Signs Point to Massive Midterm Turnout in Dallas County

Dallas County is showing the heck up so far in 2018.
Dallas County is showing the heck up so far in 2018. 3dfoto Shutterstock
Dallas County residents kept up the momentum and then some on Day 2 of early voting. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said more than 55,000 registered voters cast ballots at polling places throughout the county Tuesday, eclipsing 53,000-plus who voted the second day of early voting during the 2016 presidential election and battering the county's second-day total of 15,412 in the 2014 midterms.
It was the second early-voting day in a row that more than three times as many voters showed up to cast ballots than did for the 2014 midterms. Voters in Dallas and around the state are showing up at levels at or near all-time records for early voting in any election, and midterms in the state typically see about half the turnout of a general election in a presidential year.

About 403,000 people voted in November 2014's general election. Counting mail-in ballots, at least 135,000 people have already cast ballots this year, a total that will rise when the Texas secretary of state releases Tuesday's official mail-in vote total later today. Barring a massive drop in early turnout, the county could very well eclipse its cumulative vote total from four years ago before election day.

A midterm turnout that looks like a presidential turnout is viewed by many as good for Democrats and could bring many of the polls conducted of Texas races this year into question. The screens used by pollsters to determine who is and who isn't a likely voter often rely on previous midterm turnout. That's a mistake this year, according to Progress Texas executive director Ed Espinoza.

“2014 was the lowest turnout midterm in a decade, and 2016 was the highest turnout election in a lifetime. You already had this major swing.” — Ed Espinoza

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“2014 was the lowest turnout midterm in a decade, and 2016 was the highest turnout election in a lifetime. You already had this major swing,” Espinoza says. “Granted, they were two different elections — one was a midterm and one was a presidential — but that’s important to note. 2014 was a quiet year. You didn’t have an expanded electorate, you didn’t have the era of Trump. If you have that come up in 2016, that is obviously going to affect what happens in 2018.”

Texas has added more than 1.6 million registered voters since 2014, too, after having added just 1.2 million over the dozen years between 2002 and 2014. Espinoza is incredulous that those voters aren’t going to cast ballots.

“Do you really think that this mass of new registrants A, are not going to show up and B, are not going to vote Democratic? The overwhelming numbers of these registrants are coming from cities and cities are blue,” Espinoza says. “I look at those things and I say, ‘OK, you can look at past behavior, but past behavior does not factor in the dramatic swing in voter activity from '14 to '16, it doesn’t factor in new registrations and it doesn’t factor in Beto O’Rourke raising $38 million in the third quarter [of 2018].’”

By 9:30 a.m., Wednesday was shaping up to be another big day. More than 6,000 votes had been cast, almost half the third-day total of 13,583 in 2014 and well on the way to the more than 48,000 that were cast in 2016.
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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