Early-voting trends: What we can learn so far

By now you have seen the headlines. Early voters from Houston to Hawaii are out there just crushing it. COVID-19 is certainly a factor in Harris County’s record-setting pace but not the only one.

“Personally, (I) like the fact (that there is) not a long line, don’t have to deal with crowds,” said early voter, Michael Acosta.

“People are really fired up about this election, no matter what side you’re on,” said Michelle Glickman.

“They are afraid of the mail system," said Harris County Precinct 868 Election Judge Shereta Glen. "They do not feel like their ballots are going to make it in time.”

Across the United States, nearly 60 million people have already voted. Of the 19 states that report such data, registered Democrats are by far the biggest group showing up. But in Texas, the No. 1 state in the nation for early voting so far, we don’t release party affiliation data.

In Harris County, where we lead the state in early voting, so far 1.1 million, we know that this year in the primaries, registered Democrats handily outpaced registered Republicans in early voting. Democrats totaled 116,703, and Republicans totaled 82,029. For both parties, people in their 60s voted the most.

What could early voting numbers mean?

One professor said there’s an even better indicator of how this could impact early voting so far. He thinks what is going on so far bodes well for Democrats.

“The reason why I make that assumption (is) because if you look at (what) the turnout was in Harris County in 2016, and we saw the election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump,” said Dr. Michael Adams, Chair of Political Science from Texas Southern University.

Four years ago in Harris County, Democrats cleaned up. Hillary Clinton beat President Trump in early voting with 53.2% for Clinton and 42.9% for Trump. But keep in mind Trump did win Texas. So that’s using recent history as a guide, but there are other indicators when looking at early voting so far.

Early voting locations could give clues

You can get an idea about who is turning out for early voting by looking at the geography of where people are voting. The most active early voting sites appear to be in places like Cypress, Kingwood, River Oaks and Jersey Village -- not inner-city locations.

You may be tempted to make assumptions about who is voting in these locations, who lives in those communities. However, TSU’s chair of political science says be careful.

“It’s vote anywhere so you are not just limited to a precinct,” said Adams. “It’s the concept of convenience voting.”

Early voting and state races

One very close race is the District 22 congressional race. District 22 covers parts of Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Harris counties. It has been represented by Republican Pete Olson for more than a decade. With Olson retiring, Troy Nehls (R) and Sri Kulkarni (D) are locked in a dog-fight to replace him. (Our Investigates team put some of the campaign ads to the Trust Index.) Adams said early voting is giving us clues to those races too.

“For Democrats, I think it’s looking well from a national standpoint and also from a state standpoint in terms of the Texas House of Representatives being in play and they will have the opportunity to flip that chamber,” said Adams. “I think it’s trending and it’s boding well for Democrats if you look at what we see in the congressional races.”

Adams also helped us decipher the statewide early voting data.

Women and early voting

The Texas Democratic Party recently sent out data showing nearly 4 million Texas women have voted early. That is up from 3.3 million in 2018. The group said that in Harris County, women accounted for 56% of the vote through last week.

The League of Women Voters is one group that has been a big part of voter registration efforts across our area. You may remember in October the Harris County Clerk’s Office partnered with the Houston Rockets and MTV for the inaugural Vote Early Day at the Toyota Center.

How does early voting look in my county?

Many counties in our area post daily early voting totals daily as they come in. You can check your county information below.

HARRIS COUNTY

BRAZORIA COUNTY

FORT BEND COUNTY

MONTGOMERY COUNTY

GALVESTON COUNTY

CHAMBERS COUNTY

POLK COUNTY

LIBERTY COUNTY (voting information)


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