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What Do Early Voting Numbers Say About Election Outcome?

Travis County eSlate voting machine
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News
Early turnout in Travis County this year looks similar to 2006, according to one Democratic strategist.

As Austinites head to the polls tomorrow, political campaigns around the county are already handicapping the election, based on turnout for early voting.  KUT News spoke with Democratic political consultant Mark Littlefield to learn about his analysis of early voting trends in Travis County.

Littlefield: What I did, not only did I do a daily tracking, but I thought it was important to go back and look at 2006 early voting, and compare it to this year. The difference I'm seeing is that the Democratic-only history is down about seven [percentage] points, and [those with no voting history] is up about eight. Thirty-thousand people registered to vote in Travis County after the 2010 March primary.

KUT News: I guess that's an important for anybody involved in a campaign, because they don't know if it's a new voter, they don't know how they can expect them to vote necessearily.

Littlefield: Exactly, exactly. And not that we're 100 percent certain that the Democratic-only people are voting for Bill White and the Republican-only people are voting for Rick Perry, but you kind of assume so.

KUT News: Where are you seeing people voting?

Littlefield: We have six House Districts here in Travis County. For example, House District 46 [in northeastern Travis County], represented by Dawnna Dukes. Only 9.6 percent of all votes have been cast in her House District. In 2006 it was 10 percent. House District 47 is Valinda Bolton's in southwest Austin. In 2006 it was 27 percent. This year, it's 27.8. It looks like 2006. You look up and down here, and with very, very few subgroups and subcategories, it looks like 2006.

KUT News: We've reported on the increase in early voters. How does that change the dynamics of running a campaign, now that you're seeing so many people voting early?

Littlefield: Early votes to campaigns are like gold, because they get the results every night, and as soon as they can take you off the list, it's one less phone call they have to make. It's one less door they have to knock on. It's one less dollar they have to spend to send you a mail piece. So they can stretch their campaign and their dollars and their resources even farther. It used to be that we'd think, "Gosh, we have to win Election Day." Well, now with the way it's set up, we have fifteen election days. You have to win every single one of those.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.