Elections

Early Texas voters obliterate historic 2008 voter turnout record

How to use an early voting machine

Here is a short lesson in how to use the electronic voting machines used in the Tarrant County early voting locations. A former election administrator explains the system. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)
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Here is a short lesson in how to use the electronic voting machines used in the Tarrant County early voting locations. A former election administrator explains the system. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)

Texans like everything big and the 2016 presidential election is no exception.

Millions of Texans choose to vote early this year, shattering historically high early turnout records set during the 2008 presidential election.

Nearly 4.5 million Texans in the state’s 15 largest counties — more than 46 percent of registered voters — cast ballots in person or through the mail before Election Day has even arrived, state election records show.

“The heavy early voting has surprised me,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “For whatever one may think of Donald Trump, he has invigorated the political season.”

Battling it out for the White House are Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

But it’s not just about the battle for the White House.

Texans are also weighing in on congressional, legislative, statewide and county races, not to mention casting ballots in local races to settle issues ranging from whether alcohol may be sold in some areas to whether the Texas Rangers should get a new ballpark.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Early voting ended Friday. Texans still have a chance to vote on Election Day, Tuesday, when polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Voters in Harris, Dallas and Tarrant counties cast the most votes this year during early voting, together submitting more than 2 million votes, according to Texas Secretary of State records.

Tarrant County voters alone cast a record 515,230 votes, 480,936 in person and 34,294 by mail.

The previous record for early voting turnout was 2008, when Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain battled for the presidency, drawing 3.55 million votes early in person and by mail — from 42 percent of registered Texas voters — from the state’s 15 largest counties, state election records show.

Included in that tally was 459,842 Tarrant County votes, 431,799 in person and 28,043 by mail.

In 2012, fewer voters headed to the polls when Obama and Republican Mitt Romney went head to head, prompting 3.4 million Texas voters in the state’s 15 largest counties to cast early votes in person and by mail. That year, 39 percent of registered Texans cast ballots early.

That included 418,878 Tarrant County voters, 387,350 in person and 31,528 by mail.

This year, more than 15 million Texans — a new record — registered to vote, prompting many to expect voter turnout to be heavier than normal.

“This is in part due to heightened enthusiasm among partisan Democrats and Republicans who have been chomping at the bit to cast their ballot for quite some time,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice Unviersity in Houston.

“It is also due to the state’s growing population and the increase in the voter registration rate which have resulted in approximately 10% more registered voters compared to 2012.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

Election Information

To see a sample ballot, go to the Tarrant County elections website at http://access.tarrantcounty.com/en/elections.html.

For any election related questions, call the Tarrant County Elections Office at 817-831-8683.

For more information about candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot, go to the Star-Telegram website, www.star-telegram.com, to read the online Voters Guide.

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