Voters wait in line at Bassett Place on the first day of early voting in El Paso. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)
NOTE: This story has been updated to include early votes cast through Sunday, Oct. 18.

A massive influx of new voters is driving El Paso to a likely record turnout in the Nov. 3 general election, an El Paso Matters analysis of early voting trends indicates. The surge in votes comes even as El Paso is being hammered by new COVID-19 cases.

Among the nearly 102,000 El Pasoans who cast early or mail ballots through Sunday, almost 28,000 — 27% of the total — did not vote in El Paso during the 2016 presidential election. About one in nine voters so far have no history of voting in El Paso, the analysis shows.

The current trend projects to about 260,000 people casting ballots in El Paso by the time polls close. That projection assumes that 90% of the 209,000 still-registered voters who cast ballots in 2016 do so again, and that new voter trends continue through the next two weeks.

El Paso’s highest-ever turnout was 218,890 in the 2016 general election.

Here’s a summary of turnout through Saturday. Early voting continues through Oct. 30 and Election Day is Nov. 3.

Turnout so far

El Paso has had more votes through the first Sunday of early voting than any prior election, even though the first week of early voting this year had one fewer day.

Texas has a longer early voting period this year because of COVID-19, 18 days instead of the usual 12 days.

Turnout by voting history

The large proportion of new voters is the most startling part of early voting in El Paso, a community with a long history of low voter participation.

These voters this year who didn’t cast ballots in 2016 are spread across the age spectrum. So the turnout of new voters extends beyond younger voters just becoming eligible to participate in elections.

We can’t determine the partisan leanings of these new voters because Texas doesn’t register voters by party. However, more than 4,300 of the early voters who didn’t vote in 2016 did cast ballots in the March primary earlier this year. Those voters show an overwhelming Democratic tendency.

Voters by gender

Women make up 52% of registered voters in El Paso but continue to make up a 55% share of early voters. That is typical of El Paso early voting.

Voters by age

People over age 65 continue to comprise the largest group of early voters, in large part because of their ability to cast mail ballots without restriction. People under 65 face significant restrictions in voting by mail and generally must vote in person.

The proportion of votes cast by younger voters will increase as early voting continues.

Cover photo: Voters wait in line at Bassett Place on the first day of early voting in El Paso. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986.