Sunday, November 4, 2012

Early Voting 2012 Wrap

by Michael Handley

Comparing early ballots cast as a percentage of registered voters, 2012 turnout lags 2008 turnout in Collin County and ten of Texas' fifteen largest counties. This means that either voters are less motivated in 2012 than in 2008 or more people are just waiting to vote on Election Day.   

Early voting polls closed at 7 p.m. Friday, but many polling places in Collin Co. and around Texas still had people waiting in line to vote at that hour.  The last person in line at 7 p.m. at some polling locations in Collin Co. had to wait over 45 minutes to cast their ballot Friday evening.

The number of Collin Co. ballots cast on Friday was a record 30,908, an increase of 5,667 ballots cast over the 2008 final Friday early voting count.  Some increase in the number of ballots cast in 2008 is expected for this 2012 election, considering the rapid pace of Collin Co. population growth.

According to Texas DSHS Center for Health Statistics population estimates, Collin Co. has increased from 760,013 in 2008 to 927,466 residents during 2012, with approximately 72 percent of those numbers representing voting age persons.

For the 2008 General Election, 425,994 (77.8%) of the estimated 547,209 voting aged persons had registered to vote in Collin Co.

But for the 2012 General Election, 458,872 (68.9%) of the estimated 667,776 voting aged persons living in Collin Co. had registered to vote. This fall-off of registered voters from 2008 suggests a lower level of 2012 voter enthusiasm.

While the first six days and the final day of 2012 Early Voting in Collin Co. saw raw turnout numbers slightly higher than 2008, the other five days of the twelve day voting period fell below 2008 raw turnout counts during the second week of early voting. 

Comparing 2012 to 2008, early turnout as a percentage of registered voters also shows a possible decline in voter enthusiasm between the 2008 and 2012 presidential election years.

At the close of 2012 early voting, 46.5 percent of the voters registered in Collin Co. (213,273) had voted in-person, compared to 49.7 percent of registered in-person voters (211,637) in 2008. The other explanation for this turnout drop-off is that more people are waiting to vote on Election Day in 2012 than in 2008.

A total of 8,568 mail ballots had also been returned to the election office by close of business last Friday, compared to 8,057 mail ballots returned by the last day of 2008 early voting.  Mail ballot return comparison between 2008 and 2012 shows little change.  A total of 12,298 mail ballots were returned for the 2008 election.

The total in-person and mail ballots returned was 221,841 at the close of 2012 early voting, compared to 219,694 in-person and mail ballots at the close of 2008 early voting.

In 2008, over 71 percent of the people who cast ballots voted early, leaving just 29 percent of the 2008 general election vote for election day and total mail ballot returns.

What does this all mean for Election Day in Collin County?

Assuming that a total of 67 percent of the 458,872 registered Collin Co. voters will vote in the 2012 General Election, then 307,444 will have cast ballots by the time the last ballot is cast on Election Day.

If Collin Co. has a 70 percent total registered voter turnout, then 321,210 will cast ballots in the 2012 General Election.

Assuming that about 70 percent of those who will vote have already voted early, then something like 81,000 to almost 95,000 in-person and 4,000 mail ballots will be cast on Election Day 2012. In 2008, 74,712 in-person and 4,241 mail ballots were counted on Election Day.

Cumulative early turnout for Texas' 15 largest counties as a percentage of registered voters.

Five of  Texas' fifteen largest Democratic stronghold counties had higher early turnout in 2012, as compared by the percentage of registered voters who cast in-person or mail ballots.

The other ten Texas counties, including other Democratic stronghold counties, lagged behind 2008 early turnout numbers.

As in 2008, Collin County leads the other fourteen largest counties in turnout, measured as percentage of registered voters. 

The 2012 cumulative turnout of all fifteen Texas counties (3,415,536) lags behind the 2008 cumulative turnout (3,556,156) both in raw counts and as percentage of registered voters.

In 2012, 39.47 percent of registered Texas voters cast early in-person and mail ballots, while 42.03 percent of 2008 registered voters cast early in-person and mail ballots.  Are Texans less motivated to vote in 2012, or are more people just waiting to vote on Election Day?

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