Early voting was more popular than ever in large cities and suburban areas where Republicans lost ground in 2018. In Travis County, more than half a million voters cast ballots during early voting and mail-in voting, more than 64% of registered voters, far surpassing the vote total for the entire 2016 general election.
Although early voter turnout is “extraordinarily high,” Daron Shaw, a University of Texas political science professor, cautioned that the numbers alone don’t demonstrate that Texas is in play, as there are several factors to consider.
For one, Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the early voting period in the state by six days to alleviate crowding at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic, creating more opportunities for Texans to cast their ballots. And the early vote as a share of the overall vote has been growing every election for years.
“With that in mind, I don’t quite know how to gauge what we’re seeing against historical precedent, because the context has changed,” Shaw said. “I’m therefore suspicious of people who want to read in all sorts of partisan implications. I’m not sure what we’re looking at, in that regard.”