Texas hit another voting milestone Monday as the percent of registered voters who have cast ballots early surpassed the total early voting turnout from any other presidential election — even though the state has four more days of early voting left.
In all, 46% of Texas registered voters voted early through Monday, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Texas secretary of state. In 2016, the previous high-water mark, 43.5% of registered voters cast ballots during the entire early voting period. More than 85% of ballots have been cast in person.
Voting in Texas
When was the last day to register to vote?
The deadline to register to vote in the 2020 general election was Oct. 5. Check if you’re registered to vote here. If not, you’ll need to fill out and submit an application, which you can request here or download here.
When can I vote early?
Early voting for the 2020 general election runs from Oct. 13 to Oct. 30. Voters can cast ballots at any polling location in the county where they are registered to vote during early voting. Election Day is Nov. 3.
How will voting be different because of the pandemic?
In general, polling locations will have guidelines in place for social distancing and regular cleaning. Several counties will offer ballot marking devices so voters avoid contact with election equipment. Poll workers will likely be wearing face masks and other protective equipment, but masks will not be required for voters.
How do I know if I qualify to vote by mail?
Texas is one of just a few states that hasn’t opened up mail-in voting to any voter concerned about getting COVID-19 at a polling place. You can find eligibility requirements and review other questions about voting by mail here.
Are polling locations the same on Election Day as they are during early voting?
Not always. You’ll want to check for open polling locations with your local elections office before you head out to vote. Additionally, you can confirm with your county elections office whether Election Day voting is restricted to locations in your designated precinct or if you can cast a ballot at any polling place.
Can I still vote if I have COVID-19?
Yes. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms, consider requesting an emergency mail-in ballot or using curbside voting. Contact your county elections office for more details about both options.
See our voter guide
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The raw total of votes cast through Monday was 7.8 million, 1.2 million more than the 6.6 million who cast ballots early in all of 2016 and 87% of the total number of votes cast in the state during the last presidential election. There are 1.8 million more registered voters in Texas than in 2016, a 12.3% increase. But the percentage turnout indicates that population increases alone can’t account for the high number of early voters in the state.
The reasons could be myriad. For one, Gov. Greg Abbott extended the early voting period by six days this year in hopes of alleviating crowding at the polls and slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Texas has had 14 days of early voting so far and has four days left; early voting in 2012 and in 2016 each had 12 days. In addition, voters’ habits in Texas have been shifting for years as more voters choose to vote early rather than on Election Day. In 2016, 73% of voters cast their ballots early and 26% voted on Election Day.
But also many candidates and parties have reported high energy among voters as President Donald Trump inspires passions on both sides and Texas appears unusually competitive up and down the ballot.
In some counties, early voting turnout is far outpacing voter registration growth.
Denton County in North Texas, for instance, has gained over 100,000 registered voters — an increase of 21.6% — since 2016. Denton voters cast 224,084 total early votes in 2016 and 314,059 early votes through Monday in 2020, a 40.2% increase, suggesting that there was still a surge in turnout when accounting for registration growth.
Other suburban counties like Hays and Williamson in the Austin area also saw increases in turnout that surpassed increases in voter registration. Voter registration in Hays County has grown by 26% since 2016, while its number of early votes increased by 42.9%.
Many other large urban counties, including Dallas, Harris, Bexar, and Travis, also had turnout gains outpace increases in registration, though not as large as the more suburban counties such as Hays and Denton.
The fast-growing suburbs are widely considered key battlegrounds in Texas this year. They have traditionally voted Republican in presidential races, but results from the 2018 elections as well as polls have suggested that Democrats could narrow past margins or flip certain counties blue this year.
Early voting in the state began Oct. 13 and runs until Friday. Election Day is Nov. 3.
Disclosure: The Texas secretary of state's office has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.