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Election 2016

Early Voters Set Records In Greater Houston Area

Early voting in Harris and surrounding counties was record-breaking. More than a million people in Greater Houston cast ballots over the past two weeks, and another half-million are expected to show up on Election Day.


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Early voting sign
Florian Martin
A sign at the Acres Homes Multi-Service Center points voters to the voting booths.

Early voting ended last Friday, and nearly 4.5 million Texans in the state's 15 largest counties cast early ballots in person or through the mail. That’s more than 46 percent of registered voters. The Secretary of State says that exceeds the previous record set before the 2008 election.

In Harris County, there were 882,580 early in-person voters, and 94,699 mail ballots have been returned. That’s over 977,000 early voters.

They’ve also broken records in Galveston County. About 49 percent of the registered voters there have cast ballots.

“Well, if you look at the results from the November 2012 election, which was a record for us, we had 111,766 people vote. We’re now, as I said, over 102,000, so we’re going to break that record,” says Chief Deputy Clerk for Elections Bill Sargent.

In Montgomery County, a total of 156,816 voters cast early ballots, with another 11,554 mail-in ballots.

Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein says heavy early voting can be attributed partially to anticipation of long lines on Election Day.

“I think the other reason, also, is we’re seeing a big, big jump in Hispanic voting. And I suspect here what you have are a lot of voters who have been attentive to the campaign, have made their minds up well in advance of Election Day, and they see no reason not to vote for fear that they might be unable to vote on Election Day for any number of reasons — busy schedules, children, it might rain,” he says.

Stein says knowing that there are going to be more voters this election made people realize that early voting is more convenient.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media’s Coverage of Election 2016

“I think what voters do is they look at what they have to do on Election Day and they look at whether or not they are able to vote on Election Day closest to their home. Voters make a trade-off between the time they wait in line and the convenience of voting near their home,” he says.

Texas set a record for statewide registered voters at more than 15.1 million this election cycle, or nearly 80 percent of the state’s estimated voting age population.