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Dallas County’s Early Voting Crystal Ball Is Hazy as Always

Dallas County isn't quite voting like it's 2008.EXPAND
Dallas County isn't quite voting like it's 2008.
iStock/bizoo_n

One should be cautious, very cautious, when embarking on the journey upon which we are about to embark. There are few conclusions, legitimate or otherwise, worth drawing from early voting, much less two days' worth of it. But the data is there, providing as close a facsimile as exists for party registration in Texas, tempting us to seek its wisdom and extrapolate what might happen in the Texas primary on Tuesday, March 3 or, if we're really getting ambitious, November's general election.

Through two days of early voting in Dallas County, 12,220 Democrats have cast ballots. A little more than two-thirds of those ballots have been voted in person, with the rest being mailed in. Dallas' Democratic total is the third highest in the state, trailing Harris County (Houston), which has seen 23,558 voters in its Democratic primary, and Bexar County (San Antonio), in which 14,055 ballots have been cast.

Democratic vote totals are up significantly in all three counties — which rank first (Harris), second (Dallas) and fourth (Bexar) in number of registered voters in the state — over the 2016 primary. The same holds true in suburban North Texas. Denton and Collin counties have both recorded about the same Democratic votes through two days of early voting as they did in 2016.

All of that sounds good, if you're rooting for high Democratic turnout in November. But the key measuring stick, according to Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, isn't the contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016. Instead, it's Clinton and President Barack Obama's knock-down, drag-out 2008 presidential primary. 

Through two days of early voting in Dallas County that year, 18,364 Democrats had made their mark, part of an eventual 2.9 million Texans who voted in the primary.

Across the state, 160,353 voters, a touch under 1% of the state's registered voters, have participated in the Democratic primary through two days of early in-person and mail-in voting. That's about 5.5% of the 2008 total, with nine days of early voting and the Super Tuesday election remaining.

In each of the state's 30 biggest counties, according to data helpfully compiled by Ryan Strategies' Derek Ryan, the vast majority of votes being cast in the primary have been cast by those who've previously voted in Democratic primaries. In Dallas, that cohort, has made up about 70% of Democratic voters so far, with voters with no primary voting history making up a little more than 20% of those casting ballots.

The average age of a Texas Democratic primary voter so far for in-person voting — as Ryan notes, mail-in ballots skew the average age upward — is 53.6, about nine years younger than 2020's average Republican voter, so far.

By the time early voting is over on Feb. 28, a day before the first-in-the-South South Carolina primary, somewhere between 50% and 60% of primary voters will have already cast their ballots, if history is any guide.

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