MIDTERM ELECTIONS

Turnout surges during early voting

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More than 104,000 ballots were cast in the first week of early voting in Williamson County, surpassing the number who voted in the first week during the previous two presidential elections and pushing the turnout above 31 percent of registered voters.. 

By the end of the first week of early voting, nearly 3 million Texans had voted in the 30 counties where the majority of the state’s registered voters reside. About 10 percent of those voting early used mail-in ballots statewide, while less than 8 percent of Williamson County’s early ballots were submitted by mail. 

Nearly 28 percent of Travis County’s 775,950 registered voters cast ballots in the first week of early voting — almost double the number who voted in the first week of the 2012 presidential election.

Statewide, nearly a quarter of all registered voters cast a ballot in the first seven days of early voting. That preliminary turnout has surpassed the total votes cast in those counties during the entire two-week early voting period in the last midterm election in 2014. 

While turnout for midterm elections is historically much lower than in presidential election years, many pundits have speculated that this year’s overall turnout could approach that of the last two presidential elections.

A total of 14 statewide offices, 36 congressional seats, seven of 15 seats on the State Board of Education, 15 of the 31 seats in the Texas Senate and 150 seats in the Texas House are on the ballot, in addition to dozens of local races. 

The big one, however, is the high-profile senatorial race between incumbent Ted Cruz and the Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke. 

A Quinnipiac poll released Monday with just over a week left before Election Day, saw Cruz maintaining a 5 percentage point advantage over O’Rourke. The poll found that 51 percent of likely voters favor Cruz and 46 favor O'Rourke, with just 3 percent undecided.

“With a week to go, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz remains in front, with a slim lead over U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. O’Rourke is within striking distance, but time is running out in a race that Democrats have hoped would deliver an upset victory that would be key to a Senate takeover,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a news release.

Locally, Democrat MJ Hegar has gained nationwide attention in her bid to unseat longtime Republican incumbent John Carter in Texas’ 31st Congressional District. Polls have shown Carter leading during the runup to the election.

Polls show Gov. Greg Abbott comfortably ahead in his re-election bid. 

Early voting closes Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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