Nearly twice as many ballots were cast during early voting last month compared to the last time Gov. Rick Perry’s seat was contested in 2006, largely due to this year’s interest in the GOP primary election.
Numbers collected by the Texas Secretary of State show that in Texas’ 15 largest counties, 491,116 people voted from Feb. 16 through last Friday; a 95.3 percent increase from 2006’s count of 251,432. This year’s total translates into an early voting turnout of 6 percent of the 8.2 million registered voters in those counties, up from the 3.2 percent turnout four years ago.
Ballots cast in the GOP primary more than doubled from 2006 figures. Last month 306,422 ballots were cast in the contest compared with 103,397 in 2006 — an increase of 135 percent.
Collin County had the largest increase in GOP turnout among those counties, with a climb of 234 percent; Bexar was second with a 212 percent improvement. Rounding out the top five on the GOP side were Tarrant, Dallas and Galveston counties, with upsurges of 172 percent, 168 percent and about 164, respectively.
Democrats lagged the Republicans, but showed respectable increases. Despite most polls showing the gubernatorial primary between Bill White and his closest competitor Farouk Shami is not competitive at all, voter turnout increased by more than 50 percent. In 2006, 121,035 ballots were cast in that primary, compared to last month’s 184,694. Harris County saw the largest increase at 266 percent, followed by Fort Bend County at 217 percent. Rounding out the top five are Williamson, Collin and Denton counties at 182 percent, 166 percent and 148 percent, respectively.
Despite the high turnout, last month’s numbers still fall well short of the early voting tallies in 2008. That (presidential election) year, almost 1.2 million Texans cast early votes, about 15.3 of the registered population in the top counties. That year Democrats — who had the more competitive race — showed up in earnest, with 890,188 voting early compared to the GOP’s 303,338.