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First day of early voting

Here are the Day One primary early voting totals, which was reasonably heavy and which went according to prediction, with most of the votes on the Republican side. The Chron preview story lays it out.


Early voting for the March 4 primaries begins Tuesday with Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill predicting a turnout he said could rival that of the last presidential primary.

Voters can cast ballots at one of 39 early voting locations throughout the county between Tuesday and Feb. 28. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Friday.

Woodfill said interest in this year’s primary is more energized than any non-presidential election he has seen in a decade.

“For the first time in a long time, you have seats where multiple candidates are running,” Woodfill said. “Because Gov. (Rick) Perry isn’t running, the dominoes fell and there’s a lot of seats that are open.”

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s decision to run for governor and Comptroller Susan Combs’ decision to retire left those posts wide open for Republican Texas lawmakers and other state leaders looking to change jobs. In addition to almost all Texas House and Senate seats, a long list of local judicial posts has further lengthened the Republican ballot.

Also drawing voters into what normally would be a low-turnout primary is Woodfill’s attempts to fend off challengers Paul Simpson and Wendy McPherson Berry for the job of running the largest county Republican Party in the nation.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said the number of mail-in ballots requested so far could back up Woodfill’s turnout boast. Stanart said his office, so far, has received nearly 23,000 requests for mail-in ballots from Republicans – a number he said nears that of the last presidential election – compared to about 11,000 requested by Democrats.

“We have so many more contestants on our primary ballot,” he said.

Two points to make here: One, there were nearly as many votes cast in the 2010 non-Presidential Republican primary in Harris County than there were in the 2012 Presidential primary – 163,930 votes in 2012, 159,821 in 2010. I’ll be surprised, and if I were Jared Woodfill I’d be a little disappointed, if 2014 totals don’t easily outpace those two years. Two, I’m not sure how much mail ballots tell us about primary turnout. There were 19,164 GOP mail ballots in 2012, and 13,914 mail ballots in 2010, but as noted barely a change in overall turnout between the two. Democrats, by comparison, had 7,193 mail ballots in 2010, with 101,263 total turnout, and 8,775 mail ballots in 2012, with 76,486 total turnout. My guess is there’s just more people requesting mail ballots these days, a reflection of a somewhat older electorate and a desire to avoid having to produce photo ID at the polls. But we’ll see.

For comparison’s sake, here’s the final EV tally from 2010. Republicans are ahead of that pace, mostly due to a larger volume of mail ballots returned, while Democrats are a bit behind theirs. Democrats had a reasonably high profile Governor’s primary in 2010 to drive turnout, whereas this year it’s mostly local races doing the heavy lifting. In the end I expect Republicans to get about twice as many votes – they had a bit more than half again the Dem total in 2010 – possibly a bit more than that. I have no idea if any of their candidates are rooting for a particular level of turnout.

I’ll check in on EV turnout periodically as we go. Feel free to add your own impressions and guesses, and let us know if you’ve already voted. Greg and Campos have more.

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