If you've been to a political event this election season, there are two dates that speakers have tried to sear into your memory. The first is obvious. Nov. 6, two weeks from Tuesday, is Election Day, the first chance Texas and the rest of the United States will have to see how big, or how small, the backlash to two years of President Donald Trump has been. The second date Beto O'Rourke, Ted Cruz, Pete Sessions and Colin Allred have wanted you to remember is Oct. 22, Monday, the start of early voting.
Early signs from Dallas County show that voters listened.
When voters cast their ballots early, as they can at any of the Dallas County locations above, they get the convenience of being able to vote where they want, when they want during the weeks leading up to Election Day. Candidates benefit from early voting because they can stop targeting those voters in the campaigns' turnout efforts.
At polling places throughout Dallas and the suburbs Monday, voters waited in line for somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour, with many telling their social media followers that this was the first time they'd ever had to wait to vote early.
Most seemed to view the lines as a good thing. (Which they are. Everyone please keep voting.)
I have been early voting at this location in #Dallas County for years and I have never seen anything like this. I *always* walk right in and am done in 30 seconds. #TX32 #BetoForTexas #VoteSaveAmerica pic.twitter.com/EzBFOxFgXV— Karo (@karolinatx) October 22, 2018
Downtown Dallas even featured a selfie station for those wishing to tout their early voting prowess.
Today is the first day of early voting. I voted, have you? You can grab a photo of your own in this awesome chair located at Main Street and Akard in downtown Dallas. #ivoted #albertfordallas #believeindallas #candidate #community #dallas pic.twitter.com/AYm7P8sXkM— Albert Black (@AlbertForDallas) October 22, 2018
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The first data available from the county backed up the lines. Monday, more than 57,000 Dallas County voters cast ballots, compared with the little more than 13,000 who voted on the first day of early voting in 2014.
While increased early voting in a state that's been ranked at or near the bottom in turnout for more than a decade has to be viewed as a positive thing, trying to extrapolate anything of consequence from limited early voting numbers is a fool's errand. Just look at early voting in March's Texas primary, which appeared to show a Democratic advantage. When the primaries' Election Day rolled around, Republicans in the state reasserted their superiority.
"We've been suckered before by story lines about incredible Democratic strength based on early voting that get muted or reversed once we see what actually happened on Election Day. That kinda happened this time," SMU political science professor Matthew Wilson told us in March. "All these stories that were being sent around nationally were like 'Oh my gosh, Democrats are outvoting Republicans in Texas.' Once we tallied everything including Election Day, it turned out that wasn't the case."
Early voting is available in Dallas County from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Saturday. Sunday, voters can cast ballots from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Polls are then open again from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday, Oct. 29 through Friday, Nov. 2.