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What early voting turnout says about Texas in the 2020 election

The state is on pace for a record number of voters. A TCU political science professor weighs in on what we know and don't know.

FORT WORTH, Texas — First in heat and now in cold rain, voters throughout Texas have continued to line up to cast ballots for the 2020 election.

“The state is big, and it’s diverse and it’s complex,” said Dr. Jim Riddlesperger, a TCU political science professor. “You can infer a lot of things but none of it’s definitive.”

Riddlesperger says turnout will set a record. More than 7.4 million people voted as of Sunday night. That’s more than 80% of the total votes cast in 2016, but North Texas is the focus for most political junkies.

“I think a lot of people are using Tarrant County as a bellwether for what’s going on in Texas politics,” Riddlesperger said.

Early voting typically leans blue, and while it’s been strong in Tarrant County, the nation’s largest Republican-leaning county, some of the highest turnout has been in typically red-leaning areas like Southlake, Euless and Lake Worth. Collin and Denton counties have also seen extremely high turnout.

“We can’t put places that used to be seen as deep dark red into that simple check box anymore,” Riddlesperger said.

Demographics are changing, there’s more economic diversity and women are flocking to the polls like never before. Ryan Data and Research, a Republican research company, says 17% of those voting in Denton and Collin counties haven’t voted before in a general or primary election.

“There is no question that there is a trend towards Texas becoming more competitive,” Riddlesperger said.

Recent polls have shown both Biden and Trump leading in the state. Riddlespurger says normal top issues like immigration, foreign policy and guns have taken a backseat this year.

“All of those have kind of fallen off to secondary status to COVID, the performance of the economy and a referendum on President Trump,” Riddlesperger said.

Texas typically trails the country in voter turnout with just over half of voters casting a ballot. In a state that’s changing fast, that’s one trend everyone should hope to change.