AUSTIN, TEXAS — With a competitive race for U.S. senator among their various ballot choices, energized Texas voters flooded polling places statewide on the first day of voting on Monday — shattering previous turnout records in the process.
In Travis County where the capital city of Austin is located, the voter registrar reported on Facebook that in-person and mail-in votes totaled 47,405. That’s nearly triple the 17,181 votes cast in the first-day votes cast during the last midterm elections in 2014.
Travis County was no aberration. Throughout the state, records previously set for voter turnout fell as the day wore on.
In Dallas County, combined in-person and mail-in votes reached 55,384 on Monday — nearly 26,000 more than were cast in 2014, according to the Dallas Morning News. In neighboring Tarrant County where Fort Worth is located, 40,422 ballots were cast in nearly doubling the first-day results in 2014.
It was much the same in Bexar County, home to San Antonio, where more than 24,000 voters already had cast their ballots in person by 4 p.m., compared to the 13,436 who voted on the first day four years ago, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
San Antonio attorney Roberto Rios posted a video on Facebook of University of Texas at San Antonio students patiently waiting to cast their ballots amid long lines on Monday.
But Harris County, home to the state’s largest city of Houston, really took the cake. Residents there set a new record on the first day of early voting for a midterm, with 63,188 votes cast, according to reports. The turnout shattered the previous high attendance set in 2010, when more than 35,000 votes were cast. An additional 52,413 voters returned mail-in ballots, bringing the total to 115,601.
The City of Houston was stepped in politics on the first day of early voting, with Gov. Greg Abbott joining Donald Trump at the Toyota Center for a rally supporting Sen. Ted Cruz in his hometown running for re-election. Cruz is in the midst of an implausibly competitive contest against El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat who has made impressive inroads in this historically red state.
But even with the democratic process in full display, the Houston turnout came as something of a surprise to even veteran political observers. “Shocking turnout for first day of early voting in Houston,” blared the headline in the normally sedate Houston Chronicle.
O’Rourke’s stomping grounds in El Paso County also saw brisk voting activity, where a record 17,131 voters turned out Monday as of 7 p.m., according to election officials there.
All told, roughly 15.8 million Texans are registered to vote in this year’s midterm elections, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s website. Early voting runs through Nov. 2 ahead of Election Day on Nov. 6.
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