Politics

In Dallas County and Across the State, Early Voting Numbers Smash Records

Have you joined the early voting wave?
Have you joined the early voting wave? natasaadzic / iStock
Like their counterparts across the state, Dallas County voters have voted early and often throughout the state's early voting period. Throughout Texas, voters are showing up as if the Nov. 6 election was for president, rather than a midterm.

According to numbers released by the Texas secretary of state Sunday afternoon, 307,342 Dallas County residents have cast ballots — either in person or by mail — through the first six days of early voting. No matter how you put that number in context, it's startling.

It represents a more than three-fold increase in the number of early ballots from the first six days of early voting during the last midterm election in 2014. In fact, it's about 100,000 votes more than were cast during early voting total in 2014.

Through Saturday, more than 23 percent of registered voters in Dallas County have cast ballots in the 2018 election. In the 2014 election, only 34 percent of Dallas County residents voted over 12 days of early voting and Election Day itself.

The story is similar in the rest of Texas' largest 15 counties. In 2014, just more than 837,000 Texans had cast ballots by the end of the sixth day of early voting. In the same counties this year, 2.36 million people have voted. That's just more than 100,000 votes short of the six-day early voting turnout in 2016, when more than 55 percent of Texans voted in the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump.
Barring a significant drop in voting this week or on Election Day, Texas is set to break its streak of abysmal voter turnout. The state hasn't seen more than 38 percent turnout in a midterm since 1994, when George W. Bush knocked off incumbent Gov. Ann Richards. That year, about 51 percent of Texas' registered voters cast ballots.

The increased turnout likely can't be chalked up to any single factor. Both Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke have used some of the more than $100 million that's been poured into their Senate race on turning out as many of their voters as possible — just ask anyone who's had the misfortune of being stuck on the O'Rourke campaign's text message list.

Get-out-the-vote groups are also seeing increased participation among voters who might have previously participated in a midterm.

"We have been knocking on doors, particularly in the Houston area, for almost two months now, about six weeks," says Carlos Duarte, the Texas state director for Mi Familia Vota, a group that promotes civic engagement among Latino voters. "I definitely see tremendous enthusiasm and turnout like I have never seen before. We are canvassing some of the areas that we have canvassed [in previous elections] and, literally, in the past I would have to drag people to the polls. ... This time, as we're knocking on doors, specifically this week, people have said, 'I already voted. I waited in line.' It's reflected in what the numbers are showing, and it's reflected in the conversations we're having." 
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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