Both parties energized as early voting begins in Texas

COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — Democrats in conservative Collin County say they’re encouraged and excited about the Texas primary and the general election in November, reports CBS Dallas-Fort Worth. “The interest level in this election has been a record high,” said David Smith, the primary administrator for the Collin County Democratic Party.

“In fact, this office has been busier this year than it was two years ago during the presidential election,” Smith continued. 

Unlike many earlier campaigns, Smith said their office is filled with signs. There are candidates in every non-judicial race, and compared with four years ago, requests for mail-in ballots have increased.

“The county election department sent out 95 mail-in ballots to people voting in the [previous] Democratic primary,” Smith said. “As of last week, there were 2,300 out and that number is over 3,000 now.”

Dallas County GOP chairwoman Missey Shorey said Republicans, too, are enthusiastic about 2018.

“We respect what’s going on on the left and that is something that is really waking up our activists,” Shorey said. 

Shorey said the Republican National Committee and Republican party of Texas are sending reinforcements here because they say Democrats are targeting the area. Vice President Pence’s appearance at their Reagan Day dinner this past weekend led to record fundraising — $800,000 from the event, with 1,400 people in attendance.

Shorey said Republicans are energized about tax cuts and the debate over immigration.

“That’s why you’re seeing record attendance at the Reagan Day dinner, that’s why you’re seeing record turnout in terms of precinct chairs in recent history and that’s why you’re seeing people ready to get involved, whether it be block-walking, using phones, using cutting-edge apps,” she said. 

Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson predicts the excitement about various political races will boost turnout of the primary to 35 percent or more, up from from less than a third of eligible voters during a typical non-presidential year.

“I think it’s going to be higher this time. There’s a lot of energy out there. A lot of it is on the Democratic side, so the Republicans have to keep pace,” Jillson said. 

Jillson said President Trump has galvanized Democrats nationwide and in Texas, where Republicans remain the majority party.

“In a primary election, the Republican turnout is usually higher than the Democratic turnout,” Jillson said. “If the Democrats are even with Republicans, even surpass them, that foretells a good year for Democrats.”

Early voting begins Tuesday, Feb. 20 and continues through March 2. Then polling places will be open for Election Day on Tuesday, March 6.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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