Before the end of early voting Friday, Texans had cast more ballots in the 2020 presidential election than they did during all of 2016, an unprecedented surge of early voting in a state that was once the country’s most reliably Republican state, but may now be drifting toward battleground status.
More than 9 million ballots have been cast as of Friday morning in the nation’s second-most-populous state, exceeding the 8,969,226 cast 2016, according to an Associated Press tally of early votes from data provided by Texas officials.
Into Friday afternoon, 65% of registered voters in Collin County had voted, 63% in Denton County, 56% in Tarrant County and 53% in Dallas County. In Tarrant County, more people have voted early than in all of 2016 while over in Dallas County voters broke the all-time record for number of votes cast in any election.
Long lines could be seen outside polling locations in Dallas and Tarrant counties on Friday afternoon, the last day of early voting. No problems have been reported.
Texas is the first state to hit the milestone. This year’s numbers were aided by Democratic activists challenging in court for, and winning, the right to extend early voting by one week amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas also offers only limited vote-by-mail options when compared to the rest of the country, meaning casting in-person, early ballots is the primary way to vote for people who don’t want to line up and do so on Election Day.
Voters in Texas do not register by party affiliation, meaning no one can be sure until the ballots are counted whether one party or the other will benefit from the surge in turnout.
The nearly nine million people who voted in 2016 represented a turnout of 59.39%.
The Texas Secretary of State told NBC 5 earlier this month that there are 16,955,519 people registered to vote in the Nov. 3 election, compared to 15,101,087 registered in 2016.
With roughly nine million ballots cast so far, Texas' early voting turnout represents about 53% of the state's 17 million registered voters.
Early voting, which began Oct. 13, ended at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Poll will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.