Early voting, which continues its record-setting pace, concludes Friday. Through yesterday (Tuesday), the first-ever 15th day of early voting, 8.2M Texans – 48.3% of registered voters – have cast ballots in person (7.3M) or by mail (893K). Already, the number of people who have voted so far in 2020 is equal to 91% of the total number of people who voted for president in 2016, including Election Day.

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We have increased our estimate of total voters 12.5M, which would represent 73.7% of registered voters, which would eclipse the 72.9% turnout of 1992 and would be only the second time in 50 years that turnout has exceeded 70%. The average turnout for a recent presidential election is around 59% of registered voters.

Ten counties have already surpassed the total number of votes cast for president in 2016, including Election Day:

  • 8% – McCulloch Co. (5K RVs, <0.1K more than 2016)
  • 4% – Hays Co. (152K RVs, 32K more than 2016)
  • 7% – Denton Co. (565K RVs, 100K more than 2016)
  • 6% – Williamson Co. (377K RVs, 77K more than 2016)
  • 9% – Comal Co. (116K RVs, 23K more than 2016)
  • 4% – Collin Co. (649K RVs, 111K more than 2016)
  • 8% – Fort Bend Co. (482K RVs, 78K more than 2016)
  • 5% – Rockwall Co. (71K RVs, 14K more than 2016)
  • 7% – Guadalupe Co. (111K RVs, 18K more than 2016); and
  • 3% – Kendall Co. (34K RVs, 5K more than 2016).

Brazoria (99.9%), Travis (99.8%), Blanco (98.5%), Medina (98.5%), Gaines (97.9%), Montgomery (97.8%) and Galveston (97.5%) likely eclipsed their 2016 vote totals today (Wednesday).

In 35 counties, the number of votes cast so far is less than 60% of the 2016 total, including Election Day. All 35 have fewer than 20K registered voters, and 28 have fewer than 5K registered voters. Most rural counties in Texas have a single early voting location and typically multiple Election Day locations, which may make voting on Election Day more convenient.

Turnout, measured as a percentage of the votes cast for president in 2016, declines as counties grow smaller in population:

  • 7% of total vote turnout in counties with 250K or more registered voters
  • 1% in counties with 100-250K registered voters
  • 7% in counties with 50-100K registered voters
  • 4% in counties with 20-50K register4ed voters; and
  • 4% in counties with fewer than 20K registered voters.

The state’s less populated rural counties tend to be very reliably Republican. Over the past two decades, rural Texas has become increasingly redder than the state as a whole. That trend appears to be continuing. This week’s New York Times/Siena Coll. Poll shows President Trump leading Joe Biden, 80%-15%, in rural Texas.

The data supports a narrative of Republicans waiting to turn out on Election Day while Democrats are voting early and absentee in droves. That would mean that Democrats will likely come out of early voting with leads in many races that may be clawed back by Republicans’ disproportionate turnout on Election Day.

That narrative gets more support from TargetSmart’s latest analysis of turnout. Despite record high early turnout, there have been 1.1M fewer non-college-educated Anglo voters so far this year (3.0M) compared to the 2016 total, including Election Day (4.1M). As time runs out on the early voting period, they become more likelier to vote on Election Day.

In the 15 counties with the most registered voters, a total of 5.6M people have voted early through yesterday. The single-day total was 262K, the lowest single-day figure for a weekday. The pace of early voting has slowed over the past week.

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We expect it will pick up again as the early voting period closes, but probably not today (Wednesday). According to Republican strategist Derek Ryan, there are still around 1.8 million recent primary participants and 2.8 recent general election participants yet to vote as of Monday. Virtually all outstanding mail ballots will be from these voters.

There were 2.37M votes cast on Election Day in 2016 and 2.34M cast on Election Day in 2018. Since 2014, Election Day turnout has been around 15% of registered voters, which would correspond to around 2.5M this year. That number is likely to rise because there are quite a few regular to periodic voters still out there, and there are an unknown number of new voters still out there.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC