Early Voting Popularity Rises With New Record In Harris County

Early voting set a new record in Harris County. More than three-quarters-of-a-million voters cast ballots either in person or by mail by Friday night's deadline. It appears the increasing popularity of early voting is here to stay.

Voters who cast their pre-election day ballots Friday evening were faced with wait times that, in some places, stretched into hours. University of Houston political science professor Richard Murray says most of Harris County's 37 early voting locations were running at capacity.

"If we'd had more polling places, and more machines, we would have, I think, gone way, way past 800,000."

As it was, the total for in-person and mailed early ballots came to a bit more than 766,000.  That's about a 4.5 percent increase over the previous early voting record set in 2008. Murray says that growth in early voting will continue, because Texas makes it easy to vote early.

"So that roughly two-thirds of our vote is cast in early vote, and only one third on the traditional Election Day."

Murray predicts another 400,000 Harris County voters will hit the polls tomorrow.  He says, traditionally, early voting has heavily favored one party over the other. That's why Republicans weren't able to catch up on Election Day in 2008, and the Democrats weren't able to close the gap in 2010. 

Murray says this time, polls put many races so close that Election Day votes will tip the scales in a number of match-ups.

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