Following patterns seen around the country, there were historically large turnouts throughout the state on Monday as early voting opened in Texas.
More than 63,000 in-person votes were cast in Harris County, The Houston Chronicle reported, compared to 20,215 in 2014.
This is really good news for U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Harris County is “Beto Country” and he has great support there. And one out of every seven Texans lives in Harris County.
Recognizing its importance, O’Rourke spent Monday traveling around the Houston area meeting with supporters and leading them to polling places. He seems to have fired up his supporters who got out to vote in record numbers.
O’Rourke started his day before the sun came up, as he made a 7 a.m. appearance in a central Houston neighborhood. “This is our moment, this is our chance,” O’Rourke told the crowd gathered outside a polling place. “This is our message to the people of the future. While we can still get it right, we stood up to be counted and we did.”
Some of his supporters had been waiting a very long time to vote. One group camped out in a tent with “BETO” written on it to ensure they would be the first to vote Monday morning. O’Rourke heard about this and ducked his head into the tent to talk to this dedicated small group of supporters.
In El Paso County, O’Rourke’s home county, a record 17,131 voters turned out Monday as of 7 p.m., said Melissa Rosales, the county’s elections information coordinator.
She said the high turnout could be attributed to excitement surrounding O’Rourke.
“We were expecting it,” Rosales said. “By 9 a.m., we already had a really good turnout, and we were already getting calls of lines of voters. We are hoping we get the same traffic throughout early voting. We have the equipment and the pool to be prepared for the number of voters we’re going to see.”
Here is information from other parts of Texas that show just how historically large the early turnout numbers were yesterday:
- Dallas County’s votes totaled 55,384 on Monday, 26,000 more than were cast in 2014, according to The Dallas Morning News.
- In Bexar County, The San Antonio Express News reported that as of 4 p.m. Monday more than 24,000 people had voted in person, compared to 13,436 who voted in person first day in 2014.
- Votes in Travis County, where Austin is located, totaled 47,405, compared to 17,181 first-day in-person and mail-in votes in 2014.
- Midland County Election Administrator Deborah Land said out of 84,945 registered voters in her county, 3,546 had voted by 4 p.m. Monday — compared to just 756 who voted the first day in 2014.
“We had a line at the elections office all day,” Land said. “Most of the time it was extending down the hallway.”
Early voting numbers do not dictate general election outcomes. They do show the level of enthusiasm for voting, and that can be significant for a candidate like O’Rourke. He is dependent on groups of voters who have not voted at high rates in midterm elections in the past, such as young voters and Hispanic voters.
The fact that the early voting totals from yesterday in Texas were two to three times higher than during the last midterm elections in 2014 shows us that something special is going on. American democracy is alive and well and thriving in the state of Texas. And that is what must occur in order to make the Lone Star State a blue state, which could happen this year.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.