Voters in Fort Bend Co. set new records last week for straight-ticket votes cast (both Republican and Democratic). Countywide, the number of straight-ticket Democratic votes was 36% higher than the 2012 total. The number of straight-ticket Republican votes was also higher than in 2012, but the increase was less than 10%.
The resulting Democratic straight-ticket advantage over Republicans countywide was their largest since at least 1988 (the earliest year for which straight-ticket votes were separately recorded). Overall, more than three quarters of all votes cast were straight-ticket votes, the highest percentage for any of the 134 counties for which we have obtained straight-ticket data so far. It is the highest percentage we have ever seen.
Straight-ticket Votes as Percent of All Votes Cast in Fort Bend Co.
1988 – 38.6% (Democrats +101)
1992 – 32.4% (Democrats +613)
1996 – 43.3% (Republicans +6,760)
2000 – 51.5% (Republicans +8,745)
2004 – 56.9% (Republicans +10,680)
2008 – 66.7% (Democrats +1,666)
2012 – 74.7% (Republicans +11,754)
2016 – 76.3% (Democrats +7,610)
1990 – 25.9% (Democrats +1,664)
1994 – 41.1% (Republicans +5,750)
1998 – 51.4% (Republicans +7,923)
2002 – 53.6% (Republicans +9,011)
2006 – 49.6% (Democrats +1,704)
2010 – 65.4% (Republicans +12,961)
2014 – 72.9% (Republicans +16,482)
Countywide partisan advantage shown in ().
As was the case in Dallas Co., the largest gains were in Republican-held House districts. Unlike in Dallas Co., these gains did not make any of the Fort Bend Co. seats competitive this year.
The biggest shift occurred in HD26, where voters re-elected Rep. Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land) with 58% of the vote. The district’s Republican straight-ticket advantage dropped from nearly 14K in 2012 to not quite 5,500 in 2016, a shift of more than 8,200 votes toward the Democrats. The number of straight-ticket Democratic votes in that district was 47% more than 2012, and the number of straight-ticket Republican votes was 3% less. Miller first won election to the House in 2012 with 63% of the vote, five points more than this year.
The second-largest shift toward the Democrats occurred in HD28, where Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) was unopposed for re-election. Republicans continued to hold a sizeable advantage in straight-ticket voting, but Democrats cut it from nearly 16K in 2012 to just over 10K this year. Both parties saw increases in the number of straight-ticket votes cast. Straight-ticket Republican vote totals were 16% above the 2012 level, and straight-ticket Democratic votes rose 67% above the 2012 total.
Democrats claimed a 167-vote advantage in the portion of HD85 located in Fort Bend Co., overcoming a 1,586-vote Republican advantage in 2012. Rep. Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton) edged out his Democratic challenger, 53%-47%, in Fort Bend Co. He easily carried heavily Republican Jackson (82%-18%) and Wharton (73%-27%) Cos. to win re-election with 60% of the vote overall. Republicans had approximately the same advantage in straight-ticket voting in Wharton Co., but their advantage rose sharply in Jackson Co. for at least the second straight presidential election (Straight-ticket voting totals were not available prior to 2008.).
The final Fort Bend Co. district is the heavily Democratic HD27, which re-elected Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) with 68% of the vote. Democrats added to their straight-ticket voting advantage there, increasing it from 19K in 2012 to 23K in 2016. Unlike Dallas Co., which saw a slight shift toward the Republicans in districts with an African-American representative, Reynolds’s district showed increased Democratic strength.
Despite having a countywide advantage in straight-ticket voting equivalent to 3% of the vote, none of the statewide Democrats carried the county except for Hillary Clinton, who won the county by 6 points over Donald Trump. Down the ballot, Republicans swept, barely, all of the judicial races and won every contested race for county office. Only a single Democrat was elected to county office. The late Constable Ruben Davis, who passed away in October after more than two decades in office, was unopposed.
Except for Trump, the shrinking number of full-ballot voters favored Republicans up and down the ballot. It suggests that the county may become more competitive, but Democrats have to overcome this reddish tendency to score victories, assuming they can sustain their straight-ticket voting advantage.
The last time Democrats had the advantage in straight-ticket voting was 2008. Two years later, the number of straight-ticket Democratic votes dropped by nearly half, and their slight advantage turned into a 13K-vote hole.