Texas voters have already exceeded 2016's total turnout just with early voting, with more than 9 million total votes cast, and I have to say that's a promisingly good sign for Joe Biden.
Texans have already cast more ballots in the presidential election than they did during all of 2016, an unprecedented surge of early voting in a state that was once the country’s most reliably Republican, but may now be drifting toward battleground status.
More than 9 million ballots have been cast as of Friday morning in the nation’s second most-populous state, exceeding the 8,969,226 cast in 2016, according to an Associated Press tally of early votes from data provided by Texas officials.
Texas is the first state to hit the milestone. This year’s numbers were aided by Democratic activists challenging in court for, and winning, the right to extend early voting by one week amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas also offers only limited vote-by-mail options when compared to the rest of the country, meaning casting in-person, early ballots is the primary way to vote for people who don’t want to line up and do so on Election Day.
Voters in Texas do not register by party affiliation, so no one can be sure until the ballots are counted whether one party or the other will benefit from the surge in turnout.
Still, the fact that the state exceeded its entire vote total for the past presidential cycle with hours still to go in its early voting period which ends Friday, and before millions more people are likely to vote on Election Day, hints at a potential electoral sea change.
For Democrats, anything different is likely positive. The party hasn’t won a state office in Texas since 1994 — the nation’s longest political losing streak — nor seen one of its presidential nominees carry the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976. The party now believes it has a chance to seize control of the state House, flip as many as six congressional seats and a Senate seat.
President Donald Trump carried Texas against Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a comfortable 9 points, even though that was the smallest margin since Republican Bob Dole beat Democratic President Bill Clinton by 5 points in 1996.
Keep in mind that in 2016, Texas's 8.9 million votes sounds like a lot, but it was only 46% turnout of voting-age adults, a good 10% below the national average, according to the University of Texas. The adage "Texas isn't a red or blue state, it's a non-voting purple state" is true for a reason. But 2018's midterm was 42%, an amazing total for the state which usually averages around 30% for midterms/gubernatorial races.
If Texas is already at or above that 46% (even with the 4 years of population growth, there's still today's voting to count and there's still Election Day itself to go on Tuesday, we could finally see Texas break 55 or 60% turnout, and that would be astonishing.
And if that groundswell is coming from Latinx and suburban voters like the polls indicate...Biden just might win this thing.