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Early voting: Still following the pattern

The early vote in Harris County was 66,506 yesterday, the busiest day yet. That matches the pattern from 2004, except at a higher level – the corresponding 2004 number was 46,393, and the nine-day total was 240,846 then and 443,267 now. That’s “only” an 84% increase from 2004, not quite the doublings we’d seen last week, but still pretty healthy. It’s also more than the total for all of 2004, which makes it a record-breaker, and we should blow past the initial projection of 500,000 early votes sometime today.

Here’s an update of that graph I posted on Monday:

If the trend continues to match that of 2004, I expect we’ll get about another quarter million early voters, for a grand total of about 700,000 in-person votes, and a bit more than 750,000 total votes. Election Day itself could be a relatively sleepy affair and still surpass 2004’s total turnout; if that represents 60% of all voters, we’ll have 1.25 million when all is said and done.

Rick Casey gets HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg’s reaction to this. Yesterday’s total was a key component to it.

On Monday, the turnout was 150 percent of what it was on the corresponding day four years ago. Birnberg’s theory was that the Tuesday turnout would indicate whether today through Friday, the last three days of early voting – traditionally the heaviest stretch – would slip back to 2004 levels, return to the stratospheric numbers of the first seven days, or settle some place in between.

If they slip back to 2004 levels, it’s bad news for Birnberg.

If they stay at 150 percent, “that will probably mean the Democrats will swamp Harris County,” he said.

“If they go back up, which I do not predict, to numbers approaching 200 percent, then the figures are so far off the chart I don’t know how to interpret them.”

His logic seems sound. He figures about half a million will vote on Election Day.

He also believes John McCain will not get more votes in the county than Bush won in 2004 – 585,000 or 55 percent of the 1,068,000 votes cast.

Sarah Palin may have energized the base, but so did Bush.

If the early vote stays at 150 percent of 2004 levels, Birnberg calculates, Harris County will see a record turnout of about 1.2 million, more than enough to beat Bush’s mark.

Birnberg’s argument is bolstered by what he knows about the early vote. Every night he gets a tape of data showing who voted.

It’s the same data obtained by Leland Beatty, a veteran Democratic numbers cruncher based in Austin. Beatty screens the early voting list both statewide and by major counties against a data base of voters who participated in past elections.

In the first week of Harris County early voting, Beatty says, nearly half the voters had voted in only Democratic primaries.

Only about 22 percent had voted only in Republican primaries. And about 23 percent were either new voters or had voted only in general elections.

These numbers appear to overwhelmingly favor Obama and other Democrats. But Beatty, as cautious as any other Democrat, cautions that those who have never voted in primaries make up about 60 percent of Harris County registered voters.

“They’re holding off,” he said. “So while it looks like a Democratic surge, those other voters wouldn’t be holding back if they had made up their minds. So Election Day is a decision day.”

Tuesday’s total wasn’t quite 150% of 2004 – as Casey notes, it was 143% – but it was enough of an increase to feel good about. The magic numbers for today are 49,449, which is the 2004 total, and 74,173, which is 150% of that. I’d say that seventy thousand would be plenty good enough.

Here’s the Texas Weekly chart for the Top 15 again. Fort Bend is the only county still going at a pace that’s more than double that of 2004, but growth across the board is brisk. By the way, the final voter registration total for Texas is 13.5 million. If turnout statewide is right at 60%, we will get eight million total voters. I believe we are very likely to get to this level.

So, how many of you reading this have not yet voted? Are you still planning to vote early, or are you an Election Day purist? Leave a comment and let me know.

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  1. Julie H says:

    I’ll be voting on Friday. My husband registered to vote about 1 week before the deadline. His registration record says the first day he is permitted to vote is 10/31, Friday.

  2. laura d says:

    I voted today. 9:30 am at the West Gray location (about a 15 minute wait). I used to be a day-of purist, but this year I voted early in the primary and enjoyed it, so I wanted to do the same in the general.

    My husband will be voting tomorrow.

  3. Bill Kelly says:

    That is not accurate, you can early vote at any location at any time, your affective date is before the election so you are fine.

    Vote Now!