Early voting, the first day: Comparisons with 2004

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Here is a look at early voting in the fourteen most populous counties. The Secretary of State’s office compiles the numbers for the top fifteen counties, but no comparison is possible for number 15, because Cameron County has replaced Jefferson County since 2004. (Mail-in ballots are included.) Perhaps the most significant aspect of the early voting numbers was the large increase in registrations in suburban counties that have been the foundation of Republican electoral success in Texas. Harris County posted an insignificant increase and Dallas County showed a net loss. This bodes poorly for Democrats in this and future elections — unless some of the new voters in the suburbs turn out to be Democrats. Harris County Registered voters 2004 — 1,937,072 Registered voters 2008 — 1,940,356 Early vote, first day, 2004 — 30,130 Early vote, first day, 2008 — 68,502 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 1.56 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 3.53 Comment: The strange — some would say “suspicious” — number here is the tiny increase in the total number of registered voters over the past four years. Democrats mounted a major voter registration campaign in Harris County. What happened to those registrations? Some Democrats have expressed concerns to me that tax assessor-collector Paul Bettencourt’s office has been sitting on those registrations and has been aggressive about disapproving those with minor discrepancies. They fear that tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of voters may not have the opportunity to cast ballots. Dallas County Registered voters 2004 — 1,231,291 Registered voters 2008 — 1,208,151 Early vote, first day, 2004 — 35,144 Early vote, first day, 2008 — 52,750 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 2.85% % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 4.37% Comment: This is weird, too: a decline in the number of registered voters. Is the county losing population? More likely, it is not gaining in voting age population. Unlike Harris County, I don’t think there is any funny business here, because the Democrats control the county. But it does seem strange to have a decline in registrations. What coal mine is this canary in? Tarrant County Registered voters 2004 — 918,656 Registered voters 2008 — 959,499 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 2.09 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 4.77 Comment: Tarrant is one of several large Republican counties that showed a substantial increase in voter registrations (roughly 39,000). While there is no way to tell which party benefited from the increase, the new voters could affect the Brimer-Davis and Zedler-Turner races. Bexar County Registered voters 2004 — 908,466 Registered voters 2008 — 930,943 Early vote, first day, 2004 — 22,594 Early vote, first day, 2008 — 40,503 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 2.49 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 4.35 Comment: The first day’s turnout nearly doubled the number posted in 2004. Travis County Registered voters 2004 — 584,949 Registered voters 2008 — 609,180 Early vote, first day, 2004 — 15,983 Early vote, first day, 2008 — 32,607 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 2,73 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 5.35 Comment: Travis County had the second-highest percentage of registered voters casting ballots on the first day of early voting. It did not process any mail-in ballots. El Paso Registered voters 2004 — 371,856 Registered voters 2008 — 388,643 Early vote, first day, 2004 — 8,974 Early vote, first day, 2008 — 10,790 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 2.41 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 2.78 Comment: Very low participation. Not good for Obama, but it didn’t rate to be; South Texas was Hillary country in the primary. Collin County Registered voters 2004 — 369,412 Registered voters 2008 — 424,528 Early vote, first day, 2004 — 10,504 Early vote, first day, 2008 — 15,197 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 2.84 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 3.58 Comment: Collin had a huge increase in registered voters, some 55,000 new registrants, or about 15%. Denton County Registered voters 2004 — 321,700 Registered voters 2008 — 358,525 Early vote, first day, 2004 — 6,950 Early vote, first day, 2008 — 13,298 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 2.54 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 3.71 Comment: Here is another suburban county with a large increase in registered voters. Hidalgo County Registered voters 2004 — 269,811 Registered voters 2008 — 305,206 Early vote, first day, 2004 — 5,076 Early vote, first day, 2008 — 9,641 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 –1.88 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 3.16 Comment: Not a lot of early voters, but a sizable increase in registration over four years. Fort Bend Registered voters 2004 — 254,364 Registered voters 2008 — 299, 002 Early vote, first day, 2004 — 7,725 Early vote, first day, 2008 — 16,391 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 3.04 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 5.48 Comment: The doubling of the early vote is attributable to the high-profile congressional race in Tom DeLay’s former district between Republican challenger Pete Olson and incumbent Nick Lampson. Montgomery County Registered voters 2004 — 214,098 Registered voters 2008 — 241,927 Early vote, first day of voting, 2004 — 6,246 Early vote, first day of voting, 2008 — 11,397 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 2.92 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 4.71 Comment — Montgomery follows the pattern of suburban counties with a growth in registered voters of more than 10%. Nueces County Registered voters 2004 — 201,707 Registered voters 2008 — 198,938 Early vote, first day of voting, 2004 — 4,186 Early vote, first day of voting, 2008 — 6,895 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 2.08% % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 3.47% Comment — Here is another county with a DECLINE in registered voters over four years. This does not bode well for the Democratic party. Williamson County Registered voters 2004 — 200,344 Registered voters 2008 — 231,977 Early vote, first day of voting, 2004 — 6,005 Early vote, first day of voting, 2008 — 9,317 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 3.00 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 4.02 Comment: These are corrected figures. The Secretary of State’s office had transposed digits that resulted in an incorrect and much smaller number of early voters for this count. Note that Williamson followed the suburban pattern of a significant increase in voter registrations. Here it exceeded 15%. Galveston County Registered voters, 2004 — 185,911 Registered voters, 2008 — 189,042 Early vote, first day of voting, 2004 — 5,974 Early vote, first day of voting, 2008 — 9,286 % voting of county’s registered voters 2004 — 3.21 % voting of county’s registered voters 2008 — 4.91 Comment: Voter participation rose compared to 2004, despite the displacements caused by Hurricane Ike. But Galveston was the only suburban county not to show a significant increase in voter registrations.

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