Texans cast 9 million early votes, becoming the first state to surpass total 2016 turnout

Two election forecasters have moved Texas into "toss-up" territory amid a surge in new voters

Published October 30, 2020 10:57PM (EDT)

Donald Trump and Joe Biden | Texas (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Joe Biden | Texas (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Early votes in the historically conservative stronghold of Texas on Friday morning surpassed the total number of votes cast in the state in 2016, according to voting data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida. Texas has reported 9,009,850 votes cast so far this year, topping 2016's total of 8,969,226, which was the all-time record turnout in the Lone Star State until Friday. With one day of early voting and Election Day itself still to go, the total number of votes will only rise. 

Those early votes comprise about 10% of the 84,679,411 total votes already cast nationally — just north of 61% of 2016's total national turnout, per U.S. Elections Project data.

While Texas does not provide party registration information, the online data analysis platform TargetSmart offers modeling which suggests that the early vote is promising for Biden. And this week, with that data pouring in, NBC News and election forecaster Cook Political Report shifted Texas away from President Donald Trump and towards Democratic nominee Biden. Both outlets moved the state from "lean Republican" to "toss-up."

"Democrats trailed in the 2018 early vote by 14.1%, meaning the 2020 early vote electorate is 3.3% more Democratic than the 2018 electorate, which in the end resulted in a highly competitive US. Senate election," TargetSmart founder Tom Bonier tweeted on Oct. 22, adding: "That's the first good sign for Biden."

"The next good sign for Biden," Bonier continued, is "of the 5.2 million votes already cast in Texas, 1.3 million have been cast by Texans who didn't vote in 2016. Among those voters, the party identification gap is 6.3 points more Democratic than among those early voters who did vote in '16."

"The enthusiasm is on Biden's side in Texas thus far," he added. 

Bonier also pointed out a surge in young voters, who typically shade Democratic: 748,973 voters under the age of 30 have already voted in Texas, 66% of whom are new voters.

While unprecedented, Cook's analysis says the shifts should not come as a surprise given current polling in the state, as well as its leftward voting trends over the last few years. Texas Republicans themselves appear jittery about the prospect, going to lengths to try to skew the state's voter pool in their favor.

"Recent polling in the state — both public and private — shows a 2-4 point race," Cook election analyst Amy Walter writes. "That's pretty much in line with the hotly contested 2018 Senate race in the state where [Republican] Sen. Ted Cruz narrowly defeated [Democrat] Rep. Beto O'Rourke 51% to 48%."

O'Rourke famously said, "Texas is not a red state; it's a non-voting state." And if Texas does go blue, it would seal a Biden victory and preclude a deluge of Republican litigation, which experts anticipate would follow a tight result.

Cook projects that Trump controls 20 safe states, worth a total 125 electoral votes. Biden, by comparison, holds 24 states, worth 290 electoral votes — 20 more than he needs to win.

With such a map, Cook says, Trump would need to take all of Cook's "toss up" states: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine's 2nd District, North Carolina, Ohio, and now, Texas. Even then, he would still need at least two of the seven states which Cook now ranks "lean Democrat": Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

MORE FROM Roger Sollenberger

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Elections Elections 2020 Joe Biden Politics Reporting Texas