Texas 2020 elections: Voters deciding a bevy of heated races could shatter state’s turnout record

Photo does not have a caption

Voters wait in line at a polling site at Bee Cave City Hall on Oct. 14. More than 9.7 million Texans cast ballots during early voting. The state is poised to set a new record for turnout with today’s election. Credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

Tuesday’s biggest developments

Texas students in some school districts won’t have class on Election Day

[5 a.m.] A number of school districts in Texas will be closed for Election Day, including schools in Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

The Austin and Eanes school districts have both designated a student holiday for Tuesday, when some of the school buildings in those districts will be used as polling sites, KVUE-TV reported.

The Houston Independent School District also will not hold in-person or virtual classes Tuesday, and neither will a handful of San Antonio-area school districts, according to KSAT-TV. — Mitchell Ferman

Harris County down to one drive-thru voting location for Election Day

[5 a.m.] Only the Toyota Center will be available for drive-thru voting in Harris County on Election Day, County Clerk Chris Hollins said late Monday, eliminating nine other drive-thru options for voters to cast their ballots just hours before the polls open.

Nearly 127,000 Harris County voters cast drive-thru ballots during the early voting period at 10 polling sites across the county, a safer option for some voters during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hollins said he would close most of the drive-thru options on Election Day because of continued legal challenges from a conservative activist and three Republican candidates for office. A federal judge earlier Monday denied that group's attempt to have the drive-thru ballots cast during early voting tossed out, but continued to file appellate challenges over drive-thru voting late Monday. — Mitchell Ferman

Texas on track for record voter turnout

[5 a.m.] More than 9.7 million Texans cast ballots during the early voting period that ended Friday, crushing previous early voting totals in the state and setting Texas on a course for record turnout in Tuesday’s general election.

At least 9,718,648 voters cast early ballots, according to preliminary final numbers released Sunday by the Texas secretary of state. That is 57.3% of registered voters, just 2 percentage points shy of the overall turnout of 59.4% in 2016. Of those early votes, 8,745,565 were cast in person; 973,083 were cast by mail.

Early voting, which Gov. Greg Abbott extended by six days this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, has already eclipsed total votes during the 2016 general election, when 8,969,226 Texans voted. — Jeremy Schwartz and Mandi Cai

Tarrant County’s tightest races may be undecided until later this week due to staffing shortage

[5 a.m.] Tarrant County officials warn that coronavirus-related staffing shortages mean elections workers are unlikely to finish counting mail-in ballots Tuesday night, potentially leaving the county’s tightest races undecided until later this week.

On Monday, Tarrant County scrambled to add 56 more ballot board members to work around the clock in what is the most competitive election up and down the ballot in the county in years. Tarrant County, the largest Republican-controlled county in the state, is home to a number of state legislative races and at least one congressional race that are expected to be tight.

The mad dash comes after local officials realized this weekend that the staffing shortage could delay more than 4,500 mail-in ballots the county has already received but has not yet processed. As of Saturday, the county was still awaiting some 23,000 other absentee ballots to be returned. — Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff and Aria Jones

Voters have their say in several heated races

[5 a.m.] After months of campaigning and prognosticating — all during a pandemic — Texas is playing host to a series of high-stakes contests up and down the ballot, from a presidential race that could be the state’s closest in a generation to the fight for the Texas House majority. There are also a lot of hotly contested congressional races. Democrats are targeting 10 GOP-held U.S. House seats, while Republicans want to flip back two seats they lost in 2018. We’ve compiled a list of five things you should watch on Election Day. — Alex Samuels and Patrick Svitek

The Texas secretary of state has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.