Early voting in Texas began last Tuesday.
As of Sunday, more than 4 million Texans have cast their ballot, either in-person or through the mail. Here are five quick things to know about the 2020 vote so far:
One week makes a big difference
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, early voting in Texas began one week earlier than usual.
As of Sunday, the sixth day of early voting, 2,095,806 Texans voted in-person in the state’s 10 most populated counties.
By the sixth day of early voting in 2016 and within those same 10 counties, 1,970,791 Texans voted in person. That’s 125,015 fewer votes than this cycle — and again, this entire first week of early voting in Texas is just basically a headstart.
Mail-in voting is seeing record-breaking numbers
In the top 10 most populated counties in 2016, 272,453 Texans chose to vote by mail.
Texans have already smashed that record as of Sunday. Within those same 10 counties, 337,016 Texas have voted by mail this year — 64,563 more mail-in votes with two weeks remaining in the election.
Texas is beating California
The number of votes being cast in Texas so far exceeds that of California, the only state in the nation with a higher population than the Lone Star State. Texas is roughly 1 million votes ahead of California so far this year. It’s also head and shoulders above every other state too.
Turnout in Texas is so high, the 4 million votes cast this year represent 45 percent of the total votes cast in the state in 2016, according to the University of Florida’s U.S. Elections Project. It’s worth reading that again.
Democrats are most likely driving turnout
There’s no way to know for sure until the results are in since Texas does not provide early vote totals by party, but the surge in turnout in the state is most likely being driven by Democrats.
Polling leading into the race showed Democrats are more likely than Republicans to vote by mail. In other swing states like Pennslyvania, Iowa, and Florida, a Washington Post analysis of votes found registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans. Similar research from CNN shows that in states where ballots are cast by party identification, Democrats are driving the early vote by incredible margins.
Democrats dominating the early vote doesn’t mean Joe Biden’s win is set in stone. After all, early vote numbers in 2016 favored Hillary Clinton too. As the Texas Tribune points out, there are still more questions than answers when it comes to drawing conclusions about the early vote.
Texas Republicans haven’t made it easy
A recent study by researchers from Northern Illinois University, Jacksonville University, and Wuhan University in China, ranked Texas as the most restrictive place to vote in the country.
Among the reasons, the deadline to register to vote is a month before Election Day and the state only recently was forced into limited online voter registration.
Moreover, Texas also has strict restrictions on absentee ballots, voter ID requirements, and most recently due to Gov. Greg Abbott, counties only have one physical mail ballot drop-off location.
In general, the actions taken by Republican leadership in the state to accommodate and make voting more convenient during the outbreak pales in comparison to the changes in other states; Texas is one of five states where voters still need an excuse beyond COVID-19 to request a mail-in ballot.
Nevertheless, the early vote numbers so far in Texas’ most populous counties prove those restrictions haven’t discouraged Texans from hitting the polls.
Photo: Mark Felix for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org