Early voting continues across the state. In-person turnout on Day 3 appeared steady, and thus record-setting, in the counties for which we have seen data or heard reports.
Before we get to today’s (Wednesday’s) numbers, let’s look back at Day 2 (Tuesday).
In the 30 counties with the most registered voters, nearly 1.2M early votes have been cast in person or by mail. About 9.7% of registered voters in those counties have already voted. Statewide in 2014, total turnout was 33.7%, including early voting and Election Day. In-person vote totals were slightly ahead of Monday, but the number of mail ballots dropped considerably. All ballots received up to and during Monday were included in Day 1’s totals, so Day 2 is always lower.
The Secretary of State has traditionally tracked the Top 15 counties, so we can only make historical comparisons using that smaller set of data. In the 15 counties with the most registered voters, 974K people have voted early in person or by mail through the first two days of the early voting period. This is not quite 14K fewer than in 2016 and more than two and a half times greater than in 2014.
Below we look at turnout in the 15 largest counties for which we have data going back to 2010. Nueces Co. is included here but no longer a part of the Secretary of State’s Top 15 (It was leapfrogged by Brazoria Co.).
We once again turn to Republican strategist Derek Ryan’s analysis of who is actually voting to try to make sense of the presidential election-like numbers we’re seeing. According to Ryan’s latest analysis (PDF), Day 2 was not much different than Day 1. Seven out of 10 early voters have recent primary history – 35% Republican, 32% Democrat at 3% mixed – and another 22% have voted in recent general elections but not primaries. Seven percent of early voters have no recent voting history. Most of these numbers are within a point or two of the entire 2014 early voting period.
The bulk of early voters are the most partisan voters. Nearly a third of 4Rs (voters who participated in the last four Republican primaries) and 35% of 4Ds (same, but Democratic) have already voted in this general election, according to Ryan’s analysis. Generally speaking, the fewer primaries a voter has participated in, the lower the likelihood he or she has already voted. For example, just 12% of 1Rs and 15% of 1Ds have already voted.
Voters under age 30 represent about 7% of votes cast so far, an uptick of 1% from yesterday. Voters aged 70 and up represent about 30% of votes cast so far.
We took a closer look at Tarrant Co., which offers a live online tool to track turnout in real time. We downloaded the data as of 11 a.m. this morning and compared in-person early voting turnout to the split in straight-party vote between Republicans and Democrats. In-person turnout through two days and a couple hours today exceeded 10% in 151 precincts. Republicans had the straight-party vote advantage in 2016 in 137 of those precincts. Democrats had the edge in 13 precincts, and they tied the other one.
Tarrant Co. is one of the reddest of the urban counties, so the results are not necessarily surprising. If one were looking for evidence of a broad, blue wave, one would need to see either a more random scattering of these dots or the reverse, where Democratic-majority precincts were turning out relatively higher than Republican-majority precincts. However, it is far from certain that the precincts are turning out in the same partisan pattern as in 2016. In other words, the fact that precincts with Republican straight-party advantages two years ago are turning out higher does not mean more Republicans are voting than Democrats or nonpartisans. Well, based off Ryan’s report, it would be unlikely that the swell in turnout is nonpartisans. Voters with previous primary voting history comprise 74% of the votes cast so far in Tarrant Co., ahead of the average of the counties Ryan analyzed.
On to today.
In Harris Co., 62K voted in person on Day 3, a tiny dip from Days 1 and 2. A total of 246K have voted early in person or by mail during the three days, which 2.3 times the number who voted in the same period in 2014. It is 41K short of the number who voted in the same period in 2016. This week, polls have been open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., among the shortest hours anywhere in the state. It is distinctly possible that Harris Co. turnout would be ahead of 2016 if polls were open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., which they will be next week.
In Bexar Co., another 33K voted in person today, which is a little below the average of the previous two days.
In Williamson Co., more than 60K have voted in person or by mail through three days, eclipsing the total number who voted during the entire early voting period in 2014.
Turnout appears to be brisk across the state:
- In McLennan Co., turnout has already exceeded 40% of the votes cast in the entire 2014 general election. Just over 4K voted today in person or by mail, bringing the three-day total to nearly 19K, which is 13.5% of registered voters there. Just over 7K voted during the first three days of the 2014 early voting period.
- In Bell Co., more than 20K have voted in person and by mail during the first three days, more than triple the same period in 2014. In adjacent Coryell Co., more than 4K have voted early, nearly the number who voted during the entire early voting period in 2014.
- In Gregg Co., nearly 9K people have voted early, representing roughly 13% of registered voters. About 13K voted in the entire early voting period in 2014.
- In Taylor Co., heavy rains deterred some voters, so today’s in-person numbers did not match previous days’ record levels. More than 9K have voted in person in the first three days, more than triple the 2014 figure but slightly behind the 2016 pace.
- In Cooke Co., north of Dallas/Fort Worth, around 3K have voted early in person or by mail. In 2014, fewer than 9K votes were cast early and Election Day combined. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) received 84% of the vote there.
Even smaller counties, such as Stephens Co., where more than 400 people have already voted at the sole polling place in Breckenridge, are experiencing record-breaking turnout.
©2018 Texas Election Source LLC