Record-breaking voter turnout in Hays County for both Republicans and Democrats during the March 6 primary election might signal a new height in political involvement.
Turnout in last week’s primary featured a 10 percent increase in the number of Democrats who participated and a 12 percent increase in Republicans from the 2014 Primaries.
In the 2014 midterm elections, three percent of registered Republican voters took to the polls. The increased political involvement throughout the county on both sides can be credited to an abundance of local elections in this year’s Primary.
“We saw a major increase in voter turnout and you have to give credit to both parties who really showed up to the polls this time around,” said Jennifer Anderson, election administrator for Hays County. “I think the national political feeling and the amount of local races we had really played a huge role in our increased numbers.”
While there was a slight shift in Hays County’s political identity, Republicans still dominated the total voting population.
In the commissioner races for Precincts 2, 3 and 4, Republicans outshined Democrats in voter turnout. Across all three races, Republican candidates received 9,968 total votes while Democrats bagged a total of 8,196.
In the race for Hays County Judge, over 10,000 people voted in the contested Democratic Primary between Ruben Becerra and Abel Velasquez. In the Republican Primary, Will Conley, who was uncontested in the race, received 9,918 votes.
Becerra, a lifelong Democrat and who will face off against Conley in November, said he is optimistic he can swing the tide of Republican voters in the primary, noting the total amount of votes Democrats achieved.
“We’re encouraged by the results, but in the era of Trump, a great many fair-minded Republicans, unlike my opponent, are distancing themselves from the extreme fringes of the party,” Becerra said.
Russel Hayter, Hays County Republican Party chairperson, said he feels optimistic for the Republican candidates going into the general election.
“We saw an increase in voters and a lot of enthusiasm in the Republican primary and we will carry that going into the general election.”
Throughout the county, Anderson said there were no issues with voters taking to the polls and operation ran smoothly.
Busier precincts, which include the First Baptist Church in San Marcos and Belterra in Dripping Springs, saw high voter turnout and long lines. Those issues prompted Hays County to include additional voting machines to alleviate the high amount of voters.
“Some precincts were very busy but we never had to switch out equipment because of malfunctions,” Anderson said. “It was a successful election and I enjoyed seeing the high amount of turnout and I hope this trend continues.”