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Early voting: Right on target

I’m going to toot my own horn here:

My guess would be 675,000 early votes [in Harris County], which should yield about 730,000 total votes.

And here’s here’s today’s Chron story about the final tally:

After shutting the doors Friday night on 12 days of early voting, officials said 678,312 citizens had voted at the county’s 36 sites, and an additional 55,459 had returned completed mail ballots before Tuesday’s deadline.

The combined figure of 733,771 equals about 37 percent of the county’s registered voters and for the first time may be higher than the number who vote on Election Day for the offices of president, U.S. Senate, U.S. House and several local positions.

A few more early votes may be added later to Friday’s total; lines were so long at the Lone Star College site on Tomball Parkway in north Harris County and at other locations that voting was extended past 9 p.m. to accommodate voters who arrived by the 7 p.m. deadline, officials said.

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. The final version of my spreadsheet fills in the details. Here’s what the final daily tracking chart looks like:

Nearly identical in form to the 2004 graph, except for the sightly less steep incline between Thursday and Friday. So what does this portend for Tuesday?

Predictions by County Clerk Beverly Kaufman and partisan strategists for Tuesday’s turnout hover at or slightly below the amount of the early vote turnout.

A combined total of about 730,000 for early voting and 700,000 more on Tuesday would put total county turnout above 1.4 million, or 73 percent of all registered voters.

Total turnout here was 59 percent in 2004, including about 405,000 early votes.

Put me down for the under on that bet. 1.3 million, which would be about 67% turnout, feels like a more realistic target. Let me stress again, we’re in uncharted territory. One point four million is certainly attainable, and in this unique environment I wouldn’t rule anything out if it’s remotely plausible. I’m leaning slightly to the conservative side on this, and will be happy to have underestimated the end result.

Once again and for the last time, the big question is what does it all mean from a partisan perspective. For the final time, here’s how the vote broke down in the EV locations that have Democratic State Reps and the EV locations with Republican State Reps:

2004 Dem 163,569 39.69% Rep 234,631 56.93% Dtn 13,928 3.38% 2008 Dem 320,145 47.20% Rep 336,604 49.62% Dtn 21,563 3.18%

The shift is obvious. Now of course, the whole point of early voting is that you can go wherever it’s convenient, or least crowded, to do your business. I cast my early vote in HD131’s The Power Center, which is not where I live; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever early voted in HD148, as I usually go to the West Gray Multi Service Center in HD134 or the Fiesta in HD146 instead. But a lot of people do cast their early votes in the same State House district where they live. So what we’re seeing in these numbers is a pretty good harbinger for Dems to begin with. Now consider what Dr. Murray wrote a few weeks back:

If we have a bigger eligible voter list, which party’s candidates will likely benefit from that change? One way to look at this is to take precincts that the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates won decisively in 2004 and compare registration gains this year in these precincts since the March 4th party primaries. I selected the top 20 precincts that the Republican nominee George W. Bush won with a total vote of more than 2,340. I then pulled out the top 20 precincts for Democrat John Kerry where he received more than 1,380 votes four years ago. Since March 4, the voter rolls in the top Republican precincts from 2004 have added 7.52% new total registrants, and the top Democratic precincts have added 7.85%. So by this measure, the registrations over the last six months look like a push for the two parties.

But, there is a very big difference in these two sets of precincts. The top 20 Democratic precincts were, in 2004, and remain, heavily minority boxes with very few Republican voters. For example, in the March 4, 2008 party primaries these precincts cast 25,676 votes in Democratic primary and just 1,097 in the Republican primary. This means the registration gains this year will almost certainly add to the total vote for Harris County Democratic candidates. The top twenty 2004 Republican precincts were, of course, carried by George W. Bush, but there was a sizeable Democratic minority (16,990 of 75,583 voters) in these predominately GOP boxes four years ago. That Democratic minority has grown since November 2004, if the March primary is any indication. For example, in precinct 764, which has had the largest registration gain in the county since November 2004 (+4288 as of yesterday), the vote in the March 4 Democratic primary was 2,185 compared to just 999 Republican primary voters (Precinct 764 in 2004 was split for the 2008 election and now also includes precinct 388). Overall, the top 20 Republican precincts in 2004 had almost as many Democratic voters in the March primary (18,869) as Republican voters (19,551).

That adds up to a fair amount of hope for me, though I’ve always got Greg to keep my paranoia engaged.

The SOS does not have final early voting totals from the Top 15 counties yet. I figure they’ll have that, plus a projection of statewide turnout, by tomorrow. After that, the only thing left to say is wait til Tuesday. I’m counting down the hours now. The Statesman has more.

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One Comment

  1. Charles Hixon says:

    Although the 1st week of 08 EV was ~2X 1st week of 04 EV, the 2nd week of 08 EV was a decreasing multiple. Extrapolate that decreasing multiple for Election Day, 08 volume could be similar to the 04 volume.