Texas smashes turnout records with 9 million ballots already cast

Everything is bigger in Texas — including voter turnout this year.

The Lone Star State, a traditional Republican stronghold that is rapidly turning into an electoral battleground, has smashed turnout records as of Friday morning. The number of early in-person and mail-in ballots surpassed the total number of votes cast in the 2016 presidential election.

The Texas Secretary of State's office reported that 9,009,850 people cast their ballots in person, by mail or via drop boxes during the state's early voting period, which began Oct. 13 and ends Friday. That amounts to 53.14 percent turnout among registered voters in just early voting.

Four years ago, a record-shattering 8,969,226 people in Texas voted, according to the state's records — which amounted to 59.39 percent turnout. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton there by nearly 9 points, 52.23 percent to 43.24 percent.

Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, campaigned in the state Friday, with stops in Houston, McAllen and Fort Worth.

"Now we know this is no time to let up on the pedal though," she said, praising the high turnout. "Let's make sure on Election Day everybody we know has made sure that their voice, their powerful voice is represented in this election, through their vote."

This year's surge is coming partly in counties that have historically voted for Democrats.

There has been massive turnout in Harris County, which includes most of the city of Houston. The cumulative number of votes in the diverse, Democratic-leaning county totaled more than 1.3 million as of Friday morning. Clinton won the county by some 161,959 votes.

Dallas County, which also voted for Clinton in 2016, has logged the second-largest number of votes, with 744,799 ballots cast there as of Friday morning.

Across the country, Democrats are working to push their supporters to vote early, while Republicans are banking on their voters lining up at the polls on Election Day.

Image: (LM Otero / AP)

The Real Clear Politics average of recent state polls shows Trump with a narrow advantage over Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Texas, 48 percent to 45.7 percent. FiveThirtyEight's polling average shows a slightly tighter race, with Trump edging Biden by 48.1 percent to 46.9 percent.

The NBC News Political Unit, reflecting the latest polling and activity on the ground, moved the state from lean Republican to toss-up on Tuesday.

Democrats are growing increasingly confident that the nation's second-largest state, long associated with the Bush family dynasty and the GOP's traditional brand of conservatism, can be flipped blue amid demographic shifts and other structural changes.

The same might be said of Georgia and North Carolina, two other Southern states where Biden has shrunk Trump's advantages by making gains with suburbanites and women, and appealing to people of color and young voters.

Texas Residents Cast Ballots As Early Voting For U.S. Presidential Election Begins (Callaghan O'Hare / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Beto O'Rourke, the former Texas congressman and presidential contender who came close to defeating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, has repeatedly called on Democrats to make a bigger play for the state.

"Texas will decide the outcome of the 2020 election," O'Rourke told a group of canvassers in San Antonio this week.

Democrats have not won a presidential contest in Texas since 1976, when Jimmy Carter — a Georgia native who performed well all across the South — triumphed over Republican President Gerald Ford.