As you know, there’s been a lot written about primary turnout in the top 15 counties by voter registration in Texas. Much has been said about the large increase in Democratic turnout, accompanied by the much milder increase – and in some counties, decrease – in Republican turnout when compared to 2014 and 2010. This is great, but Texas has 254 counties, and there are a lot of decent-sized metro areas that are not represented in the coverage we’ve seen, Moreover, while the top 15 counties include many blue and purplish counties, the next 15 are much more tilted to the red side. Here, by my reckoning, are those counties:
Hays (San Marcos)
Brazos (Bryan/College Station)
Comal (New Braunfels)
Webb is strong Democratic; Hays and Jefferson are quasi-Democratic; the rest are varying shades of red. I wanted to know how voting was going in these counties, so off to Google I went. The best story I found in my searches came from Smith County:
Early voting ticked up among Smith County voters for the March primary, and about half of the increase came from people casting ballots for Democrats.
A total of 12,926 early ballots were cast in Smith County, according to the county’s elections division. By party, there were 10,994 ballots cast for Republicans and 1,932 cast for Democrats.
Overall, the numbers represent a 9.5 percent increase in early voting overall as compared with 2014, the last time there was a primary election for local and statewide offices but no candidate for president.
By party, the 2018 early voting numbers represent a 5.6 percent increase for Republicans, who cast 10,409 early ballots in 2014, and a 38.5 percent increase for Democrats, who cast 1,395 early ballots in 2014.
Early voting lasted approximately two weeks, from Feb. 20 through Friday. Polling places were open in five locations in Tyler, Lindale, Whitehouse and Noonday. The primary election is Tuesday.
Mark Owens, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Tyler, said much of the increase in early voters in 2018 could be attributed to an increasing population in Smith County.
The number of registered voters in Smith County is 131,007 in the 2018 primary, a 5.8 percent increase over the 123,867 registered voters at the time of the 2014 primary, according to Owens.
Owens called the early voting turnout “just on par for a growing area.” However, he credited Democrats for having an impact on the increase in early voters in conservative Smith County.
In raw numbers, 1,122 more Smith County residents voted in 2018 over 2014. Republicans accounted for 585 of those ballots, and Democrats accounted for 537 of them.
“To the Democrats’ credit, the voter mobilization efforts are stronger in the fact that this isn’t a primary with as many leading elections at the top of the ticket, so they would see it, from their perspective, of people wanting to vote for (their candidates),” Owens said.
“A really big part of it is candidates coming out to East Texas to listen and encouraging people to go vote,” Owens said. “I think if you look at the numbers, that means something to people.”
I’d call that encouraging. Dems are still vastly outnumbered, but they showed up and increased their totals over 2014. Indeed, the total number of votes cast in the Democratic primary in 2014 was 2,328, so early voting turnout there came close to matching that by itself.
That’s about as good as it gets in terms of being specific. This Lubbock story is pretty representative:
Heading into the last day of early voting for the 2018 primaries, the Associated Press reported that Texas had already set a non-presidential cycle record for the number of people turning out. Before Friday, more than 583,000 Texans in the 15 largest counties had cast early ballots in person, which was already more than the then-record of nearly 510,000 who did so during early voting for 2014′s midterm election.
In Lubbock County there were 15,430 total ballots cast during the 11 days of early voting. That means about 9 percent of registered voters took advantage of the early voting period.
About 400 more votes in Lubbock county were actually cast this year than during early voting in 2014, the last midterm election. This year’s total is about 8,700 votes less than in 2010. During the last primary in 2016, more than 25,000 votes were cast in early voting.
The Lubbock County Elections Office hasn’t yet released the separate vote totals for the Republican and Democratic primaries.
Some of these places make you downright wistful for Stan Stanart. Here’s Hays County:
As of Feb. 26, 4,658 early votes have been accounted for at seven different locations spread across the county. This does not account for the nearly 2,000 votes submitted to the county by mail.
In total, around 6,600 have been counted for, shattering the numbers from previous election cycles in 2014 and 2016.
According to Hays County numbers, roughly 4,500 people voted early in the November Presidential 2016 election, while only 1,768 early votes were counted in November 2014 race.
“We’ve had a very high turnout considering the political season we are in,” said Jennifer Anderson, elections administrator for Hays County. “Democratic turnout has been good and that is to be expected considering the national swing we had with the Presidential election.”
So far, roughly 53 percent of the early voting population voted in the Republican Primary, while 46 percent of the early votes took part in the Democratic Primary.
At least that’s something to go on. In 2014, 8,521 votes were cast in the Republican primary for Governor (this isn’t the same as turnout, since people do undervote in individual races, but I can’t get to the Hays County elections page as I write this, so it will have to do), compared to 3,131 votes in the Dem primary for Governor. If the split this year is something like 53-46, then the Dem share is up by a lot. That’s very good to see.
From Comal County:
Registered voters in Comal and Guadalupe counties have their last chance to cast early ballots today for candidates competing in Tuesday’s Republican and Democratic primary elections.
Voters in both counties flocked to the polls during the 12-day early voting period, which began Feb. 20. Through last Tuesday, 5,654 Comal County residents — about 6 percent of the county’s 95,353 registered voters — had cast early ballots, running ahead of the number and percentage of registered voters who turned out in the 2014 midterm elections.
The rest is behind a paywall. Comal is deep red – think Montgomery County-deep red – so this will be worth watching. In 2014, there were 14,458 Republican primary gubernatorial votes, and 1,647 Democratic votes, so you can see what I mean. Neighboring Guadalupe County has a bit more detail:
Guadalupe County Elections Administrator Lisa Adam said area residents have slowly begun increasing their presence at the polls.
“Our numbers this week have already been higher than in the 2014 gubernatorial primary,” she said. “The first week’s numbers for this year were a little lower than they were in 2014. This week we are actually ahead than the second week of early voting in 2014; not by leaps and bounds, but we are ahead.”
“In the 2014 primary, we had 81,217 registered voters,” she said. “Right now, as of Feb. 1 we have 95,717. We’ve come a long way. We’re adding 300 to 400 registered voters a month. The growth our county is experiencing is incredible.”
In that election cycle, the county saw 14.2 percent of the voting population turn out for the Republican Primary and 2.1 percent for the Democratic Primary, Adam said.
1,688 Dem gubernatorial primary votes, 11,196 Republican. Again, there’s lots of room to grow here.
Early voting before the March 6 primaries wrapped up Friday with 5,933 Brazos County voters casting ballots.
Most of those, 4,144, came from Republicans, and 1,789 Democrats voted early. The total for the two-week early voting period was helped by a push of 1,467 voters Friday. There are about 105,000 registered voters in the county.
That’s burying the lede here. In the 2014 gubernatorial primary there were 1,927 total Dem votes, and 10,665 total Rep votes. In other words, Dems are way up. Republicans, not so much.
For McLennan County, I turn to my friend Carmen Saenz:
Final numbers for 2018 early voting in McLennan County primary:
Dems: 3054 – 28% of total
GOP: 7778 – 72% of total
Relative to 2014 early voting in the McLennan County primary:
Dems 1085 – 18% of total
GOP 4940 – 82% of total
Although there is a 181.5% increase in the number of Dems voting and only a 57.5% increase in GOP, with an overall increase of 80% these numbers say a lot about the McLennan County Democratic Party.
In a lot of the counties, we’ve seen Dem numbers up a lot with Republican numbers not up much if at all. Both are up here, which makes McLennan a bit of an outlier.
The city of Amarillo is in both Randall and Potter counties. I didn’t find a good story for Randall County, but I did find this for Potter:
In Potter County, there have been 4,940 votes in-person and mail-in since Feb 27. That number is expected to increase by seven tonight, at the end of early voting.
In the 2016 Presidential Primaries, there were 5,284 early votes cast in Potter County.
Breaking down the numbers even further, 4,128 Republicans cast their vote in Potter County, during early voting.
That has surpassed the numbers from the 2016 election, which topped out at 4,031 votes. The Democrats have cast 821 votes, slightly less than 2016 early voting at 988.
That’s 2016. If you look at 2014, there were 810 total votes cast in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. So yeah, it’s up.
Last but not least, Midland County:
The elections offices in Midland and Ector County has seen a dip in voter turnout this early voting season.
As of Friday afternoon in Ector County, election officials counted 5,300 voters.
There are over 74,000 registered voters in Ector County.
As of Friday morning in Midland County, the total number ballots counted was a little over 6,200.
There are over 81,000 registered voters in Midland County.
2014 gubernatorial primaries:
Ector County – 1,320 Dems, 7,778 Republicans
Midland County – 960 Dems, 12,640 Republicans
If there’s a downward trend in these places, it’s probably not because of the Dems.
I’ll return to this later in the week. For now, this is where we stand.