Texas Sets Early Voting Record in Nonpresidential Year

Campaign signs outside of the Moody Park Community Center as early voting winds down, Thursday, March 1, 2018, in Houston. Early voting for Harris County ends Friday. (Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle)
Campaign signs outside of the Moody Park Community Center as early voting winds down, Thursday, March 1, 2018, in Houston. Early voting for Harris County ends Friday. (Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle)

Texans have already set a record for early voting in a non-presidential primary election year, and there’s still one more day to go on Friday.

More than 602,000 voters had cast ballots in the state’s largest counties in either the Democratic or Republican primaries through Wednesday. That does not count Thursday’s totals that were not available late Thursday, or Friday’s, when polls will again be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Four years ago, fewer than 600,000 people voted in the entire early voting season.

Harris County has also seen a new record. More than 116,000 people have voted early or by mail already with two days remaining to add to that total. Four years ago, just 105,508 people in Harris voted during the entire early voting period.

Democrats represent a major reason for the records and have been out-voting Republicans since the start of early voting on Feb. 20. There have been 25,000 more Democratic ballots than Republicans have cast. That is a big change from the last two gubernatorial election cycles when Republicans dramatically outvoted Democrats in the primaries by well over 100,000 in each year.

Those numbers are partly driven by people who are new to primaries, said Austin-based political analyst Derek Ryan. In looking at voter data from about 50 counties, Ryan said he’s seeing that almost 20 percent of the Democrats voting in that primary have never voted in a Democratic Primary in Texas before. For Republicans that has been closer to 8.5 percent.

“This seems in keeping with what we have seen over the last year,” said Cliff Walker with the Texas Democratic Party.

Democrats have been boosted this year by a combination of factors this year. Opposition to President Donald Trump has been a big factor in turning out voters nationwide, but Democrats also have been aided by more candidates running for office and more competitive primaries than four years ago. Four years ago, in the nine congressional districts that make up parts of Harris County, just two had competitive primaries for Democrats. This year, seven of the nine have Democratic primaries.

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SOURCE: Jeremy Wallace
Houston Chronicle