Less than a week into early voting for this year's Texas Republican and Democratic primaries, the state's Democrats believe they could be seeing the blue wave many have expected as opposition to President Donald Trump solidifies ahead of the midterm elections. Across the state's 15 largest counties, Democratic turnout is up over the first two days of voting, compared with 2014, according to numbers collected by the Texas Secretary of State's Office.
Among all voters who've cast ballots so far, both in person and by mail, Democrats have a small lead, with 76,523 people taking part in the Democratic primary, compared with 69,362 Republicans. Compared with the last midterm election, however, those numbers signal a huge swing. In 2014, at the end of the second day of early voting in the primary, 75,764 voters had participated in the GOP primary, compared with 44,463 who'd cast ballots in the Democratic primary.
Democrats, especially in Texas' urban centers, are showing up. In Harris County, Democratic turnout is up by more than 100 percent since 2014. In Travis County, it's up by more than 97 percent, and in Dallas County, Democratic turnout is outpacing the last midterm election by 77 percent.
“There is absolutely no doubt Texas Democrats are voting in force," Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Crystal K. Perkins said Thursday. "Texans are fed up with Trump Republicans targeting our families, destroying our economic futures and sabotaging our health care."
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In December, as primary season was heating up, the Observer talked to Ed Espinoza, the executive director of Progress Texas, one of the state's biggest progressive activist organizations. He said at the time that one of the biggest things he was watching out for ahead of the November election was the partisan turnout in February and March. So far, Democratic turnout is right in line with, if not exceeding, Espinoza's expectations.
"The past two years, [Democrat] primary turnout has been like a half-million. At its highest, going back to like 2002 or 1998, it was around a million. If we can get past 500,000 to somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million, we know that the groundswell is real," Espinoza says.
With nine days of early voting remaining, in addition to the day of the election, Democrats have cast 30,000 more ballots than they did in by this point in 2014, while the Republican early vote has remained basically the same, at least in the counties measured by the Secretary of State's office.
The Republican Party of Texas did not return a request to comment for this story.