Increase in early voting implies high interest level

Audrey White

Republicans and Democrats are both certain that record-high early voting totals in Travis County indicate support for their respective party’s candidates, and both are fighting to get voters out to the polls today.

According to Travis County records, about 134,000 people voted early this year, up from 99,000 in the last midterm election in 2006. Usually, about 50 percent of the electorate votes early, so the county is expecting vote totals to reach at least 250,000, said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. Statewide, early voting totals are up 61 percent from 2006, according to records from the Secretary of State.

“We’ve got a hot ticket this year,” DeBeauvoir said. “There are races that are competitive starting right there at the top, and you can mark your way down the ballot with tight races.”

The Travis County Democratic and Republican parties will both have volunteers working at the county’s 211 voter precincts, as well as phone banking and reaching out to Election Day voters with signs and personal interactions. Polls show incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry ahead of Democrat Bill White by about 12 points, according to a statewide newspaper poll, but Democratic Party representatives said they are confident the results will favor them.

“Bill White is still within spitting distance, and if folks get out there and vote, Bill White can win. If you want a new governor, go vote for one,” said Katherine Haenschen, the coordinated campaign director for the Travis County Democratic Party.

However, Travis County Republican Party chairman Rosemary Edwards said that the high voter turnout indicates a state-wide frustration with federal politics.

“There has been so much pent-up anxiety about the overreach of the federal government,” Edwards said. “This is clearly a referendum on the Obama administration and his failed policies.”

To handle the higher-than-usual turnout expected at the polls tomorrow, DeBeauvoir said county precincts have ramped up tech support and will have 1,500 paid workers at the polls after meeting a projected 100-person worker shortfall this week.

“We gear up for election day.,” she said. “We’ll send extra troubleshooters to make sure judges have their supplies and everything is running smoothly.”