Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Election Day is here, and more than 125,000 people are expected to descend on Bexar County’s 302 polling sites Tuesday.
Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen predicts Tuesday’s turnout will exceed the more than 122,000 votes cast on Election Day in 2016 because of the enthusiasm Bexar County voters showed during early voting and the pleasant weather forecast.
“It’s going to be sunny and great,” Callanen said.
Early voting ended Friday, with 380,379 voters showing up at the polls over the two-week period. The Bexar County Elections Department received more than 30,000 mail-in ballots, Callanen said, and will count those into pre-Election Day totals later on.
Callanen said Bexar County voters have embraced early voting for years.
“They love to go to early vote, which is a convenience,” she said. “They can do it at any time, any location around the county. We are getting 60 to 65 percent [of the vote] historically in early voting. We get the other 35 percent on Election Day.”
Callanen said she expects this year’s breakdown of early and Election-Day voters to be no different, but “only time will tell.”
Historically, Democrats see more turnout during early voting while Republicans recover their numbers on Election Day and in absentee voting, said Bryan Gervais, a political science professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, adding that older voters generally turn out Election Day while younger voters cast their ballots early.
Political scientists are trying to track changes in voting trends, but this year, with dramatically high turnout for a midterm, Gervais said predicting an outcome would be difficult.
“I think some folks are wondering if that’s changing to where everyone is taking advantage of early voting,” he said. “We’ll see. I think we’ll have better answers after this year.”
So far studies have not been able to determine if early voting results can predict the outcome of races.
“Is it front-loaded this year when we had tons of early voting and Election Day won’t be decisive because turnout will be smaller? I really don’t know,” Gervais said.
The Bexar County Elections Department only tracks the names and number of voters during early voting, Callanen said, not which candidates they voted for. Private companies and consultants produce analyses of who leads the polls, she said.
“We have no idea who’s winning or losing,” she said. “We just know the people who have voted.”
Callanen said in her experience, candidates who lead by 5 to 7 points after early votes are tallied have a good chance of winning their races.
Henry Flores, political science professor at St. Mary’s University, said some candidates in local races, especially those running for the numerous judicial seats in the county, may rely more heavily on Election Day voters since fewer people vote in those races.
“You probably won’t see some of those decided until Election Day,” Flores said. “A lot of those folks can’t afford a large campaign organization, so they have to ride the coattails of some of the bigger campaigns. They’re kind of left at the mercy of how effective the other campaigns are at getting out the vote.”
This year’s early voting totals fell short of those in the 2016 presidential election by 56,352, but more than doubled the numbers from 2014’s midterm elections. Flores said Bexar County’s increased participation could be attributed to excitement over the senate race between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso), as well as the three fire union-backed propositions on the San Antonio ballot.
“I’m happy to see it,” he said. “In past years, midterms and local elections have been so poorly attended, it’s almost a laugh.”
From 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, VIA Metropolitan Transit is providing free rides to people who show a valid voter registration card to bus operators. Uber is offering $10 off a single ride to poll sites on the “most affordable option” available, while Lyft is offering 50 percent off rides on Election Day. Lime is giving out free 30-minute rides on their e-scooters.
The Elections Department will release early voting results Tuesday evening. The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Voters who get in line by 7 p.m. will still be able to vote.