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Young voter rate explodes during 1st week of early voting in EP

Turnout by younger voters in El Paso is skyrocketing, driving a voting surge that continues to lead the state.

Through the first seven days of early voting, the number of voters age 18 to 29 was already 58 percent higher than the turnout for that age group in the last midterm election, which had 12 days of early voting plus election day, according to an analysis of county election data for ABC-7.

Nearly 10,800 people age 18-29 had cast ballots as of Sunday’s seventh day of early voting, accounting for almost one in every eight people who voted by that point. In 2014, young voters accounted for only about one in 12 voters in El Paso; during early voting that year only one in 20 voters was under age 30.

Younger voters can continue to grow their influence on the 2018 El Paso election. The percentage of voters age 18-29 has increased during each day of early voting, and that age group makes up 24 percent of all El Paso registered voters.

LINK: Interactive map showing the number of voters under 30 in every precinct within the City of El Paso

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Young women in particular are showing huge voting gains, already up 67 percent over the 2014 vote total for women 18-29. More than 55 percent of voters 18-29 so far have been women.

The huge gain in young voters appears to be driven by the Senate candidacy of El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Hispanic concerns about immigration policies and rhetoric from President Trump.

“As a Mexican-American it’s important for me to vote because I don’t want future generations to think that Donald Trump was a good person for our country, that a Mexican-American or Mexican could not have any opportunity in the United States,” said Gilberto Manuel Seañez Hernandez, 18, an El Paso High School senior who said he plans to vote on Wednesday at the El Paso County Courthouse. “My family lives in Mexico, I live alone in the United States, in El Paso, and I hope that one day we will be together as a family in the States. I don’t want to see them behind the wall.”

Diego Gomez, an senior at Americas High School, turned 18 in September and plans to cast his first vote this week.

“I just want my young views, especially with immigration and things that apply to my family as a Mexican-America, to be embraced,” he said.

Gomez and Seañez are among more than 100 high school seniors participating in a mentorship program organized by El Paso’s representative on the Texas Board of Education, Georgina Cecilia Perez. The program kicked off on Sunday at the Ysleta Independent School District administration building, and many of the students were talking about the election.

“I think a lot of us feel very unheard,” Gomez said.

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The explosion of younger voters is a key reason El Paso is leading Texas in turnout growth for the 2014 election. The number of votes cast in El Paso in the first seven days of early voting was more than the entire number of the 2014 midterm – 12 days of early voting and Election Day.

Through seven days of early voting, El Paso’s turnout of more than 89,000 was 341 percent higher than at the same point in 2014, the largest growth rate among large Texas counties, according to data from the Secretary of State’s Office.

The second biggest growth rate was in Collin County, a suburban area in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, at 264 percent. All large counties in Texas have at least doubled their 2014 turnout through seven days of early voting, including some that have doubled or tripled their numbers four years ago.

El Paso County is the only one to have quadrupled its 2014 turnout at the same point in the election.

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