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Early voting ahead of Nov. 2 election down slightly from 2019

TPR News

The Texas Secretary of State’s office reported Wednesday 2.3% of registered voters in the state have so far cast a ballot ahead of the Nov. 2 elections. Turnout is down compared to the Nov. 5, 2019 elections, which stood at 2.9% in the first nine days of early voting.

St. Edward's University Political Science Professor Brian Smith says voter participation is historically lowest in such elections, which typically do not include any presidential or statewide candidates. “Constitutional elections are not very exciting. They’re very important, but not very exciting. They don’t have the celebrity candidates. There’s nobody on the ballot to really get us out to vote.”

Among the state’s most-populous counties, voting numbers this year are down slightly in Harris (2.9%), Bexar (2.4%) and Collin (2.1%) counties, but significantly higher in Travis County, where voter turnout hit 5.7% on Wednesday as opposed to 3.2% at the same point in 2019.

Smith says higher turnout in the state capital is due to a local ballot measure, Proposition A, which would require Austin to hire hundreds more police officers. The petition initiative is a response to the Austin City Council cutting funding for law enforcement last year amid widespread protests against police brutality.

“We’re actually seeing media spots on TV over that,” Smith said. “So that’s why Travis County, especially with early voting, is a little bit higher than the rest of the state because there is something to bring voters out to the polls.”

The statewide ballot includes eight amendments to the Texas Constitution. Those include proposals stemming from public health restrictions imposed last year to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Proposition 3 would ban state and local governments from “prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.” Proposition 6 would give residents in long-term care facilities the right to designate an essential caregiver for in-person visitations. Other constitutional amendment proposals involve new eligibility requirements for court judges and tax exemptions.

The last day to vote early in person early is Friday.

Joseph Leahy anchors morning newscasts for NPR's statewide public radio collaborative, Texas Newsroom. He began his career in broadcast journalism as a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio in 2011. The following year, he helped launch Delaware's first NPR station, WDDE, as an afternoon newscaster and host. Leahy returned to St. Louis in 2013 to anchor local newscasts during All Things Considered and produce news on local and regional issues. In 2016, he took on a similar role as the local Morning Edition newscaster at KUT in Austin, before moving over to the Texas Newsroom.