Texas Democrats hopeful after surge in early voter turnout for 2018 Primary

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) – All eyes are on Texas with Tuesday’s Primary Election and Democrats in the state are hoping their enthusiasm that led to high turnout during the early voting period stays.

“I think our numbers reflect a change, not only demographically, but philosophically and politically,” Donna Haschke, chair of the Hays County Democratic Party, said.

Haschke has only been chair of their county’s party for three months, but in that time, it’s been busy.

“We’ve got people calling in, wanting to volunteer,” she said. “I’ve certainly seen a surge in Democratic voting. We’ve had 21 percent more registered voters since the last election cycle which is huge.”

President Donald Trump won Hays County by around 600 votes in 2016. Haschke believes what is leading to the rise in Democratic enthusiasm are the issues that have played out under the Trump administration and the 2017 legislative session.

“I think we are having what we kind of call a ‘Trump bump,’ because a lot of people are concerned about what’s happening in Washington and they’re very concerned about what’s going on in our state legislature,” she said.

“I think we are having what we kind of call a ‘Trump bump.'”

According to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, out of the state’s 15 largest counties, 465,245 Democrats cast an early ballot. More than 420,000 Republicans from the same counties voted in the early period. However, a report by The Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin says historical election data from the last 20 years doesn’t show a clear correlation between primary participation and general election outcomes in the state.

“This is all to say that while the relationship between primary participation and general election performance hasn’t existed in the past, this doesn’t mean that the increase in Democratic enthusiasm that people are imagining isn’t real, or that it won’t manifest itself this time around; it’s just not a conclusion that people should draw with such certainty from primary election turnout, let alone a few days of early voting returns,” the report says.

Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist and chair of the Travis County Republican Party, says these numbers are only a small snapshot so far and what happens primary night will help provide a well-rounded picture.

“It’s possible that the Democrats are cannibalizing their election day vote with early day vote, basically taking primary day voters and moving them to early vote,” he said.

Mackowiak says while he doesn’t think this enthusiasm will contribute to a “blue wave” in Texas, the energy can’t be ignored.

“I still think we’re going to win the vast majority of the important races in November, but we may lose some races we shouldn’t lose,” he said.

Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 6. You can find more information about the primary here.

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