First week early voting turnout numbers in East Texas down from last midterm
UT Tyler survey reveals topics of importance to likely voters
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Turnout for the first week of early voting in Smith and Gregg counties was down compared to the 2018 midterm election.
In the first seven days of early voting, 27,415 people voted in person in Smith County. That’s down from the first week total in 2018 of 31,293.
Turnout is also down in Gregg County, where 13,052 people in the first week of early voting this year compared to 15,106 in 2018.
Along with turnout, a new survey from the University of Texas at Tyler is also showing us what voters think are the most important policy issues facing Texas.
“For Democrats, it is 21% looking at reproductive rights and women’s rights. And for Republicans, 47% supporting the border was their top issue,” said Dr. Mark Owens, a political science professor at UT Tyler.
Among the areas where Republicans, Democrats, and Independents show more agreement is the economy and inflation, which ranked number two among all voters.
“When you look at what Ronald Reagan phrased famously years ago, are you better off now than you were four years ago? The same statement applies today,” said David Stein, Smith County GOP chairman. “Are we better off now than we were two years ago?”
Stein said he finds that question is what’s driving many voters to the polls.
“The policies have failed a lot of our folks,” Stein said. “So, what do they want? They want the economy. I want to feel safe in my neighborhood. I don’t want to worry about crime. I don’t want to worry about people who are committing crimes who shouldn’t be here. I don’t want to see that anymore. I’m concerned about what my kids are getting taught in schools.”
On the other side of the aisle, Smith County Democratic Chairman Hector Garza said social issues like abortion rank high among voters in his party.
“Abortion is one of the major issues,” he said. “And they’re taking abortion and they’re saying, you know, it’s not just abortion, it’s women’s rights. And a lot of people are confused on whether this is 100% abortion, or whether it’s women’s rights, and I tell them there’s a combination of both in there.”
When it comes to the economy, the Democratic party faces headwinds. It’s a challenge Garza acknowledges in the fight to win over voters.
“Getting everybody to understand that is the party that’s sitting there now is trying to fix or trying to make something better,” Garza said.
While early voting numbers for the state and East Texas are low compared to the last midterm election, Stein believes some Republicans may be waiting.
“One of the things that I think is going to really turn in our favor is that there are a number of folks who are or have been concerned about the security of our elections, and many of those folks are waiting until Election Day in order to vote,” Stein said.
Regardless of when people choose to vote, both party chairs agree on the importance of getting people to the polls.
“If we get a 55% turnout, which is what normally happens in a gubernatorial election, that means that 50,000 Republicans will stay home and not vote,” Stein said. “Now, there’s plenty on the Democratic side as well, but to my Republican friends, you need to get out and vote.”
“We haven’t had a race this important for decades it seems to me,” Garza said. “And this race is really a breaking point. This is going to really mold and shape our future going forward.”
Early voting continues through Friday. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
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