Rural Heart of Texas following statewide trend of turning out to vote early in record numbers for hotly-contested races in Election 2020
In a year like no other in our lifetime, Americans have begun to expect the unexpected. With only a week left before the 2020 Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3, the eyes of the nation have turned upon Texas as a Republican stronghold that could be in question. And in the process, early voters have been turning out in record numbers.
After two weeks of early voting through Oct. 25, over 7.4 million Texans have already cast their votes, representing an amazing 43.4 percent of registered voters in the state. By comparison, 32.5 percent took advantage of the total two weeks of early voting in 2016, already a marked increased from 21.4 percent in 2012. And thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, Texas expanded its early voting period for this year’s general election by an additional week, closing on Oct. 30.
But what exactly all this means remains a mystery. For the record, more people have already voted in Texas than the grand total going to the polls in 46 states during the 2016 general election. In fact, more Texas voters have already visited the polls than voted for either of the 2016 presidential candidates. Texas might even match its total 2016 turnout before Election Day.
And now, for the rest of the story...
According to recent nonpartisan polls, Texas has consistently ranked as one of the nation’s closest states in the presidential race. Polls have come in all over the margin-of-error map, ranging from a five percentage point lead for Republican incumbent President Donald Trump, to a two-point advantage for Democrat former Vice President Joe Biden.
Overall, the RealClearPolitics.com polling average shows Trump clinging to a slim 3.2-point edge after winning Texas by nine points over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 -- the smallest margin of victory for a Republican since 1996.
Regardless, Biden actually winning Texas still ranks as almost unthinkable, especially considering the fact that the last Democrat candidate for president to capture the Lone Star State's Electoral College votes happens to be Jimmy Carter in 1976 -- 44 years ago.
But rest assured, the results are anything but decided in Texas as Democrats appear to be at least in the running in races for the presidency, the U.S. Senate and possibly numerous seats down the ballot -- maybe even here in Bosque County as well. Once considered a Democrat stronghold, Bosque County went completely red in 2014 when the late Dewey Ratliff became the first-ever Republican elected as the Bosque County Judge, and the Republicans have never looked back since.
With only two contested races on the Bosque County ballot, the battle to become the next Bosque County Commissioner for Pct. 1 appears to be a competitive three-man race between Republican Billy Ray Hall, Democrat John McPeek and write-in hopeful Bryon Grounds, while Republican Trace Hendricks stands out as the clear frontrunner in facing Democrat Danny Ragsdale for the open Bosque County Sheriff's seat.
Despite being a rural area, Bosque County has basically followed the statewide trend on early voting. With 12,724 registered voters in Bosque County, 4,669 ballots have already been cast, representing 36.7 percent of those eligible to vote with 32.6 percent doing so in person, while 4.1 percent by mail.
Even though the national pattern has indicated Democrats are more likely to express the intent to vote early and then actually do so, political pundits have been baffled by the fact that the states with the highest percentage of early voting in relation to the 2016 turnout have been Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas -- all of which went to Trump. But with that said, all four also represent states in which Biden continues to run stronger than Clinton did four years ago.
Also on the statewide ballot, Republican incumbent John Cornyn appears to have his hands full trying to win back his seat in the U.S. Senate, facing a fierce challenge from moderate Democrat Mary "MJ" Hegar, who served as a Major in the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard and was honorably discharged after completing three tours of duty in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Republican incumbent Roger Williams takes on a surprisingly strong push for the Texas District 25 U.S. House of Representative seat from liberal Democrat challenger Julie Oliver, who has made up even more ground since initially taking on Williams in 2018 when she lost by only eight points by getting heavy voter support from the Austin area.
Also at the district level but for state representation, Republican incumbent Brian Birdwell will be up for re-election for the Texas State District 22 seat, facing Democrat challenger Robert Vick, while Republican incumbent DeWayne Burns faces Democrat challenger Cindy Rocha for the Texas House District 58 seat. Considered almost impenetrable Republican strongholds, Trump won Senate District 22 by 37.1 percent in 2016, while overwhelming House District 58 by a whopping 58.7 percent.
If you haven't voted yet, there are some things to consider. Although Texas expanded its early voting period, the Lone Star State did not expand who’s eligible for mail-in voting amid the pandemic, despite efforts by state Democrats. Regardless, election officials still expect a surge in mail-in ballots.
For those choosing to vote on Election Day, polling locations will have guidelines in place for social distancing and regular cleaning. Poll workers will likely be wearing face masks and other protective equipment, but masks will not be required for voters, though health officials still recommend wearing masks.
Keep in mind, most Texas counties remain under a statewide order to wear face masks in businesses or other buildings open to the public, as well as outdoor public spaces, whenever social distancing is not possible. For more voting information and location of polling stations in Bosque County, please visit the county website at: http://www.bosquecounty.us/elections/, or call Election Administrator Crystal Denman at 254-435-6650.
The bottom line, expect to spend more time in the voting booth and prepare for longer lines at polling stations. Regardless, it will be worth it -- every vote will count.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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