Early voting wrapup: Did we run out of early voters?


Early voting is officially over, though a few more mail ballots will trickle in by tomorrow. Here are the final numbers, with the chart from Thursday being updated:


Here again is that look at turnout over the first ten days and last two days of early voting, now with this year’s numbers added in:

Year 10 Day Last 2 Final Last2 % ====================================== 2013 80,959 28,381 109,370 25.9% 2011 40,389 18,156 58,545 31.0% 2009 51,997 28,519 80,516 35.4% 2007 33,247 17,017 50,264 33.9%

Turnout slowed down a bit this year, in absolute terms where Thursday had the smallest in-person total for the week – I’m sure the rain and the Trick-or-Treating had some effect on that – and in comparison to other years. Final turnout fell short of my projection based on the past three elections by over 5,000 votes. I take all of this as at least some more evidence that what we are seeing is primarily a shift in behavior towards early voting, thus making the odd-numbered years more like the even-numbered years around here. Based on what we’ve seen so far, here are the range of projections for final turnout:

EV total EV Pct E-day total Turnout Htown hi Htown lo ============================================================= 109,370 35% 203,116 312,486 218,740 187,492 109,370 40% 164,055 273,425 191,398 164,055 109,370 45% 133,674 243,044 170,131 145,827 109,370 50% 109,370 218,740 153,118 131,244 109,370 55% 89,485 198,855 139,199 118,919 109,370 60% 72,913 182,283 127,598 109,370 109,370 65% 58,891 168,261 117,783 100,957

To break this down, we start with the EV total so far. That number will wind up being a bit higher because of late-arriving mail ballots, but that’s not important for these purposes. “EV Pct” is what the share of the EV total is of final turnout. Historically, it’s been less than 40% in these elections, but the hypothesis is that this year it will be at least 50%, thus putting it in line with the even-year elections. “Turnout” is then the number we’d get under each of these scenarios. Of course, we are talking about Harris County turnout, not City of Houston turnout. Going by past elections, the city of Houston accounts for between 60% and 70% of Harris County turnout in odd years. “Htown hi” is the Houston vote total if Houston is 70% of Harris County turnout, and “Htown lo” is the share if we’re at 60%. Got all that? According to the final Johnston analysis of the 2013 vote, about 67% of the total EV so far has been city of Houston. The comparable number for 2009 was 72%.

Of course, this is still all just Harris County. Fort Bend County will contribute about 2000 votes to the final Houston total, and Montgomery County will kick in 50 or so more. I don’t know what their early vote totals look like, and their past election history doesn’t provide much information, so let’s not worry about it. My guess is that Houston’s final turnout will resemble the 50% early scenario, with between 130,000 and 150,000 votes total in the city. Leave your own estimates in the comments and we’ll see who’s the best guesser. Greg has more.

Finally, a couple of comments about the Chron story on early voting.

A sunny and pleasant Friday in the Houston area, combined with a tendency toward procrastination, helped spur a final-day total twice that of any day other than the first when early voting began on Oct. 21. The tally of all early voting, including in-person appearance and ballots mailed, was more than 118,000, about 15,000 more than the previous high for similar elections in 2003.

“This is the most we have ever done,” said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart. “I think to some degree our high turnout is a result of getting the word out on voter ID.”

A new state law requiring would-be voters to show a photo ID at the polling place is in effect for the first time after surviving a court challenge.

Actually, the voter ID law has not survived a court challenge. The one court ruling we had on it, from the DC federal court, denied preclearance to it on the grounds that it was discriminatory. The SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act negated that ruling by throwing out the preclearance requirement of the VRA. That mooted the denial of preclearance since preclearance was no longer a requirement, but it didn’t reverse the ruling. In the meantime, litigation over the voter ID law is ongoing in federal court in Corpus Christi. The state won the ability to implement this law without prior review. It has not won anything on the merits of the law itself.

Second, that 118,000 figure is the sum of the in person votes and the total number of absentee ballots mailed. Over 30,000 absentee ballots have been sent out, but only about 21,000 have been returned, and that is the difference between the Chron’s 118,000 figure (look here for the Potential Total on the bottom). Only the absentee ballots that have been returned count, and most of those 9,000 that hadn’t been returned by Friday won’t be. It’s misleading to say otherwise. These are two basic inaccuracies that really should have been caught and corrected before ever making it into print. Bad job, Chronicle editors.

“Everything seems to be on track, and the total is far outpacing recent similar elections,” said [Secretary of State] spokeswoman Alicia Pierce. “Early voting seems to be going smoothly, even including the requirement of voter IDs.”

Officials in Harris County and elsewhere echoed that assessment. The photo identification requirement, which was approved by legislators in 2011, has not prevented anyone from voting, they said. People who show up at a polling place without a valid photo ID can vote provisionally. However, if they do not provide one in person at their local election office within six days of the election, their vote will not be counted.


Stanart said the ID requirement caused no real problems. He said seven people voted provisionally because of an ID issue.

“Two of the seven showed up without a photo ID, two had out-of-state IDs, and the other four had IDs that were long expired,” Stanart said Friday.

“In the big picture,” he noted, “that’s not much when you consider more than 80,000 people voted.”

I agree that it isn’t much, though it is vastly more than the number of documented cases of voter impersonation that even Greg Abbott can claim. But this is still a fairly small sample, and a highly non-representative one, as the vast majority of early voters are the hardest of the hardcore. These are exactly the people that you would expect to not have any problems. If the law had mandated that everyone needed to show up in clown shoes and with a copy of “The Bridges of Madison County”, we’d probably be reading a story about how all that went more smoothly than expected, too. The problem with voter ID has always been about the people who don’t have one of the very limited allowed forms of ID, the state’s laughably pitiful effort to provide ID to those who don’t have it, the fact that the Legislature clearly favored some groups (concealed-carry license holders) over others (students), and that the type of voters that will be most affected by this law are people of color, who tend to vote Democratic. None of this has changed by the relatively unproblematic early voting period of this low-turnout election of high-propensity voters. I’m glad things have gone well so far, but if this law is still in effect a year from now, I seriously doubt we’ll be able to say the same thing then.

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3 Responses to Early voting wrapup: Did we run out of early voters?

  1. Maria L Longnecker says:

    There will be no run off December. Mayor Annise Parker will win her third term as Houston Mayor. The best is yet to come! Early congratulations Mayor and Supporters for all the hard work that will make this possible. We have gone from “Houston We’ve Had A problem Here,” to “Okay, Houston I Belive We’ve Had A Problem Here, But Survive We Did.”

  2. joshua ben bullard says:

    Maria,did you bump your head on something???annise parker doesnt carry extra voters,every election she has ever won, she won by inches,extra voters for her=dont exist,that means alll these extra voters are voting for mayor=just not her,that means just by volume,she is going to a run off,my suggesttion to the parker supporters is stay home for the general and show up for the run off.

    joshua ben bullard

  3. Maria Longnecker says:

    Joshua, Thank You for your concern however, I did not bump my head on anything. Not even a “Glass Ceiling”. As you now know Annise Parker easily won re-election. The math 57.22% to Ben Hall 27.59% = a win by nearly 30 points.

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