Fueled by a competitive (or perhaps just crowded) GOP ticket and early heated primary contests between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa and Nevada, voter interest in the 2016 presidential race seems to have surged. Early voting tallies in Super Tuesday states show an increase in the number of ballots being cast ahead of the main event, leading election officials to speculate the biggest day of the primary race is on track to see a high turnout similar to Iowa's.
Early voters will have cast as many as 40 percent of the votes in some of the states participating in Super Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported. In Texas alone, more than a million voters cast early ballots between Feb. 16 and Feb. 26, the office of the Texas Secretary of State reported. Although the 1,107,067 early ballots cast for the 2016 primary represents a major uptick from the amount of early votes cast in 2012, it's lower than the 1,193,576 votes cast before primary voting in 2008.
In Arkansas, a spokesman for the secretary of state told Politico they had seen about 20,000 more early votes cast this year (with two days of early voting still to go) in comparison to recent elections. "We are seeing an upsurge. In the last couple of election cycles we've seen about 100,000 people early vote. Through yesterday, we've had about 120,000 already," Chris Powell said.
Voters in Georgia and Tennessee set new records for early voting. A previous early voting record set in 2008 was shattered in Georgia with more than 405,000 ballots cast ahead of Super Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The previous record was 271,418 votes. In Tennessee, a 2008 record of 329,154 votes was broken with the 383,259 ballots cast during this year's period of early voting, a local Nashville paper reported.
Although Republicans appear to be seeing high voter turnout more often than their Democratic counterparts, Sanders' home state of Vermont saw 15,700 absentee ballot requests for the Democratic presidential primary compared to just 6,500 requested for the GOP contest. Those numbers are up from 14,000 in 2012, Politico reported.
Overall, however, Democrats haven't seen quite the same increase in voter turnout that Republicans have and it's unclear if Super Tuesday will change that. While Republicans saw a 20 percent increase in votes during the South Carolina primary (compared to 2012), Democrats had a 30 percent decrease in turnout compared to the party's last contested primary in 2008, CBS News reported.
Traditionally voter turnout in primary elections begins to drop off after the early contests of Iowa and New Hampshire but if early voting numbers are any indication, several Super Tuesday states are likely to see historic voter turnout at the polls. The post-Super Tuesday narrative, however, could include a dip in turnout if Super Tuesday significantly cuts the competition of either party's primary.
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