Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fort Bend County Early Vote Is Going Through the Roof: What Does It All Mean?

There’s a report on Fort Bend Now about how county elections administrator John Oldham is projecting a total voter turnout of 140,000 voters by the time early voting ends tomorrow, October 31st. According to the trends, he could just be spot on.

Over the entire vote period, an average of 11,416 voters have come to the polls every day they have been open. At that rate the county will finish early voting with over 136,000 votes. But that doesn’t take into account the low numbers that showed up to vote on Sunday.

Low numbers because a number of early vote locations, eleven, or over half of the polling locations, were closed on Sunday.

So factoring out Sunday’s vote totals, an average of 12,149 voters have showed up at the polls every day that all the polls have been open. At that rate, a total of over 138,000 voters will have shown up at the early vote locations by Halloween night.

That’s an incredible number. That is nearly half of the 299,002 registered voters in Fort Bend County. That is 20,000 votes shy of the total vote in the 2004 presidential election in Fort Bend. That’s 56,000 more early votes than were cast in the 2004 presidential election. 65% more early votes than in 2004.

And no wonder. A look at the total registered voters in 2004 compared to 2008. In that 4-year period the voter rolls have grown by 44,293. Most of these voters registered this year, it seems. The year that the Obama campaign embarked on a huge new voter registration drive. That’s a 17% jump in the number of registered voters in Fort Bend County

But 17% doesn’t account for the entire early voting jump, not when early voting increased from 2004 to 2008 by 65%. The rest of it has got to do with the keen interest Fort Bend County voters have in this race.

The keen interest that led African-Americans to try and beat each other to be first in line at the poll on the first day of early voting.

The keen interest that impelled early voters to spruce up a bit when they went to the polls, as if voting this year was a special occasion and not just a time spent standing in line.

The keen interest that had a line of 100 voters streaming out of one early vote location on Saturday, as the poll opened.

Here is my thought on this. In 2004 Fort Bend County was a 55 to 44 percent Republican to Democratic county. But now the voter rolls have increased by 17% coming on the heels of an Obama new voter registration drive. And now we are seeing a huge interest in this election that brings voters to the polls unbidden. Given all of this, it is possible that this county could have just flipped from red to blue.

I guess we will find out on Tuesday.

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