/Texas sets voter registration record after adding 1.8 million voters since 2016 election

Texas sets voter registration record after adding 1.8 million voters since 2016 election

AUSTIN – A record 16.9 million Texans are registered to vote in the Nov. 3 election, according to new data from the Texas secretary of state’s office.

It’s an increase of about 1.8 million voters since the 2016 presidential election, when 15.1 million, or about 78% of the state’s voting-age population, registered to vote.

The latest figure, released Monday, also accounted for roughly 78% percent of the state’s eligible voters, although it’s not the final statewide registration number ahead of the Nov. 3 election. The official count is expected in the coming days, according to secretary of state officials.

The number grew by nearly 300,000 from two weeks ago, the last time the agency reported registration figures. The deadline to register to vote in Texas was Oct. 5. Early voting started Tuesday and runs through Oct. 30.

People wait in a long line to cast ballots for the general election at an early voting location at the Renaissance Austin Hotel on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman)

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Texas Democratic Party officials say there are promising signs that Texas could elect the first Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976, pointing to an analysis Tuesday from TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm, which found that 60% of new registered voters are under the age of 25 or people of color.

“As one of the youngest and most diverse states in the country, the electorate in Texas has fundamentally shifted over the past few years,” party executive director Manny Garcia said in a statement. “Turnout in the election is expected to break records and Texas Democrats have built a winning coalition of voters because we have earned the trust of Texans.”

Also on the line: a U.S. Senate seat; a dozen congressional seats, all but two of them held by Democrats, that national political experts say are in play; and the Texas House, where Democrats must flip nine seats to become the majority.

But Republicans say they expect to win up and down the ballot and retain control of the Texas House. President Donald Trump’s campaign has hosted a flurry of events and ramped up its field operation in the state over the past couple months, mindful that a Trump victory must go through Texas.

But with polling showing the presidential contest in Texas close, the Biden campaign is boosting ad spending and campaign appearances in the state.

As Jill Biden, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, campaigned in El Paso, Dallas and Houston on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign said Democrats were “wasting their time in Texas.”

“Nevertheless, we welcome them to light their money on fire because Texas will reelect President Trump on Nov. 3,” Samantha Cotten said in a statement Tuesday.

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Nearly all eligible voters in Travis County, home to Austin, were registered to vote this year, according to Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant. Of the county’s more than 850,000 eligible voters, a record 97% of them are registered to vote in the Nov. 3 election, Elfant said.

That’s a 17.2% increase since the 2016 presidential election, when there were 725,000 registered voters in Travis County, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Other Central Texas counties saw the number of registered voters grow by a quarter since 2016, among the highest increases in the state. Williamson County jumped from 300,000 registered voters to more than 375,000, a more than 25% increase.

Hays County saw a 24% increase and Comal County saw a more than 25% bump.

The figures come despite lagging new voter registrations in some of Texas’ biggest counties, including Travis, when the coronavirus pandemic first hit Texas.

Bexar County, home to San Antonio, increased from 1 million to nearly 1.2 million, or a 13.1% increase in registered voters since 2016. Harris County, home to Houston, saw an 11% increase, while Dallas County saw an 8.5% increase.

Staff writer Luz Moreno-Lozano contributed to this report.