Hays and Williamson Counties surpass total votes cast in 2016

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — With five more days of early voting remaining in Texas, Hays and Williamson Counties have become two of the first counties in the United States to surpass vote totals from the 2016 presidential election.

Hays County on Sunday became the first county in the country to exceed its 2016 total vote turnout, according to Cook Political editor Dave Wasserman. Through Sunday, 74,808 ballots had been cast early or by mail, compared to a total vote of 72,164 in 2016.

The Williamson County Elections Department announced on Monday that more than 211,151 voters had cast ballots during early voting, compared to 205,862 total votes in 2016. The previous record for a general election was set in 2018 with 209,257.

Democrats believe they stand to benefit the most from record-breaking early voter turnout and the 2 million new voters registered since 2016, while suburban counties, like Hays and Williamson, become more diverse.

Hays County used to be reliably Republican—a lot has changed. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney won by 6,000 votes. In 2016, Donald Trump won by less than 600. In 2018, Beto O’Rourke topped Sen. Ted Cruz by 15 points in Hays County and Erin Zwiener turned Texas House District 45 blue.

“The whole community has just been growing consistently for a while and has reached this tipping point,” said Zwiener, who is running for re-election against Republican Carrie Isaac. “We’ve seen shifting demographics.”

Derek Ryan, a Republican data strategist, said it’s difficult to know who benefits most from record early voting turnout and new registered voters. Nearly 90% of the state’s early voting total is made up of people who voted in 2016, he said.

“I think it is dangerous to say that this higher turnout is going to help President Trump or it’s going to help Joe Biden,” Ryan said. “It’s difficult to say.”

Changing suburbs, once a stronghold of the Texas Republican Party, are key to Biden’s chance of becoming the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since 1976. A University of Houston poll released on Monday had Trump up five on Biden in Texas, while a New York Times poll put Trump’s lead at three.

Early voting continues in Texas through Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 3.

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