Early Voting Turnout | 2016 Hays County party primaries
2016 | Early votes cast Feb. 16-18
2014 | First three days of early voting
2012 | First three days of early voting
by BRAD ROLLINSMore than 2,700 people cast ballots this week during the first three days of early primary voting in Hays County. Turnout has been strong so far for both major political parties, but local Democrats, in particular, are voting in numbers far greater than any election since the runaway record they set in 2008.
Between Feb. 16-18, a total of 1,338 residents voted in the Democratic Party primary, county chair Jon Leonard said, a total that more or less keeps pace with the Republican Party’s 1,366 voters. With eight days of early voting left to go, more Democrats have voted already than did in the entire early voting period in 2012 or 2014.
Three races — one at the top of the ballot and two near the bottom — are galvanizing interest among the county’s Democrats, Leonard said. Nationally, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) are seeking their party’s presidential nomination.
Young voters have figured prominently in Sanders’ insurgency campaign against Clinton. At Texas State University’s LBJ Student Center, 664 people voted this week — considerably more than at any one of five other early voting locations. (The Hays County Elections Office provides daily turnout totals by location, party turnout totals by location were not immediately available today.)
“Given the strong and overwhelmingly Democratic turnout at Texas State, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is clearly resonating with younger voters,” Leonard said.
Locally, nine candidates — five Democrats and four Republicans — are running for two justice of the peace offices in San Marcos-centered Hays County Pct. 1. The “competitive and hotly contested” JP races are bringing Democrats out to vote, Leonard said.
The earlier numbers are “amazingly tight in terms of D turnout and R turnout,” Leonard said. “I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this in four primary cycles.”
The intra-Republican Party presidential race is still underway, too, featuring a Lone Star state contender in the person of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Businessman and media personality Donald Trump (R-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are also mounting bids for shares of Texas’ delegates to the GOP convention.
A total of 1,366 people have voted in the GOP primary, two-thirds more than at this point in early voting in 2014 (818 votes) and nearly double than in 2014 (698 votes).
Four Hays County Republican officeholders face primary opposition: Sheriff Gary Cutler (R-Driftwood) versus former Texas Ranger Tommy Ratliff (R-Kyle); Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-Wimberley) versus Rob Roark (R-San Marcos); Pct. 2 Constable James H. Kohler versus Steve Avalos and Jimmy Zuehlke, all of Kyle; and Pct. 5 Constable Matt Mancillas III versus John Ellen and Mitch Johnson, all of Buda.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We will update this story when comment is available from Hays County GOP chair Russell Hayter.
COVER: PHOTO ILLUSTRATION by TODD WISEMAN/THE TEXAS TRIBUNE