What We Can Learn From Texas’ Record-Breaking Early-Voting Turnout

One takeaway is that despite the pandemic, voters are likely turning out here because of how they feel about President Donald Trump.

By Jill Ament & Caroline CovingtonOctober 29, 2020 12:46 pm, , ,

A record number of voters have showed up to the polls in Texas during early voting this year.

Sean Theriault, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Government, told Texas Standard that the high turnout is “great for democracy,” especially because voter turnout in Texas is often lower than in other states.

“To see us leading, that’s just tremendous; it’s incredible,” he said.

As much as the pandemic has affected all aspects of public life, Theriault says it likely isn’t the main driver of early voting, at least not in Texas. He says people are likely flocking to the polls because of how they feel about President Donald Trump.

“He has definitely a strong base of support, but there’s also a strong base of opposition to him,” Theriault said.

Historically, high voter turnout tends to favor Democrats. But because turnout is at a record high this year, it’s difficult to discern which candidate has the edge – Trump or Joe Biden.

Theriault says normally, high early voting is also often a precursor to high Election Day turnout. But this year, it’s unclear whether more people are voting early to stay away from crowds because of the pandemic. He says it all comes down to the last couple days of early voting.

“If we see a huge spike tomorrow [Oct. 30] in the turnout, then I think that says there’s lots of votes still out there, and we’re going to see them on Friday, and then again on Tuesday,” he said.

Texas could be an early indicator for how the race goes nationally because of the high number of early votes and because mail-in ballots are already being counted.

“I think we could be one of those first big states that’s reporting some really concrete and solid numbers,”he said.

A close race in Texas would likely be bad for Trump, Theriault says. But if Trump pulls far ahead of Biden after Texas votes are counted, finding out who won could take weeks while votes in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are tallied.

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