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Early voting turnout for the party primary runoffs has been above normal, even for voting in person. Early voting continues through 7 p.m. Friday in 22 locations around the county.

Denton County Democrats are outpacing Republicans in early voting for the primary runoffs, with GOP voters also showing an apparent reluctance to cast their ballots in person.

More Denton County GOP voters have requested mail-in ballots than Democrats, but nearly twice as many Democrats have gone to the polls. More Democrats had also returned their mail-in ballots as of Tuesday.

The pace of early voting — mail-in ballot requests, returns and in-person turnout — was also approaching the turnout of the 2016 and 2018 primary runoffs combined, despite the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that burgeoning enthusiasm remains tempered by Texans’ typically poor participation in elections. Just 3.41% of the county’s 500,000-plus registered voters have cast a ballot in the primary runoffs so far, according to Frank Phillips, Denton County’s elections administrator.

“We’re definitely doing better than we were in 2016,” Phillips said.

That year, a presidential election year, had just 2.8% turnout in the primary runoffs.

“It’s sad that even when we’ve more than doubled, it’s still such a low turnout,” he added.

Both Democrats and Republicans have a handful of statewide races still up for grabs, but only Denton County Republicans have a local judicial nomination in the mix: Jim Johnson and Derbha Jones, who are vying for the 431st District Court in Denton County.

The runoff election was originally scheduled for the end of May. The governor postponed the election to July 14 and added an extra week of early voting to boost social distancing in response to the pandemic.

Texas primaries are semi-open. Voters who cast a ballot in the GOP primary in March cannot cross over to help decide a Democratic runoff and vice versa. But, voters who missed the primaries altogether can pick a party and help decide a nominee.

It’s still possible to apply for a November mail-in ballot if you are age 65 and older or have a disability. You’ll join nearly 13,000 other Denton County voters who have done so.

Among Denton County GOP voters, nearly twice as many asked for mail-in ballots as have shown up to the polls. Among Democrats, slightly more went to the polls than requested mail-in ballots as of Tuesday, but it’s almost an even split.

Denton County Elections Administration updates the voting roster each day on its website, votedenton.com. But, the roster doesn’t include members of the law enforcement community who request voter privacy.

State law allows peace officers, judges and other criminal justice employees to shield their addresses from disclosure. Elections officials opted not to publish their names at all on the early voting roster, but their names would be released without addresses in a records request for a full roster, Phillips said.

“We get questions about that sometimes,” he said. “You may see where there’s 5,000 ballots during early voting but only 4,800 names on the roster.”

Early voting continues through 7 p.m. Friday. The election is Tuesday. Mail-in ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. Tuesday or be postmarked by that time for active-duty military voters who are out of the country.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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