Early voting for the presidential election began on Tuesday with record in-person turnout seen in a few populous Texas counties, while other counties recorded a decline of in-person voting replaced with more absentee ballots.
Harris County, the most populous county in the state with nearly 2.5 million registered voters, reported that 128,000 people turned out to vote on Tuesday, more than doubling the first-day voter turnout of about 59,000 in the general elections of both 2016 and 2018.
Even considering the growth in registered voters, 5.2 percent of voters cast their ballots in-person on Tuesday in contrast with the 3 percent turnout in 2016.
Meanwhile, absentee ballots cast by mail — which has been the center of controversy and numerous lawsuits in the Houston region — saw a decline from 62,000 received at this point of early voting in 2016 to 41,000 now, a drop from 2.8 percent of voters to 1.7 percent.
A similar surge occurred in Denton County, which increased from a record of 19,000 in-person ballots cast on the first day of early voting in 2018 to 36,000 reportedly cast on Tuesday.
The percentage of registered voters to turnout jumped from 3.7 and 3.8 percent in 2016 and 2018, respectively, to 6.4 percent this year.
However, unlike in Harris County, Denton County also reported a notable increase in the number of mail ballots received thus far — 14,000 or 2.5 percent of registered voters this year compared with the 6,000 or 1.1 percent turnout.
Likewise, Galveston County saw 18,000 voters turnout on Tuesday compared to 11,000 in 2016, and 7,000 mail votes received compared to 5,000.
But aside from Harris, Denton, and Galveston counties, most other major counties in the state did not see a drastic increase in voter turnout on the first day of early voting, though mail ballots are accounting for a greater portion of the total votes.
For example, in Dallas County, 60,000 voters turned out in person on Tuesday.
Despite the increase of about 1,000 votes compared to 2016, the percentage of registered voters declined by about 0.3 percent.
Meanwhile, the number of mail ballots received by the county, per the Texas Secretary of State, has grown from 22,000 votes or 1.7 percent of voters at this point in 2016 to 33,000 or 2.4 percent.
Tarrant, Bexar, and Travis counties all showed the same trend, with the percentage of voter turnout declining but a higher percentage of mail ballots being returned:
- In Tarrant County, about 1,000 fewer in-person votes were cast on Tuesday than on the first day of early voting in 2016, but 14,000 more mail ballots have been received.
- In Bexar County, about 2,000 fewer in-person votes were cast compared to 2016, but mail ballots have increased from 17,000 to 45,000.
- In Travis County, about 1,000 more in-person ballots were cast than in 2016, and mail ballots have increased from 11,000 to 23,000.
Early voting will continue until Friday, October 30 and the last applications for ballot by mail must be received by officials by Friday, October 23.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.