Dallas County Smashes Early Voting Record, Thanks to Big Surge in Democratic Turnout

Dallas County's early voting totals look great for Democrats.
Dallas County's early voting totals look great for Democrats. Google Stock Photo
Dallas County voters easily topped their previous best turnout for early voting in an off-year primary thanks to an energized Democratic electorate. According to numbers from the Texas Secretary of State's Office, 110,334 county residents voted early in the 2018 primary, beating the county's previous high turnout in 2014 by more than 40,000 votes.

The increase comes despite lower Republican primary turnout in the county. In early voting, 40,487 Republicans cast votes across Dallas County, compared with 43,745 four years ago. Democrats more than made up for the Dallas GOP's fade by more than doubling their own turnout, from 34,815 early voters in 2014 to 69,844 early voters in 2018.

Across the state, especially in Texas' urban counties, final early voting numbers reflect a similar trend. After being outnumbered 75,400 to 30,108 in 2014 early voting, 87,916 Harris County Democrats out-balloted 81,537 Republicans in this year's totals. In Travis County, nearly three times as many Democrats voted as Republicans. In El Paso County, home of insurgent U.S. Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke, more than five times as many Democrats (29,934) cast ballots as Republicans (5,779).

In the state's 15 biggest counties — those that get monitored before elections by the Secretary of State's Office — Democrats outnumbered Republican voters by about 45,000. The only other time that's happened since 1996, the first year for which numbers are available, is 2008, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton poured tons of money into the state during their highly competitive presidential primary.

"These early voting returns aren’t encouraging so far.” – Gov. Greg Abbott

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Prior to the primary, Democratic strategists and pundits suggested that a turnout of somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million would be good sign for Texas Democrats in November's general election. At the end of early voting, more than 465,000 Democrats in the state's largest 15 counties have already shown up, an increase of about 240,000 over 2014.

While the numbers don't guarantee Democratic success in November, or even that Democrats will have a bigger primary turnout than Republicans after election ballots are counted on Tuesday, Texas Republicans are exploiting the totals and Democratic enthusiasm to raise money and get their own voters to the polls.

In fundraising email last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott warned supporters, "We’ve seen a surge of liberal enthusiasm in deep red states like Georgia, Alabama and Oklahoma. We had always hoped the liberal wave would never hit Texas, but these early voting returns aren’t encouraging so far.”

Texas Democrats celebrated the totals Monday morning, as well as a number of national reports touting the potential for Texas turning blue in 2018.

“Texas Democrats are fired up, exceeding all expectations, and voting in force,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said. “Something special is happening in Texas; a blue wave is rising.”
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young