Early voting wraps up in Texas with record turnout

Record numbers of Texans have already cast their votes for the Nov. 8 election, including about half of the voters in Travis and Williamson counties.

More than 4 million Texans — well over the 2008 early voting record of 3.5 million — had voted in the state’s 15 largest counties by the end of the day Thursday, according to the most recent data available from the Texas secretary of state office. That reflects a 41 percent turnout of the registered voters in those counties.

The turnout in Travis County was 51 percent by the time early voting sites closed Friday evening, with 372,188 voters having cast their ballots in person or through mail-in ballots since Oct. 24.

Travis County broke its 2008 early voting record of 49.6 percent turnout and easily surpassed its 2012 early voting turnout of 37.4 percent.

“I’m very, very pleased with the turnout,” Travis County elections director Michael Winn said Friday, as early voters continued to line up. “And I look forward to having a very manageable Election Day.”

Presidential elections usually draw more voters to the polls, so Winn expected early voting to be busy. But after seeing what he described as this year’s “contentious” presidential primary, he expected the turnout to be even higher.

“It’s a very high-profile race,” Winn said. “You have the first woman presidential candidate on one side and then you have another candidate who’s a little bit controversial, so I think that adds to the excitement of the election.”

Travis County voters turned out in droves throughout the early voting period, though fewer came out over the weekend. More rushed in on Friday. Weekend turnout, especially Sundays, has historically been lower than weekdays, and the final day of early voting generally brings out more last-minute voters.

Other Central Texas counties also saw record turnout. In Williamson County, 163,617, or 53.4 percent of registered voters, cast their ballot by the end of early voting Friday, exceeding that county’s early voting turnout of 42 percent in 2012 and 48 percent in 2008. Those figures included mail-in ballots.

“We were angling for about 70 percent of registered voter turnout for this election. With today’s numbers so far, we’re past 50 percent,” Williamson County Elections Administrator Chris Davis said. “That’s pleasing in the sense that the majority of folks voted early.”

Davis said he expects lines to be long on Tuesday with at least a half-hour wait in the morning (Election Day polls open at 7 a.m.). The wait will get longer throughout the day, he said.

Davis added that voters who are in line by 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote no matter how long it takes.

The high turnout trend was seen in Bastrop and Hays counties as well. In Bastrop County, 21,230 early votes and mail-in ballots had been cast by the end of the day Friday, making up about 47 percent of registered voters. That’s up from Bastrop County’s early voting turnouts of 39 percent in 2012 and 43 percent in 2008.

“I think that we’ll still have people come out in record numbers on Election Day. And it’s really exciting,” Bastrop County Elections Administrator Bridgette Escobedo said.

Escobedo said people should be prepared for long lines Tuesday. “Bring your patience with you,” she said.

In Hays County, 52,694 people cast in-person ballots during early voting, excluding mail-in votes that would be tallied Saturday.

So far, that 43 percent turnout is higher than Hays’ early voting turnout of 37 percent in 2012, but just below the 44 percent turnout of 2008. But that number will likely change once all the mail-in ballots are added.

The rapidly growing county has 122,312 voters registered, a 24 percent increase from 2012 and 36 percent increase from 2008.

As Hays County grows, Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan said the elections office might want to consider adding polling locations.

Cowan said she was impressed by the high turnout this election cycle.

“I love to see the involvement,” Cowan said. “I would love to see it happen in all our elections.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include final early voting turnout figures that were not available earlier.

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