Just shy of 4.5M Texans have voted early in person or by mail in the 15 counties with the most registered voters as of Friday, the end of the early voting by personal appearance. This is the highest-ever total recorded, finishing 32% above 2012, 26% above the previous record set in 2008 and 86% above 2004. All 15 counties set turnout records.
Just over 46% of registered voters in those 15 counties have already cast votes, led by Collin (56%), Williamson (54%), Fort Bend (53%), Travis (52%), Denton (52%) and Montgomery (50%) Cos. The counties with the lowest participation rates were Cameron (32%), El Paso (35%), Nueces (38%) and Hidalgo (41%) Cos.
History suggests that the majority of votes have already been cast. Since 2008, more voters have cast ballots early or by mail than on Election Day in each presidential and gubernatorial election.
Share of Early Vote as Percent of All Votes Cast
History also instructs that strong early voting turnout does not necessarily lead to correspondingly strong Election Day turnout. Following the then-record early voting turnout in 2008, fewer people voted on Election Day than in 2006, a gubernatorial election that overall saw far few voters.
So, whose votes have come in? Aside from Travis Co., the highest turnout, measured as percentage of registered voters, has occurred in counties that tend to vote (strongly) Republican. The lowest turnout has occurred in counties that tend to vote Democratic. We reported earlier that nine of the 10 highest-turnout, measured as number of people casting ballots, early vote centers in Harris Co. lie within Republican-held districts. Bexar Co. was a bit more evenly divided, but Republican-held areas appeared to be turning out a little stronger.
Tarrant Co. has broken down in-person turnout by House district. Turnout is significantly higher in each district represented by a Republican (50K average) than by a Democrat (27K).
Tarrant Co. In-person Early Vote Turnout by House District
70,357 – HD98 (Capriglione)
50,811 – HD96 (Zedler)
48,714 – HD92 (Stickland)
48,689 – HD94 (Tinderholt)
48,318 – HD97 (Goldman)
44,965 – HD93 (Krause)
44,263 – HD91 (Klick)
44,215 – HD99 (Geren)
33,989 – HD101 (C. Turner)
31,459 – HD95 (Collier)
15,200 – HD90 (Romero)
Republican political consultant Derek Ryan’s analysis of voter rosters in 20 of the state’s most populous counties indicated that Republican primary voters were the largest voting bloc, comprising 34% of all voters through Thursday. Previous general election voters with no primary history cast 29% of all votes cast. Under 23% were Democratic primary voters, and the last 15% of voters had no recent voting history in the state.
The counties with the highest proportion of “new voters” were El Paso (20%) and Hidalgo (19%) Cos., but we have already established that those two counties are among the four with the lowest participation rates among the 15 counties with the most registered voters.
The Austin American-Statesman reported that 19% of the early voters through Wednesday had Hispanic/Latino surnames, an amount that exceeds their participation rate in 2012. However, the net increase is only about 150K votes because their participation rates are historically much lower than Anglos and other ethnic groups.
Broadly speaking, it appears that most early voters are past participants in general elections, frequent participants in primary elections and more likely to live in precincts and districts leaning or solidly Republican. That doesn’t make them Republican voters, however, and both parties and all candidates, and their supporters, can find numbers that appear to be on their side.
Other red parts of Texas have also seen record turnout. Midland Co. broke its previous early voting record on Thursday and finished Friday 17% above its previous record in 2008. Potter Co. saw at least a 10% increase in early voting over its 2008 high. Nearly 60K have voted early in Smith Co., a 15% increase above its previous record in 2012. Records were also set, some shattered, in Republican-friendly Brazos, Comal, Ector, Guadalupe, Johnson, Lubbock, McLennan, Nacogdoches, Taylor, Tom Green and Victoria Cos.
The state is likely to set a record for most votes cast this election (barring disastrous turnout on Tuesday), but it not likely to reach the highest percentage of registered voters casting ballots (73% in 1992).