Grayson County sees record voting in 2020
Election officials were reporting a record number of early votes heading into the final day of the 2020 election cycle. As voters headed to the polls on Election Tuesday, officials said that about 58 percent of registered voters in Grayson County have already cast their ballots.
The increase in early voting comes amid a myriad of factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and a recent trend toward voting before election day.
"It is unprecedented and we don't know what to expect from day to day, but even before the pandemic occurred," GC Election Administrator Deana Patterson said Monday. "And we were planning for the presidential election a year ago, we knew it would probably be unprecedented. You could kind of feel the wave of that already in the nation."
During the 2016 election cycle, about 60 percent of registered voters cast their ballot in Grayson County. However, nearly 58 percent of local registered voters have voted early this year. This has prompted questions about what the turnout will look like this year.
"It appears that we will exceed that, but by how much, I don't know," Patterson said.
Meanwhile, local party leaders remained uncertain on how the results will look.
Grayson County Republican Party Chair Barbara Woodroof said she anticipated that there would be a significant drop off on day-of voting.
"Because there early voting totals are so large, I would expect that some of that has occurred," she noted the high number of mail-in ballots. "I think people are taking precautions, but people are going to do what they need to make sure their vote counts. I do think people feel this is a very important election, so I feel more people are showing up to vote."
With regard to the election itself, Woodroof felt the economy, especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a factor in how people decided their vote this cycle.
"I believe, possibly that the economy is a big issue. We are coming back from the shutdown at a fairly rapid rate, but it has been a very tumultuous year," she said.
Meanwhile, Grayson County Democratic Party Chair Glenn Melancon said the push for early voting had been more pronounced in more urbanized areas of the state.
He expected no matter the direction of the vote, President Donald Trump to be the focus of what drives people to the polls this year.
"You have people who are disgusted with his antics and people who like what he is doing," Melancon said. "As you look back over the last five year, we see a trend of more people voting early than on election day."
Dating back about eight years when former President Barrack Obama was facing challenger Mitt Romney in his bid for reelection, there has been a growing trend over the last decade toward voters hitting the polls early.
However, 2020 has seen other factors that have led voters to vote early, Patterson said. Some voters elected to vote early as a way of avoiding crowds during the ongoing pandemic. Patterson noted that there was an extra week added to the voting period to allow more early voting and distribute crowds.
Beyond the pandemic, Patterson said the county has also seen an increase in registered voters, which likely led to high early voting as well. These factors combined likely led to the record-breaking numbers that have been seen locally, she said.
For this year, Patterson said about 45,600 ballots were cast in-person during the early-voting period. An additional 4,700 ballots — nearly double what is normally seen — have been cast by mail this cycle. Patterson said mail-in ballots can be used by people who are over 65, disabled, will not be in the county on election day or for people who are incarcerated but have not yet been convicted of a felony.
Leading up to the big day, Patterson said she did have a good estimate on how many ballots would ultimately be cast, and the answer may not come election night.
Due to recent legislation, ballots post marked by election day and received the following day must be counted. Likewise, ballots of individuals who are abroad have an additional six-day window in which they can be received and counted.
While this isn't expected to affect state and national races in Grayson County, Patterson said some local races could be affected.
Despite the questions, Patterson said she expects that turnout will be somewhere near what officials were expecting during planning months ago — about 65 percent.
"I still feel we will hit somewhere close to that," she said.