Texas primary runoff shows more than 4% boost in early voting numbers compared to 2016

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Early voting numbers in Texas show a higher turnout in the 2020 primary runoff compared to the 2016 primary runoff.

According to data from the Secretary of State’s office, in the 2016 runoff, 2.12% of registered voters in the largest 15 counties at the time voted early. In the 2020 runoff, comparing those same counties, 6.45% of registered voters cast their ballots early.

Dana DeBeauvoir, Travis County Clerk, said the primary’s turnout is exceeding expectations.

“This primary runoff has not behaved like a runoff at all. It’s gotten a lot of attention from voters. The numbers that we have are similar to what we would expect for a presidential election,” DeBeauvoir said.

She and other elections officials across the state have been working to make sure voters still feel safe to vote in-person during a pandemic.

“They all look like the early voting locations, with socially-distanced voting booths, staff, voters — they’re all you know, six feet away from each other,” DeBeauvoir said.

The voting locations in Travis County will offer single-use items to voters, like finger cots, which cover your finger while using a tablet. At the booth, Travis County voters will use popsicle sticks.

“Normally, for a runoff, I might have 1,000 or 2000 applications for ballot by mail. We sent out 32,000 plus of them…. so we really are in a completely different view of this particular election,” DeBeauvoir said.

Comparing the largest 15 counties in the 2016 primary runoff, 77,945 by-mail votes were cast during the early voting period, and 116,055 were cast in person. In the 2020 election, 207,485 sent in ballots by mail during early voting, while 505,039 voted in person.

While there were more mail-in ballots this year, vote-by-mail made up more of the total number early votes in the 2016 election. In the 2020 primary runoff, during early voting, 29% of the votes came in by mail. In 2016, vote-by-mail accounted for 40% of the ballots during the same period.

Voting has not only increased in the larger counties. Clay County has more than tripled its turnout compared to the 2016 primary runoff.

“This year in early voting, we had a total of 666 early voters in person, and in the 2016 election we had 178,” Clay County Elections Administrator Val McClain said.

Remi Garza, Elections Administrator in Cameron County, said the Rio Grande Valley has also seen an increase.

“We’ve actually had a stronger showing this year than any other time in a runoff’s history of Cameron County,” Garza said.

In Potter County, Melynn Huntley said turnout has been steady in the Panhandle so far.

“As a comparison to other run offs, this is tremendous. This is a great turnout,” Huntley said.

DeBeauvoir said early voting usually accounts for about half of the total votes.

“It’s almost half and half. Half during early voting and half on election day, with a little bit more on the early-voting side,” DeBeauvoir explained.

She added this election has helped elections officials prepare for the November general election.

“We know what works best with voters now. We know how to explain to voters, know what they’re doing what they need to do, in a way that everybody feels comfortable. So we have learned a lot of lessons,” DeBeauvoir said.

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