Big decisions are made by those who show up. And when it comes to civic engagement, voting is the most basic form of showing up.

Part of Austin Tech Alliance’s mission to promote civic engagement in Austin’s tech sector means encouraging folks employed in tech to get registered and turned out to vote during each and every election.

We knew anecdotally that the need is there. After all, many tech employees in Austin are young, recently relocated, or not registered to vote. This combination helps contribute to Texas consistently ranking at or near the bottom in the nation in voter turnout.

ATA wants to change that by building a culture of voting and civic engagement amongst tech employees. But as with any tech-focused effort, we need the data to know where we’re starting from.

So we posed a question: what is the voter turnout rate for employees in Austin’s tech ecosystem?

Our partners

To find out, we worked with Dr. Jim Henson and Dr. Joshua Blank.

Dr. Henson directs The Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches in the Department of Government and received his doctorate. Dr. Blank is the manager of polling and research at The Texas Politics Project and also received his doctoral degree in government from UT-Austin. Henson and Blank are well known around Texas for their work conducting statewide polls for the Texas Tribune.

Results

So what’d we learn?

In short, “neither of the most common stereotypes about the civic participation of tech workers is in order — they are neither disengaged libertarians nor resource-rich, and in turn hypermobilized, avatars of engagement.”

This chart helps to break that down:

There’s admittedly a lot to digest there, but the big takeaway is that tech employees living in Travis County voted at a lower rate when compared with the rest of the county — both in the general and primary elections.

The 14 percent lower turnout in the primary election is especially concerning. ATA has long made the case that primaries are the elections that matter most in Texas, as the overwhelming majority of Texas districts are drawn to either be safely Republican or Democratic.This means that most Texas elections are determined in the primary – so if you sit out the primary, you’re sitting out the most important election.

Three conclusions

Henson and Blank’s research offers three important conclusions:

First, “[t]he voting habits of tech workers are unlikely to deviate significantly from Texans of comparable demographic characteristics in Travis County.” In other words, folks who work in tech appear likely to display voting propensities comparable to other Texans with similar characteristics.

Second, “[a] more extensive targeting effort aimed at mobilization based on efforts to match identified workers with the voter file maintained by the secretary of state would result in large numbers of non-voters if any reasonably comprehensive list of employees could be assembled.” In plain English: if you can identify who’s not voting, you can better target efforts to get them out to vote.

Third, “[s]imilarities to the overall electorate imply that efforts aimed at younger cohorts in the Austin tech community are likely to yield the greatest returns in terms of identifying and mobilizing new, or inconsistent, voters.” That is, since millennials vote at disproportionately lower rates compared to older Texans, efforts targeted at younger tech employees will have the biggest impact.

ATA’s work

So what is ATA doing in response? How are we working to increase voter engagement in Austin’s tech sector?

We’re so glad you asked.

TechVotes is ATA’s program aimed at increasing voter education, voter registration, and voter turnout in Austin’s tech sector — all in a completely nonpartisan manner. Through TechVotes, ATA:

  • Organizes volunteer deputy registrar trainings so that tech employees can go back to their company and register their friends and coworkers to vote
  • Hosts voter registration drives at tech events
  • Creates easy-to-digest content that has all of the information tech employees need during an election in order to make their voice heard at the ballot box

The aim of TechVotes is to create a culture of voting in all Austin tech companies and ensure that the voice of every tech employee is heard at the ballot box. By building an educated and engaged constituency made up of the folks working in tech, we can help to ensure that the vibrant and growing tech community is represented in the important conversations happening at a local, state, and national levels.

When companies join Austin Tech Alliance, they gain access to TechVotes+, which offers:

  • Lunch-and-learns at companies’ offices to break down the ballot before an election
  • Voter registration drives and volunteer deputy registrar trainings at a member company’s office
  • Hardcopy and digital election infographics to display at the office

informed.vote is a collaborative project that ATA is launching in September 2018 with Leadership Austin.

Far too many Central Texans don’t know where candidates for elected office stand on issues important to them. The most robust ways to find out — candidate questionnaires from community organizations — are not easy to find unless a voter already knows about a particular community group or does significant research into the causes and candidates they care about.

informed.vote will allow users to filter community questions by candidate, cause, or ZIP code. Users will be able to search all questions posed by community groups and get answers direct from the candidates — all in one place.

If you’re a part of a community group that’s sending out candidate questionnaires, please fill out this quick form so that we can be in touch.

Join us!

If you’re not a member of ATA, joining takes just seconds. We have membership options for individuals and companies, both of which are affordable and carry a low operational burden.

We hope you’ll be a part of building a culture of civic engagement in Austin’s tech sector.