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Our first guess at Harris County turnout

It’s big.

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Early voting in Texas for the 2016 election begins in a month. It will run through November 4. The Harris County Clerk’s office is encouraging voters to take advantage of the window, in order to avoid long lines at the polls.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart estimates 2.2 million people will be registered to vote by Election Day. That’s about half the county’s total population.

“The last presidential [election] we had 1.2 million voters in Harris County,” Stanart says. “We are planning and putting in the infrastructure to support 1.4 million voters to show up.”

The county will operate a record 46 early voting locations this year, in order to accommodate heavy turnout for the presidential contest.

One point four million votes from Harris County would represent an increase of 200,000 over 2008 and 2012. Let’s put that into some context, to help understand what that means for individual races. I’m going to use judicial races as my main proxy for this. The questions I want to examine are, how many actual votes did a judicial candidate need to win in those years, and how many votes will those candidates likely need to win this year?

Total turnout in 2008 was 1,188,731.

Judicial race turnout – the total number of votes cast in the average judicial race – was about 1,100,000, which means there was a 7% undervote. I didn’t do the math, I just eyeballed it.

The Win Number was therefore 550,000 votes for a given candidate. In other words, if a candidate reached 550,000 votes, they won, and if they failed to reach that total, they lost. This was true for each district court race except for two: Elizabeth Ray lost 551,844 to 551,324, and Tad Halbach won 548,852 to 548,622. Note how close those races were.

For all of Harris County, Adrian Garcia was the top votegetter with 637,588 votes.

How about 2012? Total turnout was 1,204,167.

Judicial race turnout – again, eyeballing it – was about 1,130,000, or a 5.6% undervote. I believe the difference here was more Republicans voting all the way down the ballot than there were in 2008.

The Win Number for 2012 was thus 565,000. Again, there were two exceptions: John Coselli lost 567,942 to 566,248, and Michael Landrum lost 569,682 to 565,611. Again, Adrian Garcia was the top votegetter, this time with 613,103 votes.

So what does that mean for this year? Assume the estimate of 1,400,000 total votes is accurate, and assume that comes with a 6% undervote in judicial races. I’m just guessing on that, and you can plsy around with other numbers, but let’s go with it for this exercise. That means that judicial race turnout is 1,316,000 total votes, as 6% of 1.4 million is 84,000. That makes the Win Number 658,000 votes. That’s more than 20,000 votes higher than what Adrian Garcia got in 2008, when he breezed home with 56% of the tally.

Putting it another way, the average judicial candidate will need to get about 100,000 more votes than were required in either of the last two Presidential elections to win. That’s a lot of votes. It may be that this turnout projection is an overestimate – we’re all just guessing, and part of this is in response to the complaints about long lines during the primaries – but I doubt it’s by too much. We’ll know soon enough. Campos has more.

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One Comment

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    Interesting post. I know I give you grief but when it comes to number crunching I really enjoy these posts. It gives me a lot to think about. Have a good weekend.