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See the daily trends in turnout for mail-in and in-person early voting

By Caroline Covington and Yuriko Schumacher, The Texas Tribune

See the daily trends in turnout for mail-in and in-person early voting” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Through Nov. 4, Texans can cast early ballots in the state’s midterm elections for governor and other statewide officials. More people vote early than on Election Day — a trend that has been consistent at least since the 2008 presidential election.

Early voting for the midterms this year started Oct. 24.

Turnout during midterms is usually much lower than during presidential elections. Turnout for the midterms in 2018 was an exception, with 53% of registered voters showing up to the polls, but it’s unclear if that was an anomaly or the start of a trend that might continue this year.

Factors that may impact enthusiasm include the governor’s race between Republican incumbent Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke. And this year’s race, unlike the 2018 governor’s race, is more competitive. Polls suggest that Abbott is leading, but not by an insurmountable margin. And O’Rourke recently surpassed Abbott in fundraising for the race, which is significant since Abbott is the most prolific fundraiser in state history.

Political observers have also speculated that the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade — the case that established the constitutional right to abortion — in June might be a catalyst for higher turnout among Democrats. That said, a recent Tribune report found that it hasn’t seemed to impact overall voter registration trends in Texas, as it has in other states.

To help you follow the trends as Texans head to the polls to choose their candidates for the 2022 general election, The Texas Tribune will update this tracker regularly throughout the early-voting period. Data is provisional and subject to change as counties report official numbers.

Early voting this election compared with previous elections

During early voting, voters can cast ballots at any polling location in the county where they are registered to vote. But options like 24-hour and drive-thru voting, offered in some counties in 2020 because of the pandemic, are gone. New laws that went into effect in 2021 require polling locations to follow more uniform rules about opening and closing hours.

Polls can’t open earlier than 6 a.m. on weekdays and Saturday, or 9 a.m. on Sunday, and have to close by 10 p.m. There will also likely be fewer options for early voting in counties with less than 55,000 people, which aren’t required to have polling locations on weekends.

Voters using mail-in ballots are now required to include ID numbers on their ballot envelopes. The new requirement passed by the Texas Legislature in 2021 caused havoc during the 2022 primary elections when counties rejected thousands of ballots largely because voters were tripped up by the new ID rules.

The Texas secretary of state began tracking day-to-day trends in early voting throughout all its 254 counties only recently — in 2020. That makes it difficult to compare daily turnout during this year’s midterm elections and the midterms held in 2018.

To help us get a sense of how turnout compares, we can look at a sample of the counties where the secretary of state did gather daily turnout numbers in 2018: the 30 large counties with the most registered voters, which makes up 78% of the electorate.

During the 2018 midterm elections, turnout was unusually high in that sample group. Those counties are clustered in Texas’ largest metropolitan areas, plus a handful along or near the southern border, in deep East Texas and in the Panhandle. Almost 40% of those counties’ registered voters turned up to vote early in 2018. That was higher than the 19% early-voting turnout in the 2014 midterms for the 30 counties with the most registered voters — in-person and mail-in voting combined.

The makeup of Texas’ 30 counties with the most registered voters hasn’t changed much since 2018. They’re still home to 78% of Texas’ registered voters. Midland is the only new county on the list this year, taking the place of Randall County, which is home to part of Amarillo. What has changed is the number of voters: The counties gained 1.6 million more registered voters in the past four years. The state’s 224 smaller counties, by comparison, gained 268,000 new registered voters.

Early trends in the 10 largest counties in Texas

More than half of Texas’ registered voters live in the state’s 10 largest counties. Early-voting results in these counties could give a glimpse of where the contest is headed because of their sheer size.

But they’re far from a perfect measure. The 10 largest counties, which lean Democratic, differ politically from the state’s other 244 counties, which usually lean Republican. And past elections have shown that the collective political force of those smaller counties can have an outsize impact on results. Democrat Hillary Clinton won Texas’ larger counties in the 2016 presidential election but ultimately lost Texas to Donald Trump. O’Rourke won the larger counties during his 2018 Senate run but lost to Cruz. The pattern repeated again in 2020, when Democrat Joe Biden ran against Trump.

See the trends in your home county

Below, you can find out how many people voted in any county by entering an address or county name.

When comparing to previous elections, though, it’s important to keep in mind that the Texas secretary of state has reported daily early-voting turnout in each of the state’s 254 counties only since 2019. It’s hard to compare turnout numbers at this stage to elections before then because the secretary of state published total turnout for all counties only at the end of early voting.

About the data

Preliminary 2022 early-voting data comes from the Texas secretary of state. Early-voting turnout for previous years and registered voter numbers are also from the secretary of state.

Alexa Ura, Carla Astudillo and Jade Khatib contributed to this report.

Disclosure: The Texas secretary of state has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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