Early voting in person concludes tomorrow (Friday).
Halloween and rain took their respective bites out of Wednesday’s (Day 10) turnout, which dove sharply from previous days. Overall, 2018 early voting turnout has been trending downward at a time when most years’ turnout trends upward. Another may be people who normally wait until “Week 2” to vote have already cast their ballots.
Fewer than 238K voted in person and by mail Wednesday in the 15 counties with the most registered voters, down 20% from Tuesday, 25% from Monday and 31% from last Wednesday. Aside from Sunday, which is the traditional low-water mark for turnout, Wednesday’s turnout was the lowest so far this year. That said, it remained record-breaking, by far, for a gubernatorial election cycle. In the 15 counties, 32.7% of registered voters have cast ballots through Wednesday. Statewide, 33.7% of registered voters cast ballots in the 2014 general election including Election Day.
This year’s turnout still more closely resembles a presidential election cycle, but 2018 is continuing to lose ground on 2016. For the first time this year, single-day turnout was less than the corresponding day in each of the last four presidential elections.
Single-day turnout has fallen seven times from the previous day which is more closely mirroring the 2012 pattern than 2016, even though 2018 turnout has exceeded same-day turnout from 2012 up until yesterday (Wednesday).
Tomorrow (Friday), the last day of the early voting period, traditionally has the highest turnout. The final day’s turnout has averaged 41% higher than the previous day’s for the last seven general elections.
We tend to focus on the larger counties because they’re the ones reliably reporting vote counts. As we’ve explored previously, historically high turnout is also occurring in smaller counties. In Llano Co., 7,473 people have voted through today (Thursday). A total of 7,025 voted in 2014, including Election Day. Just over 10K voted in 2016, including Election Day, so turnout in that Hill Country county is already 72% of the last presidential election. In Washington Co., nearly 7,500 votes had been cast through Wednesday, which is 2,500 more than voted early in 2014.
With each successive day, primary voters’ influence is slowly falling to the benefit of people who vote only in general elections, or not at all. Republican primary voters remain the largest bloc of early voters, but general-election only voters are poised to overtake them.
Part of this has to do with the skewed distribution of ballots by mail. As of yesterday, more than 62% of all ballots by mail returned to the 30 big counties were attributed to Day 1, and those voters tend to vote in primaries. Under state law, any time a voter requests a mail ballot for an election, he or she continues to receive mail ballots for any subsequent election in that year.
It’s also due to the higher likelihood that a less partisan voter will cast a ballot later in the election window, whether it be later in the early voting period or on Election Day.
Strongly partisan voters tend to be eager to vote. By the end of Day 3, 42% of four-time Republican primary voters and 44% of four-time Democratic primary voters had already cast ballots. That percentage declined for each primary missed, going down to 17% of people who voted in one of the last four Republican primaries and 20% of those who had voted in a single Democratic primary.
New voters are also more likely to take a little time before going to the polls. Ryan said approximately 8% of early votes have been cast by voters who registered this year. The number of registered voters in the 15 largest counties has climbed by more than 425K since January, so, by our back-of-the-envelope calculation, it’s plausible that as many as 60% of them have already voted.
According to Ryan, new voters cast 16% of the votes in the 2016 general election, including Election Day, but only 5% of votes in the 2014 general election.
©2018 Texas Election Source LLC