Texas is gearing up for the final day of voting in this 2020 election season. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Early voting turnout in the state broke records. But more people need to turn out tomorrow in order for Texas to surpass its total voter turnout from 2016.
Texas Standard spoke with reporters in three corners of the state: Andrew Schneider, politics and government reporter for Houston Public media; Bret Jaspers, political reporter for KERA News in Dallas and Angela Kocherga, news director for KTEP in El Paso; and
Houston area and Harris County: legal challenges to drive-through voting, races to watch on Election Day
Over the weekend, the Texas Supreme Court rejected a request by Republican plaintiffs to challenge the validity of over 120,000 drive-through votes in Harris County. Now, the plaintiffs have a hearing in federal court Monday where they’ll claim that drive-through voting, which became an option because of the pandemic, is unconstitutional.
“It’s the same people who are involved: Steve Hotze, a local Republican political activist, as well as two members of the state Legislature and one candidate for Congress, Wendell Champion,” Schneider said. “They’re arguing that it violates state election code and that it violates the 14th Amendment.”
Schneider says Harris County broke 2016 early voting records, and that turnout has been strong, particularly among young and Latino voters.
“It was pretty constant throughout the entire three-week period,” he said.
Western Harris County and Fort Bend County are traditional Republican strongholds, but Schneider says that’s changed in recent years as districts became more diverse. Republicans are “desperately trying to recapture” the 7th Congressional District, he says, which flipped to Democrats in 2018. And Republican Pete Olson’s seat is in contention in Fort Bend County’s 22nd Congressional District now that Olson is retiring. Schneider says Democrats are hoping to win that district, which has mostly been represented by Republicans for four decades.
“It also is a potential harbinger of things to come for the state as a whole,” Schneider said.
Dallas/Fort Worth area: high turnout and contested state House races
The four large counties in the region – Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton – all surpassed early voting turnout from 2016, Jaspers says. But there is a high number of registered voters in the area, so more are expected to turn out on Election Day.
Tarrant County has been competitive in recent years: Hilary Clinton lost there in 2016, but Beto O’Rourke won there in 2018. Jaspers says it could be a bellwether, particularly for the future of the Texas Legislature.
“How Tarrant goes could mean a lot for the future of the statehouse,” he said.
Collin County used to be a Republican stronghold until very recently, Jaspers says. He expects a few close statehouse races there, especially because over 150,000 new voters have been added there since political districts were last redrawn. Results should come fairly early on Tuesday since so many people there voted early.
El Paso: Latinx and youth turnout, a new lockdown and a mayoral race
Young and Latinx voters have turned out in high numbers during early voting – groups Kocherga says don’t regularly turn out.
“We had a lot of what would be called ‘infrequent’ voters – voters who don’t vote every time. We had a lot of new voters, and just huge numbers of people,” she said.
The musician Khalid, a well-known El Pasoan, cast his ballot on the last day of early voting, Kocherga says.
Unlike voters in most Texas cities, El Pasoans are voting amid a new stay-at-home order because of a surge in COVID-19 cases. The county imposed a two-week curfew, and is urging voters to stay home except for essential activities. Kocherga says voting is considered essential, and the shutdown doesn’t seem to have deterred people.
“Early voting was strong up until the end,” she said.
Kocherga says she will be watching on Tuesday to see whether the stay-at-home order has any effect on Election Day turnout.
El Pasoans are also voting in a heated mayoral race. Republican Mayor Dee Margo is facing five challengers.
“It’s been a very hard-fought race, and people are keeping a close eye on that,” she said
Tune into Texas Standard’s Election night coverage starting at 7 p.m. Central/6 p.m. Mountain. Follow all of the Texas Newsroom’s election coverage at texasdecides.com and #TXDecides on social media.