Contextualizing (and Tracking) the Early Vote in Texas

As Election Day approaches, many are watching early voting patterns for indications of total turnout and signs of partisan advantages (or disadvantage). However, intepreting the 2022 early vote is tricky, and interpretation of patterns requires keeping several factors in mind. Many of the most obvious comparisons being made in efforts to find leading indicators of election outcomes are more complicated than they appear. Some of these complications arise from the data collection and reporting by the secretary of state. Others considerations arise from well established differences between mid-term and presidential election years, and from the unique circumstances of both the 2018 and 2022 elections. To avoid misinterpreting early voting this week and on Election Day, it will help to keep the following points in mind.

  • What vote totals are being compared? Texas is releasing early voting data on a daily basis for the entire state, which seems like an obvious denominator for early voting totals. But this comprehensiveness (and granularity) weren't available prior to 2020, when early voting data was only reported for the largest counties in the lead up to the election. So it's important to make sure that any comparisons being made about early voting in this election cycle compared to prior election cycles are actually comparable e.g. statewide early voting totals in 2022 and 2020 (though see the next point), or early voting totals in a clearly defined number of counties. Our graphics below rely on turnout in the 15 largest counties in each election cycle, which account for about 66% of registered voters.
  • Don't compare 2022 turnout to 2020 turnout. Presidential election turnout is significantly higher than midterm election turnout, so there's no reason to expect early voting totals in 2022 to reach or surpass 2020 totals. (For the argument that 2018 turnout came unusually close to 2016 levels, see the final point below.)
  • 2020 was a very strange year for early voting. Due to the COVID pandemic, provisions were made by both the state and localities to make voting safer and easier (amidst strenuous debate and legal conflict over both goals). Whatever the mix of objectives, early voting was extended an extra week during the 2020 elections, and the vast majority of Texans chose to cast their ballots before Election Day. These shifts make any comparison with 2020 turnout even more problematic, not only in terms of overall turnout, but also in considering how Texans cast their vote. (Difference are already evident in changes in the relative shares of mail-in and in-person early voting.)
  • Compare 2022 to 2018, but be careful. The 2018 Texas elections provide the nearest point of comparison for 2022 in analyzing the early vote because it was a midterm and not a presidential election. At the same time, 2018 saw significant increases in turnout over prior Texas election cycles, a surge that seems unlikely to be matched in 2022 based on the amount of early voting in the first week. Further counfounding simple comparisons, changes to election law enacted by Republicans during the 2021 Legislative Session mean that the actual conduct of the 2022 election will differ from the 2018 election with respect to early voting and vote by mail rules that could, presumably, be expected to impact voting decisions.

You can find our simple tracking here, reproduced below with context from previous recent elections.

Daily In-Person Early Voting Patterns (2022)

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Number of votes cast in-person
1st Day of Early Voting300220
2nd Day of Early Voting310848
3rd Day of Early Voting292771
4th Day of Early Voting280602
5th Day of Early Voting278786
6th Day of Early Voting233920
7th Day of Early Voting113079
8th Day of Early Voting268558
9th Day of Early Voting257315
10th Day of Early Voting291236
11th Day of Early Voting355410
12th Day of Early Voting500322

Daily In-Person Early Voting Patterns (2020)

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Number of votes cast in-person
21 Days Before Election500885
20 Days Before Election489322
19 Days Before Election473082
18 Days Before Election491513
17 Days Before Election335358
16 Days Before Election134736
15 Days Before Election395509
14 Days Before Election370604
13 Days Before Election333426
12 Days Before Election295533
11 Days Before Election315099
10 Days Before Election223305
9 Days Before Election119215
8 Days Before Election256183
7 Days Before Election254024
6 Days Before Election263696
5 Days Before Election310457
4 Days Before Election408046

Daily In-Person Early Voting Patterns

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2014 General Election2016 General Election2018 General Election2022 General Election
1st Day of Early Voting113622394280396502300220
2nd Day of Early Voting114295401459388065310848
3rd Day of Early Voting108613388026333,602292771
4th Day of Early Voting102657372099327510280602
5th Day of Early Voting117716383641347984278786
6th Day of Early Voting103701321300321096233920
7th Day of Early Voting41066143154137458113079
8th Day of Early Voting120340307536301629268558
9th Day of Early Voting129433322225288862257315
10th Day of Early Voting141364326514229702291236
11th Day of Early Voting167241341257300999355410
12th Day of Early Voting244028484616453423500322

Presidential Voting Patterns: Early and Election Day Voting (1996 to 2020)

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YearMail VotingEarly VotingElection Day Voting

Keywords: 2022 election, voting