recognizes that young people want to feel that their vote matters.
“Have conversations, coffee room conversations about what’s relevant and what they care about and that could tie into voting,” she said.
Another huge part of the study is that it is non-partisan and its purpose is to encourage people to participate in their community and elections, which Nold said is an important thing people can agree with no matter what side they are on.
“If we cede this conversation about voting only to partisans, then we’re missing out on a really important public conversation the state needs to have,” Nold said.
Nold said above all, what she hopes people take away from the report is what it means to be a citizen and the actions that are associated with that.
“Realizing the connections between the things you really care about and value, your life experience and what’s happening in our politics is an important link for people to make,” she said.
Early voting starts Tuesday, February 20 and goes through Friday, March 2. Election day is March 5.
To kick off the first day of early voting, the Texas Association of Business is having a round-table discussion with President and COO, Chris E. Wallace. For information on how your business can participate, contact Sharon Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out if you are registered to vote and also where you can cast your ballot on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.