Houston Matters

Expert Analyzes Impressive Turnout During Early Voting Period In Harris County And Texas

UH political science professor and “Party Politics” podcast co-host Brandon Rottinghaus thinks several competitive races, especially Cruz-O’Rourke, explain the high numbers

Friday is the last day of the early voting period in Texas and the turnout in Harris County has surpassed the entire turnout for the 2014 midterm election, according to the County Clerk’s Office.

With more than 750,000 votes cast so far, the county could surpass the one million votes mark for the first time in a midterm and University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus talked to Houston Matters about the high turnout.

“We haven’t seen this for decades, in part because we haven’t had truly competitive elections in Texas,” Rottinghaus said, “and I think that one factor driving a lot of people to the polls is that you’ve got competition up and down the ballot.” Rottinghaus emphasized the relevance of the contest between incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz and his Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

Rottinghaus, who also co-hosts Houston Public Media’s “Party Politics” podcast, also thinks there can be some big numbers on Election Day “because many organizations still use that as a pivot point to ensure that they’re getting key votes out and that’s really of course the last moment to go vote.”

Voters line up to vote at an early voting location in Greater Houston on October 22, 2018.

Statewide, just under four million ballots have been cast. “I think that voters are more attentive to this cycle because you’ve got a really high profile hot race at the top of the ticket and that’s the U.S. Senate race,” Rottinghaus noted, while underlining that young voters and Latino voters are participating in this election in a significant manner.

Rottinghaus also said that, for the most part, “people are pretty well sort of set in terms of who they’re gonna vote for early” in part because partisanship has hardened the electorate.

Additionally, Rottinghaus analyzed one of the nuances of early voting and commented that “because people are voting early, so, more frequently now than they were, that pushes the campaign cycle back a couple of weeks.” “So, if you are advertising, you know, the first day or second day of early voting that means that you’re missing a huge amount of people that you might communicate to. So, campaigns have to adjust as a result,” he concluded.

Early voting polling locations close today at 7 p.m.

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