One more look at primary turnout

Here’s the Derek Ryan report on early voting in the primaries, which sent me off into a rabbit hole yesterday.

Early voting is over. (Thank goodness! Early voting is always the busiest point of the entire two-year election cycle for me.)

The final early voting numbers are in…actually, that’s not entirely accurate…there are likely still some counties who have not posted their final early voting rosters. But from what has been posted, the numbers are as follows:

Democratic Primary: 596,933 votes cast and 3.3% statewide turnout.
Republican Primary: 1,222,390 votes cast and 6.8% statewide turnout.

That gives the Republicans a 625,000 vote advantage over the Democrats.

Approximately 148,000 more votes were cast early in the Republican Primary this year compared to the 2020 Republican Primary. On the Democratic side, turnout was about 60% of the total cast in 2020 (but again, 2020 had a competitive presidential primary). It’s also worth noting that turnout in the Democratic Primary was lower than it was in 2022 at this point (596,933 this year compared to 620,107 in 2022).

More votes were cast in the Republican Primary than in the Democratic Primary in three of the five largest counties: Harris, Tarrant, and Bexar. Harris and Bexar are blue counties and Tarrant County is likely a slightly red county, though it did vote for Joe Biden in 2020. In the other two large counties, Dallas and Travis, turnout was higher in the Democratic Primary.

There’s more, so click over and read the rest. The main thing that this got me thinking about is something I’ve touched on here already, which is how much of the primary vote is cast early. I reviewed some numbers in Harris County before, but I wondered if looking at other counties might tell me something. So I went and looked at a bunch of county election sites, and this is what I can tell you.

Year       County     EV%
2012   Dallas Dem  45.71%
2016   Dallas Dem  36.09%
2020   Dallas Dem  40.59%

2012   Dallas GOP  41.82%
2016   Dallas GOP  37.62%
2020   Dallas GOP  48.61%

2012    Bexar Dem  56.19%
2016    Bexar Dem  47.90%
2020    Bexar Dem  53.78%

2012    Bexar GOP  56.20%
2016    Bexar GOP  46.62%
2020    Bexar GOP  58.64%

2012   Travis Dem  42.66%
2016   Travis Dem  42.33%
2020   Travis Dem  49.48%

2012   Travis GOP  42.33%
2016   Travis GOP  37.56%
2020   Travis GOP  54.66%

2012  El Paso Dem  52.90%
2016  El Paso Dem  32.80%
2020  El Paso Dem  50.16%

2012  El Paso GOP  50.07%
2016  El Paso GOP  28.95%
2020  El Paso GOP  50.11%

2012  Tarrant Dem  46.78%
2016  Tarrant Dem  42.98%
2020  Tarrant Dem  46.16%

2012  Tarrant GOP  45.65%
2016  Tarrant GOP  44.92%
2020  Tarrant GOP  55.56%

2012   Collin Dem  53.57%
2016   Collin Dem  44.23%
2020   Collin Dem  51.06%

2012   Collin GOP  54.61%
2016   Collin GOP  51.31%
2020   Collin GOP  62.31%

2012   Denton Dem  43.79%
2016   Denton Dem  41.95%
2020   Denton Dem  51.30%

2012   Denton GOP  50.32%
2016   Denton GOP  48.81%
2020   Denton GOP  62.42%

2012   Montgy Dem  39.38%
2016   Montgy Dem  36.56%
2020   Montgy Dem  43.21%

2012   Montgy GOP  49.99%
2016   Montgy GOP  46.19%
2020   Montgy GOP  56.50%

2012  Ft Bend Dem  42.61%
2016  Ft Bend Dem  37.45%
2020  Ft Bend Dem  49.80%

2012  Ft Bend GOP  56.35%
2016  Ft Bend GOP  42.75%
2020  Ft Bend GOP  66.21%

I looked at the big Democratic counties, then some Republican counties, and I wanted to check the two big suburban counties that flipped from red to blue during this time, but the Williamson County elections archives were a mess and I abandoned it. I’m throwing a lot of numbers at you and there’s a good amount of chaos in there, but the one thing that stood out to me is that in every county I checked except El Paso, Republicans were more likely to vote early in 2020 than Democrats were. Before 2020 it could go either way, and the level of early voting could fluctuate quite a bit – that was one of many things I didn’t expect – but there was definitely a pattern in 2020, and it was that Republicans voted early more than Democrats did.

Does that mean anything for this year? I have no idea. If we do see something similar to 2020, then Dems are likely to make up some ground, at least as a share of the total vote even if the absolute gap doesn’t shrink by much. If we don’t, then this was a lot of effort to no clear end. Which, to be fair, is a good summary of what blogging is in general.

To put it in mainstream media terms, here are the three main takeaways: One, every election is different. Two, primaries are weird. And three, be careful about drawing conclusions about final turnout from early turnout data. I have recent experience in that. (Note: Ryan himself doesn’t make any claims about final turnout, he just presents the existing numbers. I’m trying to be careful myself.)

One last tidbit: Harris County has provided 17.13% of the statewide Democratic early vote total, and 8.91% of the statewide Republican early vote total. I’ll report back on what those final numbers are when we have them.

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