As Early Voting Winds Down, Let’s Look at the Numbers

You'd better vote sometime in the next couple of days or you're going to be stuck in line on primary election day Tuesday.
You'd better vote sometime in the next couple of days or you're going to be stuck in line on primary election day Tuesday. Shutterstock
The big thing, before we peer down the rabbit hole, is that none of the numbers — none of the polling, none of the early vote totals, nothing — is as important as each and every person who is eligible to vote getting out there and casting a ballot over the next day and change, or Tuesday on election day. Texas has greater power relative to the rest of the country than it's had in any primary in at least a decade, and it's essential we turn out and exercise that power.

OK, lecture's over. Let's look at some raw and probably misleading data. (As we noted in our first post looking into 2020 early-voting numbers, Republican strategist Derek Ryan is an invaluable resource for all things early voting during Texas' primary and general election. Numbers in this post are either from Ryan or compiled by the Texas Secretary of State's Office.)

Through eight days of early voting, 536,005 Texans have cast ballots in the Democratic primary, about 120,000 fewer than the 656,572 voters who have participated in the Republican primary in Texas' 254 counties. (Take a shot if you remember that number, because Beto O'Rourke tattooed it on your brain during his 2018 Senate campaign.) According to Ryan's voter file, 56.7% of Democratic primary voters in 2016 cast ballots on election day, compared with 57.9% of Republicans. That means Democrats have a long way to go if they want to match the 2.9 million voters who turned out for their 2009 primary between Hillary Clinton and future President Barack Obama — although there is still the possibility, at least, that some Democrats are waiting to vote until after Saturday's South Carolina primary.

In Dallas County, 23,956 Republicans cast ballots either by mail or in person through the first eight days of early voting. Democrats have showed up at about twice the rate of their GOP counterparts in Dallas County, with 45,889 having voted so far. By the same point in 2016, 35,148 Republicans had voted in Dallas, compared with 33,158 Democrats. In 2008, after eight days of early voting, 19,728 Republicans had participated, compared with 70,185 Democrats.

Three counties — Harris, Travis and Bexar — have tallied more Democratic votes than Dallas so far in 2020. Harris County is the only county in Texas bigger than Dallas. Five counties — Harris, Tarrant, Bexar, Denton and Fort Bend — have all racked up more GOP votes than Dallas County.

One bright spot for Democrats is that, in Texas' 30 biggest counties, about 25% of the voters in its primary have never participated in a primary election before. Among Republicans, that number is just over 14%. About 35% of Democratic voters in those 30 counties are under 40, and the same can be said for 16% of GOP participants.
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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