Number of Republicans Voting in Travis County’s Democratic Primary Up Significantly

Photo by John Anderson

As early voting in the Texas’ March 5 primary draws to a close, a sizable number of Travis County Republicans have made the unusual decision to vote in the Democratic party’s primary election.

An analysis of the 30,690 early votes cast in Travis County through Wednesday, Feb. 28, conducted by local campaign consultant Jim Wick shows that 15% of voters in the 2024 Democratic primary have some history of voting in Republican primaries since 2012, while 4% have voted exclusively in Republican primaries over the same period.

Wick also ran the same analysis for Travis County’s 2022 Democratic primary and found that the number of voters with some GOP voting history had more than doubled since 2022 (7.1%) and the number of voters with exclusive GOP voting history had increased five times (0.8% in 2022).

The 2022 numbers are cumulative of all early vote and Election Day ballots cast, and the 2024 analysis is limited to the first eight days of early voting – meaning there are three full days of voting, including Election Day, for the crossover voter numbers to change. In fact, Wick’s analysis shows that the percentage of Republican voters crossing over to vote in the 2024 Democratic primary has only increased over the eight days of early voting.

Ejecting Travis County District Attorney José Garza from office is a highly motivating goal for local Republicans and is a likely explanation for the increase in crossover voters from the ‘22 to ‘24 primaries. Jeremy Sylestine, Garza’s opponent in the Democratic primary for D.A., has run a campaign largely funded by wealthy individuals who have donated to Republican candidates in the past, so it is not totally surprising that people with similar voting histories would be motivated to cross party lines to cast a vote for him.

Daniel Betts, the Republican candidate for Travis County D.A., has encouraged Republicans to vote for Sylestine (Betts has no primary opponent, but he is virtually certain to lose against Garza or Sylestine in the November general election). The Travis County GOP has cautioned against that strategy. But on social media, local conservatives have encouraged Travis County Republicans to do the same.

It’s unclear if the informal, online organizing is moving Republicans to cast crossover votes, or if an on-the-ground effort is under way, but the result is that more than 5,800 Travis County voters with Republican voting history have voted in the Democratic primary.

“It is fair to say that there is absolutely more Republican crossover in this election,” Wick told the Chronicle. “While it is still a relatively small percentage of the overall electorate, there are definitely enough crossover voters to swing a close election.”

“I absolutely believe that efforts among Garza opponents, not necessarily Sylestine supporters, are pushing independents and Republicans to vote in the Dem primary,” Wick added. “No other race appears to have that dynamic.”