by Michael Handley
Through the first Thursday of early voting, Texas' 15 largest counties reported nearly 1.18 million in-person and mail ballots had been cast, a 6.8 percent increase over the same period in 2008.
Early voting continues to be brisk in Collin County. The number of ballots cast through Friday is running 10.4 percent ahead of the first six days of 2008 early voting.
While that 10.4 percent numerical increase seems impressive, the enthusiasm of 2012 early voters is not necessarily higher than in 2008. In fact, a case can be made that enthusiasm is down. Take into account that with the county's rapid population growth, the number of people living in Collin Co. has increased from an estimated Voting Age Population (VAP) of 547,209 in 2008 to 667,776 potential voters in 2012.
The table at right projects possible 2012 turnout final numbers for Collin Co. by applying 2008 turnout patterns to current population estimates (Texas DSHS Center for Health Statistics) and voter registration numbers. Approximately 72 percent of population are voting age persons.
In 2008, 77.8 percent (425,994) of the VAP was registered to vote, but only 68.7 percent (458,872) of the Collin Co. VAP is registered for the 2012 general election.
To keep things in perspective, 22.5 percent of registered Collin Co. voters turned out to vote during the first six days of 2008 early voting, while the comparable 2012 accumulated turnout of registered voters is only 23.1 percent.
Comparing the 2008 to 2012 daily percentage of registered Collin Co. voters going to polling places also shows little change in voter enthusiasm.
According to Gallup's year by year analysis, blacks account for 11 percent of voters this year when in 2008, they made up 12 percent of the electorate. And Gallup predicts Hispanics grew to be 7 percent of the electorate, a one point increase since 2008.
"Key elements of President Barack Obama's electoral coalitions, such as racial minorities, women, young adults and postgraduates will likely turn out at rates similar to those in 2008," the survey says.