Sunday, September 6, 2020

November 2020 Texas Voter Turnout First Look

The Texas early voting period this year runs for 18 days, from Tuesday, October 13, 2020 to Friday, October 30, 2020 and includes two weekends. Normally, the early voting period runs for 12 days and includes just one weekend. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott extended the early voting period for the November election by six days, moving the start date to Oct. 13 instead of Oct. 19, citing continued challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Analyzing day by day early in-person and mail ballot return voter turnout, and Election Day turnout, for Collin County, Texas - and all of Texas - will be more challenging this year for many reasons. Comparing 2020 turnout to 2016 turnout will be like comparing apples to oranges any way we look at it.

In 2016, of the 365K total ballots cast, almost 15K were mail ballots, 290K were early ballots, and 60K were ballots cast on Election Day in Collin County. How will people change their early in-person turnout behavior because of COVID-19 and the additional six days of early voting?

Almost certainly more seniors age 65 and older will vote by mail, but will the courts allow all voters under age 65 to vote? If those under age 65 are allowed to vote by mail, will they, and what portion? In 2016, only 5,388 mail ballots had been returned to the Collin Co. election office by the first day of early voting. How many mail ballots will be returned this year by the first day of early voting which is 6 days earlier than usual. Only 15K total mail ballots were returned in Collin County in 2016.

Texas state law requires that for mail ballot applications received from overseas military voters, mail ballots must be mailed out to those voters by the 45th day before Election Day. This year that deadline falls on Saturday September 19. County Clerks and Election Registrars typical begin mailing out mail ballots all who sent in their mail ballot applications by that date too. Will the number of mail ballot applications this year be more? Double, triple, or even more?

In 2016, 30k Collin Co. voters turned out in-person during each of the first two days of early voting. Then, more than 25k in-person ballots were cast each day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday through that first week of EV. Will the first week of early voting this year be as strong since it starts six days earlier than usual?  Will early in-person turnout this year remain as strong through all of early voting as it did in 2016?

Hillary Clinton received 6,178 of her 139,837 total Collin County votes by mail, with 110,326 of her votes given by in-person early voters and 23,333 of her votes given by in-person election day voters. Donald Trump received 7,741 of his 200,395 total votes by mail, with 161,616 of his votes given by in-person early voters and 31,038 of his votes given by in-person election day voters. How will these ratios of early, election day, and mail votes change in 2020?

In 2016, Collin County had 540K registered voters qualified to vote in the November general election. For the July primary runoff elections Collin County had 617K registered voters. Will the county have the usual September surge of voter registration applications this year? If so, over 620K Collin County residents will be registered to voter in the November elections. Most election experts expect voter turnout this year to reach history levels not seen in the last 100 years. If the experts are correct, turnout will likely top 70 percent of registered voters? If that happens, more than 440K ballots will be cast in Collin County this year, a substantial increase over the 366K ballots cast (68% turnout) in the county for the November 2016 election. The last row of the table below projects the possible November 2020 turnout numbers.

And finally, this is the first presidential election where voters will not have a “straight party” ballot option. Voters must mark their ballot for each and every ballot position. In past elections, 70 percent of the Republican vote in the county was straight party while only 55-60 percent of the Democratic vote was straight party. Will Republicans “stop at the top” of their ballot after voting for President Trump and not mark their ballots for down ballot Republicans? Will this change the fate of down ballot Republicans in Collin County who have for years coasted to victory on the strength of Republican straight party voting?

These are the questions we will be looking to answer for Collin County and all of Texas from the first day of early voting.

How will daily in-person and mail ballot return numbers over the 18 days of early voting this year compare to the 12 days of early voting in 2016 — shown in the table below.


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