Early voting at Our Redeemer on October 13, 2020, the first possible day to cast a ballot. Bret Redman

Politics & Government

Election Day Arrives on the Heels of Historic Early Voting Turnout in North Texas

Tuesday is here. We don't know the results, but we know the numbers. Let's break down what the early voting totals tell us.

In the presidential election four years ago, 770,590 people cast a ballot in Dallas County. In 2020, early voting alone closed with 802,972 votes. (Of those, 70,827 were mailed in.) As with other Texas counties, early voting in Dallas County just about matched total turnout of the entire 2016 presidential election.

Of the 1.4 million registered voters, 57.2 percent have already voted. That’s about 1 percentage point shy of what we saw in the entire 2016 election. If the same percentage share of voters turns out on Election Day as they did in 2016, that would mean a little over 305,000 will vote on the day of. That’s good for a voter turnout of 1.1 million, about 78.8 percent of all registered voters. It will be unprecedented.

That this happened during a pandemic is remarkable, and we owe deep gratitude to all the volunteers who showed up to work the polls over the last three weeks, as well as to those who will work them on Tuesday.

Looking at precinct turnout, just over 32,000 people voted at the American Airlines Center, more than any other polling location in Dallas County. This was the first year the stadium opened its concourse for polling machines, considering there was no hockey or basketball filling the evenings. University Park United Methodist brought out more than 27,000 and Our Redeemer Lutheran, where hundreds of voters snaked through a soccer field, had a little over 25,000.

Tarrant County’s turnout is at 60.2 percent, compared to a total of 62 percent in 2016. Collin County has 69.1 percent, up from 66.4 percent in 2016. Denton is also up: 67.4 percent through early voting compared to 63.9 percent total turnout four years ago.

The decision of Gov. Greg Abbott to extend early voting by a week surely made an impact on early turnout, as did allowing for “mega centers” like the AAC; this in spite of the Republican court challenges to the various ways election administrators tried to make voting easier and safer in large urban areas. Whether what we’re seeing is a flood of Election Day voters who decided to go early will remain to be seen.

Statewide, Texas voters sailed past the 2016 general election turnout by the time the polls opened Friday morning. As statistician Derek Ryan wrote that morning, the state still has 3.6 million registered voters who cast a ballot in one of the last four general elections who haven’t gone to the polls.

At least 9.7 million Texans—57 percent—voted early. Of those, over 4.2 million have no record of voting in a Republican or Democratic primary. This is part of why you’re seeing polls switch to show the state as a tossup.

Now, what do we make of all this? Well, most of the big turnout is from urban and suburban counties. The rural, Republican strongholds haven’t seen as strong a voter presence. That’s a pattern the state has seen in prior elections. Ryan found the top 20 largest counties averaged a turnout of 58.1 percent, while the state’s remaining 234 averaged 48.7 percent. The urban areas went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 by about 8 points, but the more rural counties favored Trump by 45 points. Immediate returns will likely reflect early voting turnout, which will see more results from the urban and suburban counties that have already poured into the polls.

But that group of 3.6 million who have a voting history but haven’t cast their ballots will probably wind up determining what Tuesday looks like. We’ll all just have to wait and see, however long that takes.

Are you voting today? Our sister publication People Newspapers has answered every question you could have. This link will let you see how long the lines are at each polling location. Make sure you have an acceptable form of voter ID: 

  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas handgun license issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph or
  • Passport

Find your Dallas County polling place hereCollin County is hereTarrant County is hereDenton County is here. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Get in line by 7 p.m. and you’re guaranteed the opportunity to vote, even if the line pushes it past the hour. 

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