A heated state Senate race with both Democratic candidates spending big and going negative, and an intensifying Republican presidential primary race fueled a strong early voter turnout in Bexar County on Thursday with voters experiencing actual waiting lines at poll sites in the afternoon. Eleven days of early voting will come to a close Friday at 8 p.m. Polls at the county’s 32 early voting sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Election Day voting sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Thursday evening’s nationally televised Republican presidential candidate debate included acrimonious exchanges between Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and likely will contribute to even better turnout for the final day of early voting. More Republicans, 42,325, have voted early than Democrats, 37,245, in Bexar County, with GOP voters turning out 9,282 voters versus 6,701 Democrats on Thursday.
How many of the county’s 977,730 registered voters are expected to vote in this presidential primary season? If early voting trends follow tradition, the answer is less than those that voted in 2008 when Barack Obama first ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, and more than in 2012 when he ran for re-election. That has surprised some election watchers who expected the highly competitive Republican presidential primary race to attract a large turnout of that party’s voters.
A fairly strong turnout also was expected among Democrats for their own presidential primary, and for the hotly-contested District 26 Texas Senate race between incumbent Sen. José Menéndez and challenger Trey Martinez Fischer. The contest is a bitter rematch of the 2015 special election won by Menéndez after former Sen. Leticia Van de Putte stepped down to make an unsuccessful run for San Antonio mayor. Martinez Fischer has given up his Texas House seat to engage Menéndez in the rematch.
“I’m never happy to hear there is a line of people having to wait to vote, but I can’t help but smile,” said Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen, “It’s about time we had lines in Bexar County. Today (Thursday) was a huge pickup. The last two days are always huge. We’ve already had 11,988 vote by 5 p.m, with three hours to go, as many people as voted all day yesterday.”
Thursday’ combined total was 15, 983 voters. Once again, early voting sites on the city’s Northside drew far more voters than the inner city sites.
Republican primary voters have a lot of names at top of their ballot. There are 13 candidates on the presidential ballot, along with the option of passing on all 13 names and voting to send uncommitted delegates to the July 18-21 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Seven of the candidates have withdrawn from the race. Another, Elizabeth Grey, is a mystery candidate nobody seems to know. It’s the race between frontrunner Trump and Texas Cruz that should animate Republican voters to turn out.
“Ted Cruz Fights in Texas, Hoping it Won’t be his Alamo,” read a Thursday headline on the New York Times home page.
Some thought the presence of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic presidential ballot would energize young voters to turn out in force as they did in 2008 for Obama. That has not happened. Early voters who are 18-24 years old accounted for only 3.3% of the total vote, compared to 67.9% who are 55 or older. Even the broader 18-34 year old vote only equals 10.6% of the total. Unless more young people begin voting in local, state and national elections, it will become an act of civic engagement practiced by a steadily diminishing percentage of citizens.
Early voting represented 51.48% of the total vote in the 2008 presidential primary elections, and it grew to 57.19% by the 2012 presidential primary elections. Since then, early voting has held steady at 55-60% of the total vote.
“Historically, Bexar County has really embraced early voting, and we do count on that high percentage of people voting early every time now,” Callanen said. “The turnout in ’08, when we didn’t have an incumbent president, was a phenomenal number. In 2012 it fell off the cliff. This one is dead between those two.
Primary Election, March 1, 2016
BALLOTS CAST THIS DATE 02/25/2016
|Early Voting Locations||Daily|
|Bexar County Elections||169||436||605||50||192||242|
|Bexar County Justice Center||167||1000||1167||161||595||756|
|Claude Black Center||184||880||1064||9||40||49|
|Converse City Hall||118||494||612||167||488||655|
|Copernicus Community Center||99||409||508||36||124||160|
|East Central ISD Admin||62||175||237||134||400||534|
|Encino Branch Library||99||516||615||450||1524||1974|
|Fair Oaks Ranch City Hall||45||217||262||367||1145||1512|
|Great Northwest Library||359||1418||1777||393||1565||1958|
|Henry A Guerra, Jr. Library||204||923||1127||147||513||660|
|John Igo Library||252||995||1247||517||1562||2079|
|Julia Yates Semmes Library||282||1167||1449||552||2066||2618|
|Las Palmas Library||231||1438||1669||54||200||254|
|Leon Valley city Hall||159||439||598||182||472||654|
|Maury Maverick Library||234||1379||1613||495||1564||2059|
|Northside Activity Center||236||976||1212||231||619||850|
|Olmos Park City Hall||157||551||708||217||839||1056|
|Parman Library @ Stone Oak||156||768||924||684||2307||2991|
|Precinct 1 Satellite Office||110||517||627||50||150||200|
|Shavano Park City Hall||159||601||760||613||1986||2599|
|Somerset High School||28||98||126||52||148||200|
|South Park Mall||258||1247||1505||79||383||462|
|Tobin Library @ Oakwell||250||1069||1319||431||2032||2463|
|Universal City City Hall||127||502||629||353||1107||1460|
|University of Texas at San Antonio||187||1045||1232||104||393||497|
|Windcrest Takas Park||133||587||720||239||751||990|
|Wonderland of the Americas@Crossroads||547||2538||3085||301||1186||1487|
|Total in Person||6701||30544||37245||9282||33043||42325|
Voting graphic courtesy of Bexar County Elections Department
Featured image: Campaign mailers reflect the bitter rematch between Sen. José Menéndez and challenger Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer in the District 26 Senate Democratic primary race.