I spoke with Dr. Richard Murray, the director of the University of Houston Center for Public Policy, and a veteran analyst and numbers-cruncher of Harris County politics. Here are some of his observations about the early vote: * Hispanic and African-American voters are outperforming Anglo voters in the percentage increase in turnout. Hispanics: 3,076 voters at this point in the 2004 early vote; 9,399 voters in 2008. This represents an increase of more than 200%. African-Americans: 19,649 voters at this point in 2004; 44,119 voters in 2008. This represents an increase of approximately 125%. Anglos: Up 50 to 60% over 2004, but the increase in the Anglo vote is not keeping up with the other guys. Turnouts in white working class neighborhoods with evangelical voters in Baytown, Deer Park, and Pasadena — areas that produced lots of votes for George W. Bush in 2004 — are lagging at 04 levels. (Anglos are the largest voting group in Harris County, but their proportion of the population has remained flat for fifteen years, during which time Houston has added a million people.) * The slow start of the Anglo vote suggests a reversal of the usual voting pattern: Republicans vote early and Democrats vote late. Usually, Murray says, Democrats are 3-4 points down in the early vote and trying to catch up on election day. This year could see the pattern reversed. * Murray estimates that the downballot vote will be 52-48 Democratic, and if the minority turnout continues to be strong, it could reach 53-47. That would be around a 100,000 vote Democratic advantage in countywide races. For those interested in particular legislative races, Murray says that the Talton seat, which the D’s hope to pick up, has a very small minority population.
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