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.

To find your Election Day voting site by street address, click here. To find your voting site by registration data, click here. Voters need to show a valid photo ID to vote.

Primary Election, March 1, 2016

BALLOTS CAST THIS DATE 02/25/2016

DEMOCRATICREPUBLICAN
Early Voting LocationsDaily
Total Votes
Previous
Total Votes
Total Votes
TO DATE
Daily
Total Votes
Previous
Total Votes
Total Votes
TO DATE
Bexar County Elections16943660550192242
Bexar County Justice Center16710001167161595756
Brookhollow Library2981540183895737654722
Claude Black Center184880106494049
Cody Library3181618193650318852388
Converse City Hall118494612167488655
Copernicus Community Center9940950836124160
East Central ISD Admin62175237134400534
Encino Branch Library9951661545015241974
Fair Oaks Ranch City Hall4521726236711451512
Great Northwest Library3591418177739315651958
Henry A Guerra, Jr. Library2049231127147513660
John Igo Library252995124751715622079
Johnston Library152575727139560699
Julia Yates Semmes Library2821167144955220662618
Las Palmas Library2311438166954200254
Leon Valley city Hall159439598182472654
Lion’s Field3181678199630115451846
Maury Maverick Library2341379161349515642059
McCreless Library25811731431157496653
Memorial Library191838102967178245
Mission Library15473789190263353
Northside Activity Center2369761212231619850
Olmos Park City Hall1575517082178391056
Parman Library @ Stone Oak15676892468423072991
Precinct 1 Satellite Office11051762750150200
Shavano Park City Hall15960176061319862599
Somerset High School289812652148200
South Park Mall2581247150579383462
Tobin Library @ Oakwell2501069131943120322463
Universal City City Hall12750262935311071460
University of Texas at San Antonio18710451232104393497
Windcrest Takas Park133587720239751990
Wonderland of the Americas@Crossroads5472538308530111861487
Total in Person6701305443724592823304342325

Voting graphic courtesy of Bexar County Elections Department

https://rivardreport.wildapricot.org

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. 

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is editor and publisher of the San Antonio Report.