Texas Democrats continue to outpace Republicans in the number of early votes cast ahead of the March primary. In some sections of the state, thousands more voters cast a ballot in the Democratic primary during the early voting period.
According to the Texas secretary of state, the state's chief election office, voters in the 15 largest counties at the start of the week had cast more than 184,000 votes in the Democratic primary and more than 166,000 in the Republican primary. In Bexar County, Democratic early primary voters outpaced Republicans by more than 5,000 votes.
Manny Garcia with the Texas Democratic Party said early turnout among those voting in the Democratic primary is up 69 percent from the 2014 primary election. Garcia said the turnout has renewed enthusiasm for many Democratic primary hopefuls and the party’s chances during the November general election.
“In 2014, we had a very low primary turnout and we got fairly criticized for it out across the state, and what we are seeing now is that we are basically doubling that turnout rate,” Garcia said.
And yes, while the number of Democrats choosing to vote early is outpacing the number of Republican voters, Sam Taylor with the secretary of state’s office said early voting numbers for both Democrats and Republicans across the state are up during this primary election.
“We’ve seen turnout figures in most of the major 15 counties up in both the Democratic and Republican primaries, but we are seeing higher levels of participation in the Democratic primaries,” Taylor said.
Mark Jones, political science professor with Rice University, said most of those early Democratic primary voters are new voters. He said Texas Democrats are attracting new voters to the party at a rate of two to three times that of the Republican Party during this election cycle.
“Democrats are attracting people who have never voted in a primary before or voted in a Republican primary or have never voted at all to participate this cycle at a much higher rate than Republicans this cycle,” Jones said.
Republican candidates like incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott are taking the surge seriously. Abbott’s campaign on Monday sent out an email to supporters asking for more campaign donations so that the governor can help with voter turnout, saying that Texas’ early voting numbers should “shock every conservative to their core.”
James Dickey, the chair of the Republican Party of Texas, echoed that sentiment.
“There is a lot of excitement on the (Democratic) side, and that is something we take absolutely seriously,” Dickey said.
Early voting ends Friday, at 8 p.m. The primary election is Tuesday.
Ryan Poppe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RyanPoppe1