Early voting healthy in area, but Brewster and Jeff Davis counties leading the pack

FAR WEST TEXAS – Early voting started Monday and after just two days the numbers show enthusiasm at the polls. Brewster, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties are all reporting brisk turnout.

Brewster County saw 14 percent of registered voters turn out in the first two full days of voting, with a total of 1,055 people voting.

Brewster County Election Administrator Lora Nussbaum said turnout is “a lot bigger” this election. Although Nussbaum is new to the position, she says compared to the two previous elections this year, and what she has been told by others in her office, turnout is really good.

Jennifer Wright, Jeff Davis County Clerk, said in her years of experience Jeff Davis voters are “breaking records [and have] never had 236 voters on the first day of early voting.” According to Wright, when polls closed Tuesday, Jeff Davis had a total of 372 votes, which is roughly 22 percent of the 1,727 registered voters in the county.

According to Florcita Saenz, a contract Presidio County election administrator, turnout is also up here. Saenz says, “Usually, in Marfa early voting, people turn out in the last week [but] Monday saw very good turnout.” She said she is “really glad the community is coming out.”

A total 266 Presidio County residents cast ballots on Monday and Tuesday, 186 in Marfa and 80 in Presidio. That’s just five percent of the county’s 4,887 registered voters.

In a separate Marfa election, and according to Marfa ISD school officials, a total of 29 residents voted so far in the special election to authorize how local funds will be sent to the state now that MISD is considered a “rich” district.

With 14 percent of registered voters casting ballots in Brewster County versus the five percent in Presidio, it’s hard not to wonder if accessibility to polling places is impacting voter turnout in Presidio County.

The two counties take significantly different approaches to polling hours and locations. In Brewster County there are multiple polling location spread across the county with weekend hours for both Saturday and Sunday, while Presidio limits hours to Monday through Friday with just two early voting polling locations.

(See detailed early voting locations and times for all three counties below.)

The enthusiasm for early voting can also be seen across Texas and nationally. With The Texas Tribune reporting “Tens of thousands of Texas voters turned out across the state to cast their ballots on Monday, the first day of early voting for the 2018 midterm elections. The state’s largest counties all saw much larger first-day turnout than they did in the previous midterm elections in 2014. Dallas County’s combined in-person and mail-in votes topped out at 55,384 on Monday, almost 26,000 more than were cast in 2014, according to The Dallas Morning News.”

Nationally, the New York Times reports, “Turnout has surged among Republicans, Democrats and independents, according to poll data. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than seven million people had voted early, according to data compiled by Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida who studies elections. If these patterns persist, we could see a turnout rate at least equaling the turnout rate in 1966, which was 48 percent, and if we beat that then you have to go all the way back to 1914, when the turnout rate was 51 percent,” he said. “We could be looking at a turnout rate that virtually no one has ever experienced.”

So what can early voting tell us about the results of the election? Experts warn it is too early to draw any firm conclusions on election outcomes from early voting totals. There are many pitfalls to these types of conclusions since early voting can be so different from state to state, and depending on the type of voting, absentee ballot or in person, the party affiliation can skew, with Republicans tending to cast more absentee ballots and Democrats doing more in person voting.

According to Tom Bonier, the chief executive of TargetSmart, a data analytics firm, that has collected early voting figures, “The ebb and flow of the election cycle generally is — and it’s not true in every single state but it is true in the national aggregate — Republicans tend to run up the score early with the absentee vote, Democrats come back strong with a pretty massive surge in in-person early voting, then on Election Day the vote tends to be closer to parity with a slight Republican lead. Republicans tend to have to play catch up on Election Day.”

So don’t let the early voting surge and any long lines at the polls deter you. Regardless of your party affiliation, expressing your right to vote is the best way to have your voice heard for what matters to you.

Early voting continues through November 2nd.

In Presidio County, voters in all precincts can cast early voting ballots at the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa and Presidio County Annex in Presidio. Polls will be open for early voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

In Brewster County, voters in all precincts can come to the Judge Val Clark Beard Office Complex, the old library west of the Courthouse.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, October 22, through Friday, October 26. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, October 27, and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, October 28. The next week, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, October 29 through Friday, November 2.

Remote Early Voting for Precinct 3 will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, October 23, at the Marathon Community Center and for Precincts 5, 6 and 7 from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, October 24, at the Panther Junction Community Room and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, October 25 at the Red Pattillo Community Center in Study Butte.

In Jeff Davis County, all early voting will be at County Clerk Jennifer Wright’s office at 111 N. Front Street in Fort Davis, enter through the double green doors. Voting will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, including the lunch hour, October 22 through November 2. There will be no weekend voting.