A sign indicates where to vote at Brook Hollow Library.
A sign indicates where to vote at Brook Hollow Library on San Antonio's Northside during the a 2018 election. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Early voters across Bexar County and Texas showed up in higher numbers for Democratic candidates than for Republicans in this year’s midterm and statewide primary elections. A number of county, state, and Congressional primaries will be decided Tuesday on election day, with others going to a May runoff.

The midterms offer Texas voters their first chance to cast ballots for statewide offices and national representatives since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.

“I think what we’re seeing is clearly increased Democratic enthusiasm,” said Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project. “What we don’t know at this point is whether that is a reaction to Donald Trump entirely, or whether it’s a reflection of the fact that there are more Democratic candidates running both for seats that are now open in Congress, but also for legislative seats that Democrats have not heretofore challenged for.”

More early voters cast Democratic primary ballots than Republican primary ballots for the first time since 2008, the year former President Barack Obama won his party’s candidacy in the primary, according to election results provided by the Bexar County Elections DepartmentNote that the figures provided for 2018 in the graph below are based only on ballots cast in person. 

“Usually what we see [is] that the Republicans turn out for early vote and the Democrats vote on election day,” said Jacquelyn Callanen, the Bexar County elections administrator. “This time, we are seeing the Democrats coming out for early voting.”

Statewide voters have cast more ballots for Democrats than Republicans this year, according to data provided Thursday by the Texas Secretary of State, which reports voting totals only from the 15 of 254 Texas counties with the most registered voters. 

“Texas Democrats are marching, organizing, and most importantly they are voting,” stated Crystal Perkins, Texas Democratic Party executive director, on Feb. 22. “It has never been more clear – Texas is ready for change.”

The rise in early Democratic voters did no go unnoticed by GOP leaders, eliciting calls from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. Greg Abbott for Republican voters to turn out at the polls.

“Numbers for the first week of early voting should shock every conservative to their core,” Abbott stated in an email sent to supporters earlier this week. “We had always hoped the liberal wave would never hit Texas, but these early voting returns aren’t encouraging so far.”

Political analyst Harold Cook, who has previously worked in the Texas House of Representatives and as an advisor to Democrats in the Texas Senate, says he believes there is definitely going to be a blue wave.

“I think it’s been clear for a year that Democrats are on fire, probably fueled by anger at a very unpopular president,” Cook said. “A lot of independent voters who typically would not vote in either party’s primary are probably voting Democratic.”

While he says nobody would argue that Democrats are gaining support in Texas, he’s unsure whether that wave will be a tsunami or simply a higher tide. He does believe that some Republicans will loose seats in Congress and in the state Legislature.

“Nobody is talking about Republicans gaining seats in the state House of Representatives,” Cook said. “They’re all talking about how many seats they’ll lose.”

Ted Delisi, a Republican strategist, believes trying to determine general election turnout from primary turnout is “shaky science.” He said that part of what may be driving more Democrats to primary participation are opportunities to choose candidates for interest-catching races for Congress, U.S. Senate, and governor, the latter primary featuring nine candidates that is almost certain to result in a runoff.

Neither Cruz nor Abbott, who has a $43 million war chest, faces meaningful primary competition.

Eligible voters have one more opportunity to cast a primary ballot Tuesday. Unlike during early voting, voters must cast ballots in their designated precinct. To find that location, click here.

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Jeffrey Sullivan

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.