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More Than 9 Million Texans Cast Ballots Early, Topping State's Total Turnout In 2016

Election signs are seen outside a polling station this month in Plano, Texas.
Dan Tian
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images
Election signs are seen outside a polling station this month in Plano, Texas.

Texas hit a significant milestone with four days to go before Election Day: The number of early voters who cast ballots in the Lone Star state this year passed the entire total cast in all of 2016.

So far, more than 9 million Texans have voted, according to a tally compiled by the U.S. Elections Project, a turnout-tracking database.

During the last general election, turnout for the nation's second-most populous state was 8,969,226, according to figures from the Texas secretary of state's office.

Texas joins Hawaii as the first states to surpass 2016 voter turnout figures through early voting alone, said Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who runs the U.S. Elections Project.

The mark set Friday by Texas, which has 38 electoral votes, also comes on the last day of early voting in the state.

"Today is your last chance to vote early in Texas," the state's elections account said in a tweet Friday. "Find an early voting polling location, a list of 7 forms of approved photo ID you can use to vote, and what to do if you do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one at VoteTexas.gov."

This early turnout statewide also comes on the heels of Harris County, which includes Houston, setting an all-time record with turnout on Thursday night.

"We just hit our highest voter turnout. Ever. Nearly 1.4 million votes have been cast in Harris County and we're not even done with Early Vote yet. Let's run up the score, Texas!" Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted.

NPR member station Houston Public Media reported that Chris Hollins, the county clerk, echoed similar sentiments outside NRG Park, one of eight locations that held 24-hour voting beginning Thursday night.

Houston Public Media's Jen Rice tweeted the moment, which was greeted, not with cheers, but with car horns by those attending a drive-in concert headlined by artists Bun B and the Suffers.

With millions of voters across the state expected to turn out on Election Day and mail-in ballots still to be tallied, the likelihood of Texas setting new record-breaking turnout could be a possibility, The Texas Tribune reported.

"The surge in votes is in part due to high turnout during early voting and increases in registered voters in Texas' growing urban and suburban counties. But other factors of timing are also at play," the news organization said.

For decades, Texas has been a reliably red state, voting for the Republican presidential nominee in every general election since 1980.

However, 2020 is proving to be a remarkable year, for a variety of reasons.

Recent polls show President Trump holds a slim lead in the state over his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

Trump leads by 2.3 percentage points in the state, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average. The tight race prompted the organization to move Texas to its "toss-up" category, joining traditional swing states such as Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio.

Overall, more than 83.5 million Americans have voted thus far, McDonald's analysis shows, including 29.5 million who voted in person and nearly 54 million who voted by mail.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.