Early voting concludes Friday for the November 8 general election.
Through yesterday (Tue.), the ninth day of the early voting period, 3.8M Texans have voted early in person (93%) or by mail (7%), corresponding to 21.5% of registered voters (RVs).
As of this point two years ago, an additional 2.1M people had already voted statewide. Compared to the same period in 2020, the total number of voters is down 35%. This percent decline in the number of voters from the immediately preceding presidential election year is more in line with mid-term elections between 1998 and 2014 (36% average decline from preceding presidential election) than 2018 (7% decline). Note: We don’t typically like to compare mid-term election turnout to presidential election turnout, but 2020 is the only other year for which statewide daily data is available.
The number of votes cast in the 30 counties with the most RVs is down 19% from this point in 2018 and 36% from 2020. The number of votes cast in the five counties with the most RVs – Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis – is down 22% from 2018 and 38% from 2020. The number of RVs in those five counties has increased by 9% since 2018. Percent turnout in those five counties stands at 20.9%, a decrease of 8.6 percentage points from 2018.
Among the 10 counties with the most RVs, turnout is down most sharply in El Paso Co., home of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke. Compared to 2018, the number of votes already cast in El Paso Co. is down 38%. As of yesterday, turnout percentage there was 13.1% of RVs. At the same point in 2018, when O’Rourke was challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R), turnout percentage was 23.5%.
Compared to 2018, the number of votes cast in Dallas Co. is down 31%, Harris Co. is down 22% and Travis Co. is down 21%. O’Rourke received 67%, 58% and 75% of the vote in those counties head-to-head against Cruz.
Looking statewide, the counties with the highest turnout percentage so far are Terrell (38.3%), Blanco (34.8%), Llano (34.4%), Jeff Davis (33.9%), Mason (31.1%), Bandera (31.0%), Kendall (30.7%), Loving (30.3%), Washington (30.2%), Foard (30.1%), Schleicher (30.1%), Comal (29.9%), Gillespie (29.9%) and Kerr (29.9%) Cos.
The counties with the lowest turnout percentage so far are Hudspeth (5.9%), Knox (7.7%), Parmer (8.0%), Lynn (8.4%), La Salle (10.1%), Jones (10.4%), Zavala (10.6%), Lamb (11.4%), Ector (11.6%), Crosby (11.7%), Dallam (11.8%), Cochran (12.0%), Winkler (12.2%), Lipscomb (12.4%), Bailey (12.6%) and El Paso (13.1%) Cos. Many of the state’s smaller counties operate a single early voting location, so it is often easier for to vote on Election Day there.
In 2018, nearly 40% of registered voters had cast ballots by the end of the early voting period. To reach that figure this year, 3.5M more Texans would need to vote by Friday. That’s almost the number of Texans who have already voted in nine days plus absentee ballots received prior to the early voting period.
As of this point in 2018, 64% of the early vote had already come in, leaving 36% to come in over the last three days. If those percentages hold for 2022, then around 2.1M votes will come in by Friday, bringing the 12-day total to just south of 7M early voters.
Looking at the 3.8M who have already turned out to vote, three out of four of them have recent primary election voting history, and nearly 500K more of those last voted in Republican primary than in a Democratic primary. Republican strategist and data nerd Derek Ryan’s latest analysis indicates primary voters represent a larger share of the early voting electorate than in 2018.
At this point in 2018, 32% of early voters in the top 15 counties had participated in at least one of the last four Republican primaries and the last primary they voted in was Republican. Democratic primary voters comprised just under 30% of early voters. General election-only voters represented 29% – nearly equal to each party – and “new” voters had cast 10% of votes to date.
According to Ryan, 43% of votes cast so far this year have been by Republican primary voters, 31% by Democratic voters (roughly the same as in 2018), 21% are general election-only voters are 4% are “new” voters, which means they have no history voting in the past four prior election cycles. While not an apples-to-apples comparison, it appears general election-only and “new” voters have been replaced by, or transformed into, Republican primary voters.
Voters under 30 have cast roughly one out of every 14 early votes so far in 2022. They cast roughly one out of every six votes in 2020 and one out of every eight in 2018. According to exit polling data, O’Rourke got 70% support from voters under 30 in his race against Cruz (measured head-to-head).
As we’ve previously opined, these turnout figures are not good for O’Rourke or other Democrats at the macro level. While we expect Election Day voting to rebound from a historically low level in 2020, we do not expect to see an overwhelming crush of O’Rourke voters.
Based on early turnout so far, O’Rourke could need around or just north of two thirds of Election Day voters to break his way, according to our rough back o’ the envelope calculations breaking out voters by age and voting history (Both estimates were within a point of each other.).
In 2018, about a quarter of all voters cast ballots on Election Day. If the 7M early vote figure we floated a few paragraphs above holds, and the 2018 Election Day voting share holds, then about 1.75M Texans would vote on Election Day. This would bring the overall vote total to around 8.75M, within but toward the lower end of our current turnout projection of 8.5M to 9.25M.
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