A look at recent trends in early, mail, and Election Day voting

I’ve noted before how I completely overestimated Election Day voting totals in the November/December 2023 and March 2024 races, based on recent past data from similar elections. I’ve tentatively concluded that even for races where a lot of Election Day voting was still the majority of the vote, early voting including voting by mail is the undisputed heavyweight now. I wanted to take a minute and do a more comprehensive review of this for the spate of elections we’ve had since last November, and see what that might tell us. So without further ado, here’s the relevant data.

Election   Mail    Early    E-Day    Total
Nov 23   16,655  224,321  210,844  451,820
Dec 23   13,769  118,089   66,639  198,497
Mar 24D  18,116   87,603   72,083  172,522
Mar 24R   7,133  102,273   93,321  202,727
May 24   15,005   19,512   22,455   56,972
May 24D  11,386   16,453   17,617   45,456

Election   Mail%    EIP%  Early%    EDay%
Nov 23     3.69%  49.65%  53.33%   46.67%
Dec 23     6.94%  59.49%  66.43%   33.57%
Mar 24D   10.15%  50.78%  61.43%   38.57%
Mar 24R    3.52%  50.45%  53.97%   46.03%
May 24    26.34%  34.25%  60.59%   39.41%
May 24D   25.05%  36.20%  61.24%   38.76%

All results are based on the election archives at HarrisVotes plus the last early vote report file sent out by the Clerk’s office following the May 28 runoffs. I added up the votes cast plus undervotes and (for mail ballots) overvotes to get each total, which is consistent for each countywide race. I did not include the small number of provisional ballots for each election, just for the sake of simplicity. My “Total” will therefore be slightly off from the official turnout total given by the Clerk on each election result page.

“Early” refers to the early in person votes cast for each race, and “E-Day” is the in person vote total for that election day. The percentages given are for Mail, Early In Person, Early Total (which is Mail + EIP), and Election Day. “May 24” is the May special election, and “May 24D” is the May Democratic primary runoff. I skipped the Republican primary runoff since it was not countywide.

A couple of things stand out to me. One is that outside of the Republican primary, the total number of mail ballots cast is remarkably stable. It’s not at all proportionate to the overall turnout of a given election, it’s more of a function of the number of people who receive a mail ballot for that race. Which itself is relatively stable, in that one can request a mail ballot for all elections in a year at the beginning of that year. If you want evidence that allowing more people to vote by mail would lead to a general boost in turnout, there you have it.

What this means is that especially in a low turnout context, mail voters are very important. Kathy Blueford Daniels won her race for HCAD Position 1 because of mail voters. She took almost 63% of the mail vote, which gave her an absolute edge of over 4400 votes, then held on as she got a just-under-50% plurality in early in person votes and lost Election Day by eleven points.

The other HCAD races are harder to say anything about because I daresay many voters didn’t know who the candidates were, or more specifically what party they represented. Dems collected 70% of the mail vote in HCAD2, split among all of the non-Kyle Scott candidates, while Pelumi Adeleke and J. Bill got just over 27% of the mail vote in HCAD3. Another way to think about it is this: The three endorsed Republicans (Frazer, Scott, Lacy) all got about the same number of mail votes. Ericka McCrutcheon was the wild card in HCAD3, as she has been a candidate before and as a Black woman probably got a nontrivial number of votes from Dems who didn’t know her party affiliation

I think the single best thing that Democrats can do in the HCAD runoffs is remind all of the regular Democratic mail voters that Melissa Noriega and Pelumi Adeleke are their candidates. It’s important in each race but almost certainly vital in HCAD3, where Adeleke is the less-known candidate. We’re probably going to get about half of the turnout of the May election on June 15, so the mail ballots could easily be the biggest share of the total, possibly even a majority of them. Win the mail vote, probably win the overall vote.

This only goes so far in a high-turnout context. Mail ballots were 10.8% of the total in November 2020, and 5.5% of the total in November 2022. They were still the most Democratic component of the total in each case. We have this effective tool at our disposal, and it’s extra effective in smaller races. This is our chance to really use it. If you’re looking to help Melissa Noriega and Pelumi Adeleke win on June 15, join an effort to call the Dems who have mail ballots and get them to send them in.

UPDATE: There were 2,946 mail ballots received on Tuesday, Day Two of early voting, which is almost double the Day One total and the sort of thing you’d expect to see if the normal pattern of ballots being mailed in was disrupted by the proximity of the two elections. This is an encouraging sign, but we need it to continue.

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2 Responses to A look at recent trends in early, mail, and Election Day voting

  1. Sandra G Moore says:

    I looked at the totals for in person voting. There are only 26 voting locations. It seems to me that locations with the highest numbers (which aren’t high) are in locations where Rs vote. Not looking good for the D candidates especially since the Chronicle endorsed Melissa’s challenger. We very much need the mail in ballots!!

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