Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 October 2020

US ELECTIONS

Can Joe Biden and the Democrats flip Texas for the first time since 1976?

About 16.9 million Texans are registered to vote in the election, 1.8 million more than in 2016

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wants to win Texas for the first time since Jimmy Carter in 1976. AFP
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wants to win Texas for the first time since Jimmy Carter in 1976. AFP

Record early voting turnout in Texas this week has Democrats hopeful that their candidate, Joe Biden, could for the first time since Jimmy Carter in 1976 turn the state blue in November.

The latest data from the Texas Secretary of State’s office shows 16.9 million Texans are registered to vote in this election, a rise of 1.8 million on 2016.

The Lone Star state started early voting on Tuesday and is setting records in the first two days.

More than 128,000 people in Harris county, the state's largest, voted on Tuesday, almost double the 67,741 who turned up on the first day in 2016.

By 3pm on Wednesday, the Harris county clerk tweeted that another 70,000 had voted.

Higher turnout is also being reported in the Democratic-leaning college areas in Houston:

In Travis county in Austin, which favours the Democrats, 97 per cent of eligible voters are registered to cast their ballot.

Longer waiting times were reported at all of the county’s polling places on Tuesday:

Ryan Bohl, an Austin resident and voter, described the mood as very enthusiastic in Travis county.

“There is obviously very high enthusiasm in Travis county to vote,” Mr Bohl told The National.

"I've heard a lot about long lines and the county official who spoke to me said I should expect to work the polls well past closing should there still be a line."

He said the mood was even more intense than 2018, when Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke almost unseated Republican Senator Ted Cruz and lost by only 2.5 per cent.

That is the closest margin the Democrats have recorded in Texas in decades.

“I have seen a fair share of Joe Biden and Donald Trump advertisements on TV here, which suggests that both campaigns see Texas as up for grabs,” Mr Bohl said.

The pandemic, police reforms, the economy and immigration are all issues at play in the Texas election.

A poll by Morning Consult last week showed US President Donald Trump leading Mr Biden in the state by only two points.

Mr Trump won the state in 2016 by nine points against Hillary Clinton, and former Republican nominee Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 16 points in 2012.

Experts say Texas’s 38 electoral votes could offer the Democrats a landslide victory on November 3, but only if they outperformed the polls and drove turnout among key demographics.

Galen Druke, of the election statistics website FiveThirtyEight, described Texas as a “majority-minority” state that is ripe for the Democrats in 2020.

"Texas may be a southern state, it may be a republican state, but it’s highly urbanised,” Mr Druke said in a recent podcast.

He said the state was 41 per cent white, 40 per cent Hispanic, 13 per cent black and 5 per cent Asian.

Mr Druke said a higher turnout, especially among minorities, suburban voters and college-educated whites, could help Mr Biden to outperform the polls.

“In recent elections, polls have underestimated Democrats by two to three points," he said.

"I wouldn’t be shocked if Mr Biden ends up winning the state."

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott won a legal battle this week limiting the number of drop-off sites in each county to one.

In Harris county where 4.7 million people live, that meant longer car queues.

But these measures have not stifled the turnout so far and will at least mean a close result in Texas.

Updated: October 15, 2020 01:21 AM

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