Overall, 176 counties out of 254 surpassed their primary turnouts in 2018. Most of these were smaller, Republican-leaning counties, and turnout was largely driven by participation in the GOP primary.
Voter enthusiasm can be a significant driver in turnout rates. Voters are also more inclined to cast their ballots when a race is more competitive. In primary elections, incumbents can make an election less competitive.
In the counties home to Texas’ most populous cities, Harris, Bexar, Dallas and Travis, turnout was around 15% of the nearly 6 million registered voters. The state’s fast-changing suburbs, which include counties that have flipped blue in recent years, saw 17% of their 3.5 million registered voters cast ballots in this primary.
Turnout in border counties was slightly lower at around 14%, which is about the same as the 2018 primary. Republican primary turnout increased in counties along the border compared with in 2018 — 4.6% versus 2.8% — though turnout in this year’s Democratic primary was still higher at 9.5%.
In the lower Rio Grande Valley, which comprises Starr, Hidalgo, Willacy and Cameron counties, the Republican primary turnout was 4% compared with 1.9% in 2018. Democratic primary participation was still higher at 9.2%.
South Texas saw competitive Republican races and heavy GOP campaigning this year as part of the GOP’s effort to flip an open seat. Counties in South Texas, which are typically Democratic strongholds, were also redrawn into more competitive districts. Congressional District 15, which includes Hidalgo County, was redrawn to include more people who voted for former President Donald Trump. Zapata County, which flipped red in the 2020 general election, was redrawn into Texas House District 31, which would have favored Trump by 25 percentage points in the 2020 election. Starr County, where Joe Biden won by only 5 percentage points, is also in HD-31.