Officials predict huge Texas primary turnout

06:02 PM CST on Monday, March 3, 2008

Associated Press

Walt Zwirko /
Voters in The Colony waited more than an hour to cast their ballots Friday on the final day of early voting.

AUSTIN — The election in Texas is more than half over before primary day.

An estimated 60 percent, or 2 million of the 3.3 million total voters, cast their ballots early, Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson said Monday. The estimate is based on the slightly more than 1.2 million who voted in the 15 most populous counties during a 10-day period that ended Feb. 29.

"Texas is well on its way to a new record for turnout in a primary election," Wilson said.

Democratic senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama urged supporters to stop in at shopping centers, libraries or county courthouses to cast their ballots early and beat the anticipated primary day rush on Tuesday. Republican presidential contenders John McCain and Mike Huckabee also campaigned in Texas, though voter interest centered on the closer Democratic race.

The Secretary of State's Office tally for the 15 most populous counties showed that 890,188, or 11.39 percent of registered voters in those counties, voted early in the Democratic primary — more than the Texas Democratic Party has seen in the past two presidential primaries statewide for early and Election Day voting.

Harris, Dallas and Bexar counties had the largest numbers of early Democratic voters, with 403,197 ballots cast in person and by mail in those three counties covering Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.

The biggest percentage turnout among Democrats was Hidalgo County, in the predominantly Hispanic Rio Grande Valley, where 18 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

On the Republican side, 303,338, or 3.88 percent, of registered voters in the 15 biggest counties cast early ballots. The largest number was in Harris County, with 64,631 early GOP voters; the largest percentage of registered voters was 7.66 percent in Montgomery County north of Houston.

There are 12.75 million registered voters in the state.

Texans can opt to cast ballots in the Democratic or Republican primary and attend a caucus held by that party after the polls close Tuesday night.

Texas Democrats award their pledged presidential delegates based on a combination of primary voting and caucusing. Republicans award their pledged delegates solely on the outcome of the party's primary vote.