Massive as it is in Texas, and the Lone Star Staters love to remind the nation. And this month, that applies especially when it comes to early voting.
Records have already been broken nationwide for those who vote by post, absent, or early voting in person. According to the US non-partisan electoral project, more than 62 million Americans have already voted in the general election. According to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida professor who keeps the numbers, that’s more than ten times the number of people who voted before Oct. 23, 2016.
Many states have opened or widened avenues for voting before election day due to the pandemic, but observers believe that strong early voting could lead to overall historic turnout.
But this year, Texas is at the top of the table. Monday afternoon, 7,376,276 voters in Texas had voted – more than 82 percent of the total vote in 2016, a higher percentage than in any other state. (Montana and New Mexico come in second, with just over 70% of the 2016 votes cast to date, with Georgia and North Carolina next, each with a turnout of about 66% of the total 2016 vote in each state.)
The strong turnout is even more impressive when you consider early voting barriers in Texas. Voter ID is required (although as of 2018, voters can sign an affidavit stating they have ID but not with them). Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, issued a proclamation declaring that every county, regardless of population, can have only one ballot drop-off box (Abbott was charged but has prevailed in the courts). Only voters aged 65 and over can vote for absentee without an acceptable and reasonable excuse.
It’s hard to say which party or candidate will benefit from the high early turnout, but Democrats see it as their advantage, though it’s open to question whether it will be a determining advantage.
Texas doesn’t register voters by party, so it’s impossible to know how many Democrats, Republicans, and Independents voted early. But polls show Republicans are more likely to vote on election day. Furthermore, there is a general feeling that people are not rushing out and standing in line for hours to vote in advance for an owner.
“We see it as a tossup,” says Mark Owens, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Tyler. The university’s most recent poll this week put Biden ahead of Trump by three percentage points, 48% to 45%, reflecting a cohesive survey that places the two men at a virtual deadlock in the state.
These numbers could accelerate Texas’ transition to battlefield status, Owens says. At first glance, the state seems to be ruby red, as all elected officials across the country are Republicans, and the GOP controls the state legislature.
But the Democrats had two American ones House seats in 2018 and a dozen seats in the Texas State House of Representatives, which could move to democratic control after these elections. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, has come within a few percentage points of the GOP senator’s ouster. Ted Cruz. And while the heavily funded O’Rourke was unsuccessful, the close-run gave the Democrats momentum and fueled hopes that they could get a win if they organized and turned out to vote, they could win.
“People are engaged now because they see it as a competitive election,” Owens says.
Democrats are confident, citing the number of people who had registered to vote since 2016 when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost status by just 9 percentage points. It was the smallest loss margin for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter won the state in 1976, except for two elections in 1992 and 1996 when Texan Ross Perot was on the ballot to run for the Reform Party.
Since 2016, an additional 2.4 million voters have been registered, note Democratic members of Texas and 1.4 million of them are young and from minority communities who are more likely to vote Democrat.
Hays and Williamson’s counties already surpassed their total turnout in 2016, and it’s likely going to go to Democrats, Rahman says. Denton County also broke its 2016 tally, and that’s good news for Republicans.
Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, is scheduled to visit Texas on Friday, the last day of early voting, to encourage people to vote before election day. With so many other more battlefield states won in the game, the journey is an excellent game.
Biden, however, is not heading to the Lone Star State, and neither will Trump. That’s because the president will be “in battlefield states. Texas is not a battleground state,” said Rick Perry, former governor of Texas and Secretary of Energy in the Trump administration, in a call with supporters this week. The more than 7.3 million Texans who have already voted may not agree.