Travis County’s 2022 early voting turnout is 7 days behind the 2018 midterms.
TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — It’s been a week since early voting and as of Sunday night, just under 19 percent of registered voters in Travis County had already cast ballots.
By comparison, nearly 28 percent of registered voters had already voted seven days before early voting during the November 2018 midterm elections. In total, more than 47 percent of Travis County registered voters voted by mail or in person during the early voting period in 2018
Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University, said the 2018 midterm elections were a turnout anomaly, benefiting from a high-profile senatorial race between Sen. Ted Cruz and then-candidate Beto O’Rourke.
Although O’Rourke is showing again this cycle on the gubernatorial ticket, Smith said the Democratic challenger is no longer a “fresh face” in politics, which could hinder his performance this election cycle.
“He was something new on the political scene. Now we’ve seen him as a Senate candidate, a presidential candidate and a gubernatorial candidate, so he’s not the exciting, fresh face he used to be,” he said. “We also looked at the ballot — there aren’t many other exciting races in the state when you look at Texas with all of its congressional districts.”
This election cycle also saw a “referendum for Trump,” Smith added, with the former president spurring Democratic voters to turn out in greater numbers. This cycle, despite similar elections like the gubernatorial race and the Austin mayoral election, hasn’t generated the same kind of voter response, he said.
“With Trump not on the ballot, without the Senate race, things have calmed down a little bit,” he said. “We’ve been tracking higher numbers since 2014 … but in many ways, 2018 was an anomaly both in Texas and across the country.”
The only element of the district election that makes for a tight race this election season is the 34th congressional district race in South Texas. The lack of more contentious, close state races could also lead to lower voter interest, he said.
Traditionally, appetites for early voting determine how big or small turnout will be on Election Day. Unless a major incident occurs between now and Election Day, Smith said the likelihood of a large spike on Nov. 8 is low.
“Compared to 2018, this looks like a year that might be a little down for turnout,” he said. “And we know historically that when turnout is lower in Texas, Republicans do a little bit better because Republicans are going to be more likely to vote than some of the key Democratic, primary constituencies.”
It was also an early voting period with few hurdles, he added; there was bad weather at the start of early voting as well as Halloween falling on the last Monday of early voting.
Smith added that there is still the rest of Monday and four full days of early voting to go.
After Friday, he said voters should be prepared to see even more campaign ads, Smith said. Both parties will double down on ads encouraging voters to go to the polls, especially in sections that traditionally vote for their candidate.
Those who do not vote this week will have to head to the polls on November 8 to have their votes counted.
“It also means you’ll be in a longer line,” he said. “So if you have an opportunity to vote early, certainly take advantage of it if you know how you’re going to vote. But if not, go and vote on election day and be prepared to wait a little longer.