Portending a long night awaiting definitive election returns in Texas, voters across the state still faced lengthy lines and wait times to cast their Super Tuesday ballots hours after polls closed.
Voters in Dallas and Houston and on college campuses late Tuesday evening reported remaining in line for more than two hours — with some still waiting behind dozens of voters ahead of them. The long lines stretched out of elementary schools, wove through public libraries and wrapped around the LBJ Student Center at Texas State University. Almost six hours after polls closed, voters were still casting ballots at Texas Southern University in Houston.
At Texas State, Nichole Black, a senior studying management and journalism, jumped into line at 6:30 p.m. after getting out of class and remained there three hours later.
“I believe that every vote matters, and I want to do my part,” Black said of her motivation to wait in line. “I would also regret it if I didn't cast my vote in this primary. I think there's a real chance Texas could turn blue this presidential election, and I like the idea of being a part of history.”
Leading up to election day, county election officials and political observers speculated about a jump in turnout Tuesday, particularly as the Democratic presidential primary narrowed after the Nevada caucuses and the South Carolina primary.
Voting in Texas
When was the last day to register to vote?
The deadline to register to vote in the 2020 general election was Oct. 5. Check if you’re registered to vote here. If not, you’ll need to fill out and submit an application, which you can request here or download here.
When can I vote early?
Early voting for the 2020 general election runs from Oct. 13 to Oct. 30. Voters can cast ballots at any polling location in the county where they are registered to vote during early voting. Election Day is Nov. 3.
How will voting be different because of the pandemic?
In general, polling locations will have guidelines in place for social distancing and regular cleaning. Several counties will offer ballot marking devices so voters avoid contact with election equipment. Poll workers will likely be wearing face masks and other protective equipment, but masks will not be required for voters.
How do I know if I qualify to vote by mail?
Texas is one of just a few states that hasn’t opened up mail-in voting to any voter concerned about getting COVID-19 at a polling place. You can find eligibility requirements and review other questions about voting by mail here.
Are polling locations the same on Election Day as they are during early voting?
Not always. You’ll want to check for open polling locations with your local elections office before you head out to vote. Additionally, you can confirm with your county elections office whether Election Day voting is restricted to locations in your designated precinct or if you can cast a ballot at any polling place.
Can I still vote if I have COVID-19?
Yes. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms, consider requesting an emergency mail-in ballot or using curbside voting. Contact your county elections office for more details about both options.
See our voter guide
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But the evening lines proved unprecedented in recent history. And voters waiting it out said few of their neighbors in line were leaving before casting their ballots. At Texas State, volunteers from MOVE Texas, a nonprofit that encourages young voter turnout, walked around handing out pizza and water bottles to voters waiting their turn.
Nearly an hour and half after polls closed, voters in line in Dallas and Houston reported two-hour wait times at several polling locations.
At 9 p.m., local hospital worker Mackenzie Maupin was still behind 40 people at the Baker Ripley House near downtown Houston. Maupin, who was waiting to cast a vote for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, had tried voting before work but ran into a long line then. She turned to Ripley House, which is closer to her home, after work only to face a long wait.
“It just kept going and going all around the building,” Maupin said. “I’ve never seen lines like this.”
She stepped into the line at 6:30 p.m.; she cast her ballot at 10:10 p.m. She estimated there were still more than 75 people behind her.
In Harris County, local reports indicated county officials had sent additional voting machines to help run voters through the line at polling places where hundreds of people were queuing up just before polls closed. But at 9:25 p.m., the line to vote still stretched out of a library at Texas Southern University that was serving as a voting site.
In midtown Houston, biomedical researcher Cory Massey started his walk home from Trinity Episcopal Church at 9:40 p.m. after waiting three hours to cast a ballot. He's a regular voter, but work had kept him from voting early for his presidential pick, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, so he stuck it out in line, armed with a granola bar and a water bottle.
Voting moved slowly at the church with just eight voting machines set up for those voting in the Democratic primary, but people stuck it out, Massey said. One voter even brought her own folding chair. Massey was left to watch for updates on his phone as other states were called for other presidential candidates. But he persisted in line.
“[Warren is] obviously not having a great night,” Massey said. “Regardless of where she finishes, I wanted to register my support.”
Disclosure: Texas State University and Texas Southern University have been financial supporters 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.