Harris County surpassed 1 million ballots cast Friday, setting an early voting record with seven days remaining, in spite of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and a flurry of lawsuits over the management of the election.
The county reached the milestone at 3:14 p.m. as tens of thousands of voters again headed to 112 polling sites on a muggy October afternoon.
If residents continue at the current pace of more than 90,000 daily ballots, the total turnout record of 1.34 million set in 2016 will fall before Election Day on Nov. 3.
Turnout here through Thursday accounted for 15 percent of ballots cast in Texas, exceeding the number recorded by several states with more residents, including Indiana, Missouri and Maryland.
Women in Harris County have cast 56 percent of ballots so far, well above the three-point gender gap in 2018. Women are more likely to support Democrats, and President Trump is polling historically poorly with them.
Young voters also continue to show up at the polls, and those under 40 make up a larger portion of the in-person electorate than they did four years ago.
To date, voters under 29 make up 13.8 percent of the in-person early vote, nearly double their 7.4 percent in 2016. Voters 30 to 39 comprise 17.3 percent of the total, 5 points higher than the last presidential cycle. That cohort, too, is more likely to support Democrats than older voters, according to the Pew Research Center.
High turnout among these groups shows that Democratic voters are more enthusiastic than their Republican counterparts, Rice University political science Professor Mark Jones said. He said Republicans can make up ground on Election Day, but said Democrats are well-positioned to carry the county by 10 to 20 points.
“One of the real challenges for the GOP now is they know they’re behind,” Jones said. “The Democrats have gotten a large share of their voters to actually cast a ballot, whereas Republicans are still working to make sure those individuals go and vote.”
Jeronimo Cortina, a political scientist at the University of Houston, said the expected record total turnout is likely to provide Joe Biden a greater margin of victory here than Hillary Clinton’s 12-point win in 2016. He agreed that Republicans have an opportunity to narrow the gap on Election Day.
“At least so far … it seems there is a pretty good trend in terms of Democrats outvoting Republicans,” Cortina said.
In precincts carried by Clinton, and Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, in 2018, participation has been mixed. The heavily white corridor from Oak Forest south to Meyerland, as well as predominantly African-American neighborhoods including Acres Homes, Sunnyside and parts of Third Ward have seen 60 to 90 percent of their 2016 vote total.
Mostly Latino communities, including those from Aldine south through Second Ward and Pasadena, still are reporting less than 60 percent of their 2016 totals. That may leave Democrats with more outstanding potential voters — but only if they show up.
Democratic State Rep. Armando Walle is confident they will, and said Latinos traditionally are more likely to vote on Election Day. Even though there are no Latino presidential or U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot, he said they are motivated to choose leaders who will succeed at managing the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately harmed Latinos in Texas.
“Those (voting) numbers will even out as the race goes on,” Walle said.
The record turnout so far also is likely due, in part, to new voters; Harris County’s voter rolls grew by 298,000 since 2016. That gives an edge to Democrats, political scientists say, because the new voters are more likely to be younger and people of color, both demographics that tend to support the party.
We won’t maintain that 90K voters per day pace. We pretty much can’t, and as you’ll see the daily trend has been downward since that boffo first week. But that’s okay, we only need about half of that 90K pace to reach 2016 final turnout by the end of early voting, and I still think we will do that.
In re: Latino voting so far, it’s not unusual for those voters to show up later in the cycle. Here’s a breakdown of early voting percentages for each State Rep district from 2016:
Dist Early Total Early% ============================== 126 46,827 63,214 74.1% 127 58,934 75,620 77.9% 128 46,021 60,656 75.9% 129 50,423 71,355 70.7% 130 64,227 83,009 77.4% 131 34,175 47,459 72.0% 132 55,535 70,519 78.8% 133 58,215 78,173 74.5% 134 66,623 93,167 71.5% 135 46,733 61,619 75.8% 137 19,639 28,027 70.1% 138 39,337 52,787 74.5% 139 39,983 53,829 74.3% 140 17,949 28,652 62.6% 141 28,462 39,243 72.5% 142 33,908 46,243 73.4% 143 23,812 34,279 69.5% 144 18,563 28,120 66.0% 145 24,545 35,918 68.3% 146 36,001 50,081 71.9% 147 42,549 59,849 71.1% 148 36,334 49,819 72.9% 149 32,347 44,955 72.0% 150 60,267 78,180 77.1%
“Early” is the early in person vote plus mail ballots. Four of the five Latino districts – 140, 143, 144, and 145 – cast more than 30% of their total ballots on Election Day. No other district did that. So as far as that goes, I don’t see anything amiss. Obviously, these folks still need to turn out, but there’s no reason to think they won’t.
I’ll probably split my early-voting-so-far tables from Monday on to break things up into Week One, Week Two, and then each day from Week Three. I do think we will see an uptick on the last day or two of Week Three, as is always the case in a normal year’s Week Two, though it will be starting from a lower point than usual.
The Day Twelve daily EV totals are here. You can find the daily totals for 2008 and 2012 (and 2016 as well, but I’ve got a separate link for it) here, for 2016 here, and for 2018 here. I’m just going to keep on keeping on with the pretense that early voting actually began this Monday, except with 628K votes already in the bank. The “original” Day Four numbers are here.
Election Mail Early Total ======================================= 2008 43,160 284,768 327,928 2012 53,131 331,667 384,798 2016 77,445 450,186 527,631 2018 73,478 394,671 468,149 2020 149,190 361,035 510,225
Yesterday was the first day you could reasonably call slow, with 38K in person voters and 4K mail ballots returned. That allows 2016 to pass 2020 by on total voters for the week, and 2018 to catch up on in person voters, as Saturday was twice as busy for them. Of course, that was the only Saturday for those years, so this isn’t really a straight comparison, it’s just the best facsimile I can come up with. Also, for reasons unclear to me, there were no mail ballots counted in 2012 and 2016, but there were in 2008 and 2018. Don’t ask, I don’t know.
Vote type Mon-Fri Sat Sun Week Total ====================================================== Mail 69,673 4,013 73,686 149,190 Drive-thru 30,913 5,392 36,305 90,410 In person 291,591 33,337 324,928 824,027 Total 392,177 42,742 434,919 1,063,627 Vote type Week One Week Two Total ========================================= Mail 75,504 73,686 149,190 Drive-thru 54,105 36,305 90,410 In person 499,099 324,928 824,027 Total 628,708 434,919 1,063,627
Week Two has fallen well short of Week One – remember, Week One was only six days – probably by 125-150K after today is in the books. That would be the exact opposite of a “normal” year, where there’s only two weeks of early voting. This year, you had a lot of people who Could Not Wait to cast their ballot, and Week Two is basically the middle child, coming in between all that pent-up energy and the “oh, crap, early voting is almost over” realization. The average daily turnout for the (six-day) Week One was almost 105K, and the average daily turnout for the (six-day so far) Week Two is about 72.5K; I’ll recalculate that tomorrow to take Sunday into account.
Mail voting was about the same as before, though I expect that to level off some as we approach Election Day. Drive-through voting actually had a decent day yesterday, with a slightly larger crowd than either Thursday or Friday. I have no idea what to expect for the next six days, but I do still think that this coming Thursday and Friday will be busier than the four days before them, as that is the usual pattern. For the first time, the daily average needed to reach 2016 final turnout by Friday went up, though just by a bit, to 45,879. I still think we’ll get there, but now it’s more of a question than a sure thing. And let’s not forget, some people will still vote on November 3. That’s just how it is. Have you voted yet?