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What's motivating voters to turn out for the presidential primary in Texas?

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's Super Tuesday and nominating contests are being held in 16 states and one U.S. territory. Among the places voting today is Texas, where voters say issues like democracy and immigration are driving them to the polls. NPR's Ashley Lopez talked with voters in Fort Worth.

(LAUGHTER)

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Tarrant County, which is home to Fort Worth, is considered the most conservative urban county in Texas. But it's been less and less conservative in the last few years. President Biden won this county by roughly 1,800 votes in 2020. Ophrie Gaines (ph) has lived in Fort Worth for about 30 years, and she says her politics have been shifting lately, right along with the city.

OPHRIE GAINES: I was an independent and I voted Republican and Democrat. But I've never really voted all Democrat before, never.

LOPEZ: But Gaines says former President Donald Trump changed her politics. In fact, she says in the past few years, she's been voting for Democrats up and down the ballot. And this year, she's voting for President Biden again.

GAINES: He is the least of the two evils, I'll say, you know? If it was someone else, I probably wouldn't vote for him. But when you look on the other side, I mean, it's like you have to, to really save America, I believe.

LOPEZ: Gaines says she thinks democracy is on the line in this year's elections, which is a sentiment shared by Marsha Waugh (ph), who also voted for Biden. She says she really hopes Trump doesn't get reelected.

MARSHA WAUGH: Because even though the Republican candidate has not been convicted, we know he was behind it, the insurrection. That would ruin democracy.

LOPEZ: And while the issue of democracy is motivating a lot of Democrats, for Republicans, immigration and the country's southern border are front of mind. Elaine Garrison (ph), who voted for Trump, says illegal border crossings have been an issue in Texas for a very long time, but she says she feels like things are out of control.

ELAINE GARRISON: I've lived in Texas my whole life and it's always been an issue. It's just beyond more so. It's catastrophic.

LOPEZ: Mark Dobbins (ph), who also voted for Trump, says he's worried about the economic implications of what's happening at the border.

MARK DOBBINS: The border is effectively open. And so with the increase in competition in the job market, wages go down.

LOPEZ: This is something that economists do not agree on. By and large, it's hard to tell exactly what impact immigration has on wages. Regardless, though, wages in the U.S. have gone up in recent years, and Dobbins says his salary is also significantly higher lately, but it's just not enough to keep up with inflation.

DOBBINS: My paycheck, I did get a raise, I'm losing money (laughter). It would have been better for me if prices had remained the same they were five years ago than had I gotten that raise. It's still a net loss for me.

LOPEZ: And it's not just Republicans who say immigration and the economy are important to them this year. Roni Harris (ph), who voted for Biden in the Texas primary, says the most important issue for him may be abortion rights, but immigration is something he is paying attention to as well. And he actually likes how Biden is handling it.

RONI HARRIS: That's another important issue. So, you know, he seems to be wanting to compromise and work with other parties on that issue, too. So, you know, I like that stance.

LOPEZ: But overall, voting among Texas Republicans has been far outpacing Democrats. Early vote totals for the GOP, which has a high-profile presidential primary, are more than 1.2 million. Democrats have cast nearly half as many votes. Ashley Lopez, NPR News, Fort Worth, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF MR. HONG'S "BAY BRIDGE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.
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