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Texas surges past 2016 turnout as Biden vies for major prize

Second-most populous state after California has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980

People wait in line to vote at Tarrant County Elections Center on the last day of early voting on October 29, 2020 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Montinique Monroe/Getty Images/AFP)
People wait in line to vote at Tarrant County Elections Center on the last day of early voting on October 29, 2020 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Montinique Monroe/Getty Images/AFP)

HOUSTON (AFP) — Vincent Siewit just dropped off his vote at a polling place in Houston — one of nine million people in Texas who have already voted, racing past the state’s presidential election turnout from 2016.

The 30-year-old voted in the historically conservative state, where polls this time around suggest Democratic candidate Joe Biden has a fighting chance of winning.

“I thought there would be lines, to be honest, and didn’t want to miss it,” Siewit said, who hopped in his car and drove five minutes to cast his ballot.

“Definitely seems like there’s been a lot more media and socialization to get people out to vote.”

Large prize

Larger than France and home to 29 million people, Texas is the second-most populous state in the US after California, but has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980.

To the winner of the vast state go 38 electoral votes — a large prize and a possibly decisive bloc for Biden if he were to gain it.

People wait in line to vote at Fretz Park Branch Dallas Public Library on the last day of early voting on October 29, 2020 in Dallas, Texas. (Montinique Monroe/Getty Images/AFP)

The number of registered voters in the state has risen 12 percent since 2016 — more than 1.9 million additional people, many of them Latinos.

With the electorate changing and a high turnout over the last few days, Democrats are dreaming of a Biden win, a possible earthquake for US politics that would shake up the political map.

Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris canvassed in Texas on Friday, but the presidential candidate himself has chosen to spend his time in other swing states in the last days of the campaign.

Republican President Donald Trump has also chosen to stay away and hold rallies elsewhere.

‘Easy to vote’

Queues were short at the polling station in the center of Houston on Friday — the last day for early voting in the state.

Lily, 31, became a US citizen last year and had just voted for the first time in a US election when she spoke to AFP.

“The hate for President Trump drew me to the polls,” she said.

Earlier in the day, groups of Trump and Biden supporters waved flags and chanted slogans at each other.

“It’s been pretty easy to vote,” said Siewit, who had protective equipment with him to cast his ballot safely.

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