Forget records –- we’re past that. Through Friday, more than 212,000 people had voted early in Dallas County. That’s an astounding number, for several reasons:
• The county averaged more than 40,000 early voters a day last week. At that rate, we’ll have more than 400,000 early voters, double the number in the 2000 presidential election. In 2000, turnout was about 50 percent -– some 600,000 voters. And here’s an interesting conundrum: Early voting, as near as I can tell, often makes up about one-third of the total votes cast. At this rate, if the current average holds, we’ll have close to 100 percent turnout.
• Statewide, through the first four days, this looks to be a turnout of historic proportions. Some 1.1 million people voted early in the state’s 15 biggest counties, compared to 2.4 million who voted early in all 12 days in 2004.
• The heaviest early voting sites in Dallas County have been at the Duncanville library (16,305), the Garland City Hall (13,093); DeSoto middle school (12,405); and the Richardson Civic Center (12,057). Nine of the 26 sites have recorded more than 10,000 early votes. In the March primary, counting votes for each party, just two sites recorded more than 10,000 early votes. (The early numbers that are readily available from the county elections department don’t go into that kind of detail for early voting in 2000 and 2004.)
As noted, I have no idea who early voting helps the most. There’s an interesting discussion of it on the Fivethirtyeight.com web site (which I highly recommend as a way to make sense of the various and competing polls). One pollster describes early voters as “more likely to be over 55 years of age (53%), male (53%), and non-Hispanic whites (75%). The same proportion of Democrats and Republicans (40% each) reported early voting in our sample.”
And, in 2000, George Bush got 58 percent of the early vote in in Dallas County and 52 1/2 percent of the total vote. In 2004, the president got 54 percent of the early vote and 50 percent of the total vote. In fact, he carried Dallas County by fewer than 10,000 votes, which means that the early voters pushed Bush over the top. And, in 2004, early voting made up more than half the turnout, an exception to the one-third rule.
All of which means that in a normal year, one would think that all this early voting would help John McCain. But everyone who is supposed to be a pundit says this isn’t a normal year.
Remember, if you want to share your early voting experience, leave a note in the comments.