Saturday, October 20, 2012

Record Voter Registrations in Collin Co.

by Michael Handley

New voter registration applications postmarked by Tuesday October 9th that had been processed through Wednesday pushed Collin County to a record 458,161 registered voters. When the last registration application for this election has been processed, the number of registered Collin County voters will likely top 460K. That is a significant increase over the 438,206 voters registered for the July 31, 2012 runoff election and the 425K registered voters for the 2008 general election.

As another indication that Collin Co voter interest in the 2012 election may be as strong as in 2008, the Collin County Elections Clerk has already processed over 9,000 vote by mail applications and received back over 3,000 vote by mail ballot envelopes.  In 2008, 11,834 vote by mail ballots were returned to the County Elections Clerk.

Texas November 2008 
General Election
Registered Voters  13,575,062 
Voting Age Population (VAP) 17,735,442 
Percentage of VAP Registered 76.5%
Turnout 8,077,795 
Percent of Turnout to Registered 59.5%
Percent of Turnout to VAP 45.5%
Earlier this week, Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade announced that Texas reached a record number of registered voters.  As of Monday, October 15, there were 13,594,264 voters registered across Texas' 254 counties, which is 71 percent of the estimated 19,194,381 voting age Texans.

The previous record number of registered voters was 13,575,062, set for the November 2008 General Election.  Despite the surge in registrations back in 2008, only 59.5 percent of registered Texas voters actually cast a ballot that November.  Texas is at the bottom of the list of all states for the percentage of voting age persons who register to vote and then actually turns out to vote.

Due to the volume of voter registration applications submitted just prior to the registration deadline, many local county election officials are still processing applications. October 9th was the last day to drop a voter registration application in a mailbox in order to be registered to vote in the November 6, 2012 General Election.

It is anyone's guess how many Texans will turn out to vote for this election. One safe guess is that at least two thirds of the Texas ballots will be cast during early voting.  Texas was a pioneer in early voting.  In 1987, the Texas legislature passed legislation calling for early no-excuse absentee voting.  That legislation created the opportunity for Texans to vote in person at the county election office in each of Texas' 254 counties.

In 1991, the early voting law was amended to require a minimum number of early voting locations in each county.    Originally, the early voting period began twenty days prior to the election and ended four days prior to the election, providing seventeen days of early voting. Amendments have set the early voting to either twelve days for general elections and primary elections or nine days for elections held on the May uniform election date.

Since its inception in 1988, the percentage of the vote that is cast early has increased significantly. From 1988 to 1992, the percentage of the early vote increased from slightly more than 20 percent to approximately 33 percent.

The graph  traces the rise of early voting since 1994, surpassing 50 percent in 2004 and climbing to two-thirds of the vote in 2008.

In 2008, 66.5 percent of statewide Texas ballots and 70.1 percent of Collin County ballots were cast during in-person early voting.

The fast start to 2012 early voting, in states where early voting has already started, suggests that overall turnout this year, both early and on Election Day, will not be substantially lower than 2008.

Early voting, so far, is on pace to exceed 2008 levels, when 30.6 percent of all votes nationally were cast prior to Election Day.  Early voting has been particularly brisk this year in Iowa and Ohio, where early voting numbers are running well above their comparable 2008 levels. Nationally, more than 3,344,856 people have already voted in the 2012 general election where early in-person and absentee mail voting is underway.

Early voting in Texas begins at 8:00 am Monday, October 22nd and runs through 7:00 pm Friday, November 2nd. (Texas polling places and times at VoteTexas.gov and for Collin Co. at CollinCountyTx.gov)

Turnout across Texas' 254 counties in 2012 could look similar to the 2008 county-by-county turnout when Obama received 43.6 percent of the statewide vote to McCain's 55.4 percent.  Obama won 28 counties and won 54 percent of the statewide vote from voters ages 18-29, McCain won the rest of Texas. 

In the last three Texas general elections, nine counties have made up between 51-54% of the total vote: Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, Collin, Denton, Fort Bend and El Paso.  In 2004, these counties represented 52.93% of the total vote and in 2008, they represented 54.32% of the total vote.  In 2006 and 2008, Democrats won straight ticket voting in six (Harris, Dallas, Bexar, Travis, Fort Bend and El Paso) of the nine counties, but won only two counties in the top nine (Dallas and Travis) in 2010.

In the 2008 general election, 170,076 Collin Co. voters cast a straight party ballot with 66.2 percent of that number (112,595) voting straight Republican to 33.2 percent (56,593) voting straight Democratic Party. The remaining 128,571 voters marked each ballot position individually. McCain won Collin Co. with 184,897 (62%) votes to Obama's 109,047 (37%) votes.

Collin Co. November General Election
Election Year 2008 2012
Total Population 760,013 927,466
Registered Voters  425,994 460,000
Voting Age Population (VAP) 547,209 667,776
Percentage of VAP Registered 77.8% 68.9%
Total Turnout 298,647 317,400
Early Turnout In-Person 211,637 225,037
Percent Early 70.9% 70.9%
Election Day Turnout In-Person 75,009 79,350
Percent Election Day 25.1% 25.0%
Vote By Mail Turnout 11,834 12,696
Percent VBM 4.0% 4.0%
Percent of Turnout to Registered 70.1% 69.0%
Percent of Turnout to VAP 54.6% 47.5%
 In the 2010 general election, Collin Co. Republicans won 72.9 percent of the the straight ticket vote. In contrast, 60 percent of the 2008 straight ticket vote and 53 percent of the 2010 straight ticket vote in Dallas Co. was for the Democratic Party.  Democrats swept Dallas Co. in 2008 and hung on to those wins in the 2010 General Election.

While population is decreasing in some Texas counties, other counties continue their strong population growth.  According to Texas DSHS Center for Health Statistics population estimates, Collin Co. has grown to 927,466 residents during 2012, with approximately 72 percent of that number representing voting age persons.

The table at right projects possible 2012 turnout numbers for Collin Co. by applying 2008 turnout patterns to current population estimates and voter registration numbers.

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