Harris County residents on Monday set a new record for the first day of early voting in a midterm election, as 63,188 went to the polls to cast ballots.
The turnout smashed the previous mark, set in 2010, by more than 35,000 votes, and came on the same day both major party candidates for the U.S. Senate, Gov. Greg Abbott and President Donald Trump campaigned in downtown Houston.
An additional 52,413 voters have returned mail-in ballots, bringing the total figure to date to 115, 601.
Harris County’s tally eclipsed the first-day total in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, even though midterms typically draw far fewer voters. Fort Bend and Montgomery counties experienced similar surges.
“There are just incredible numbers of turnout today,” Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said. “Lines are moving, they’re getting to vote, and they’re getting on their way.”
The crowds at the polls signal voters are enthusiastic, said University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus, but which political party benefits remains to be seen. He said an increase in voter turnout usually boosts Democrats, but the early voting surge simply could show that more voters are choosing to avoid the hassles voting on Election Day can bring.
“Historically, turnout on the first day tends to be exaggerated,” Rottinghaus said. “It’s impossible to know which party faithful are voting, or if it’s a surge in people who traditionally don’t vote.”
Here are the daily totals from 2010, from 2014, and from 2016, as well as a spreadsheet with totals from 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016. You want to see the first day totals in a nice, convenient table form, right? I aim to please:
Year Mail Early Total ============================== 2010 24,273 26,051 50,324 2014 41,520 20,215 61,735 2018 52,413 63,188 115,601 2008 29,301 39,201 68,502 2012 40,566 47,093 87,659 2016 61,543 67,471 129,014
Monday’s total didn’t just exceed the day one totals from 2010 and 2014, it was more than the totals through Wednesday for those years. Other counties were super busy as well, though I haven’t had a chance to look around for more stories yet. While 2010 certainly stands as a good example of high turnout not being good for Democrats, I will dispute both of the things Prof. Rottinghaus said in that last paragraph. If you look at all the previous years, the number of mail ballots received drops by a lot after day one (since the day one total covers everything received to that date), but the number of in person voters generally stays around the same through the end of the week. Also, while you can’t tell from the numbers I get and publish, the names and voting histories of everyone who votes is available to anyone who wants it (for a small fee), so someone with that data can in fact tell what the likely partisan mix is and who are new voters versus old faithfuls. I expect to get information about that as we go. I do think that a lot of people sprinted to the starting line, but if the usual patterns hold, we are going to be seeing a lot of voters who don’t have a non-Presidential history. But every year tends to bring surprises, so we’ll see what this one has in store for us.
UPDATE: Forgot to actually share the file from Monday. It’s here.