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Early voting, Day Ten: Who are these people?

Are we seeing new voters in the early voting so far, or is it all the same old same old?

EarlyVoting

More than a quarter of Harris County’s 2.2 million registered voters cast a ballot in-person or by mail last week, a 36 percent increase from 2012 and part of a statewide surge in early voting.

Roughly 36 percent of those voters participated in at least one of the last three Democratic presidential primaries, a Houston Chronicle analysis of voter history shows, while 32 percent voted in at least one of the last three Republican presidential primaries. Another 19 percent only had general election voting history, and 14 percent had no Harris County voting history in recent presidential election years.

Political scientists said that split indicates last week’s uptick in early voting was attributable more to partisan urgency than it was to a flood of new voters.

“We’re seeing many of the most active partisans come out earlier than normal,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said. “There are some new voters, as we would expect based on overall population growth. But we’re not seeing a dramatic groundswell of turnout from people who either were registered and didn’t vote in the past or (registered recently).”

University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus agreed.

“It seems to me that this election is more about current voters turning out at higher rates than it is about newer voters joining the system,” he said.

True enough, but let’s keep a couple of things in mind. For one, turnout appears to be headed into the 1.4 million range, possibly higher, which means at least 200,000 more voters than there were in 2012. I had done a study awhile back on the Harris County electorates in 2010 and 2014 based on the voter rosters for each year, and I found that over a third of the voters in 2014 had not voted in 2010, despite 2010 having higher turnout. If the same is true for 2016 and 2012, we’re talking upward of a half million people who will not have participated in 2012, at least here in Harris County. That’s a lot, you know? Also, too, it’s hard to know what these numbers about who has or has not participated in primaries before mean without a point of comparison. What were the comparable figures from 2012, or 2008? The story doesn’t say.

Here’s information about the previous voting history for voters elsewhere, from that same Republican consultant who has been producing those reports after each day of early voting. This Observer story has some comments from said consultant, and it gently suggests some optimism for the Dems.

As of Tuesday, some 713,083 votes had been cast in Harris County, 626,627 in person and 86,456. That’s 20,146 more mail ballots that were cast by the end of early voting in 2012, with over 123,000 total ballots sent out to voters. We will pass the early voting total from 2008 today (730,814) and should pass the total from 2012 as well (766,526). Over 900,000 early votes seems likely, with over a million not out of the question. And yes, Tuesday was another win for the Democrats. I’m watching Game 7 as I type this, so look for the daily EV report and an update to the spreadsheet later.

UPDATE: Here’s the Day 10 EV report. We are at 700,697 in person early vote and 89,271 mail ballots, for a new record total of 789,968. And we have two days to go.

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