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Texans are already gearing up for the possibility that Texas’ Election Day results may not be known on Nov. 3. As has been the case for the past few elections, they’re also curious about whether Texas should be considered a battleground state. And they want to know whether there are efforts to improve turnout among Latino voters.
Five journalists covering politics for The Texas Tribune answered those questions and several others about the upcoming general election on Reddit on Wednesday. Check out the full discussion here, and read the highlights below.
How long will it take to know who wins?
One reader asked what many people are wondering: How are reporters preparing for the possibility that final results might not be known for days or weeks after Election Day.
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
Have you run into hurdles or problems while trying to vote in Texas? We want your help in reporting on those challenges. Tell The Texas Tribune your voting story.
Executive Editor Ross Ramsey said delayed results are almost a certainty, but the extent of delays won’t be known until after polls close Election Day.
There are always places where the vote counts are slow or incomplete for what are usually local reasons, Ramsey said.
“Increases in vote by mail and the possibility of long lines and slow tallies on Nov. 3 could easily mean the final results will take a bit,” Ramsey added. “Challenges to those counts are always a possibility, too.”
Another reader asked how the Tribune was covering voter suppression efforts.
“We're watching for it, as always, and will rely on tips, complaints, etc. for instances of this happening,” Ramsey said. “Obviously, we can't be everywhere. But people are pretty good about calling attention to irregularities they see, and we've got our ears open. What's the old war poster? ‘If you see something, say something.’”
Is reliably red Texas really in play?
Recent polling shows a close race in the state between incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Some readers asked whether Texas should be considered a battleground state this general election.
Political reporter Patrick Svitek said while polling suggests the state is just as competitive as more traditional battleground states, a separate question is whether candidates are treating Texas as a battleground.
“At the presidential level, I don’t see it yet,” Svitek said. “And the clock is obviously ticking. We’re not currently seeing the kind of spending and candidate attention from the Biden campaign that would suggest they plan to seriously contend the state.”
Ramsey added that most of the Democrats’ money and talk has been directed at down-ballot contests, where they have their eyes on as many as 10 congressional seats and 18 Texas House seats now held by Republicans.
“The measure of this, in rough terms, will be whether the Democrats can get nine more seats and a majority in the Texas House, how many congressional flips they can manage, and whether they get a statewide win or two,” Ramsey said. “If the presidential race goes their way (for the first time since 1976), they'll call it a blue wave no matter what happens to the other races.”
State politics reporter Cassandra Pollock said that if Democrats gain control of the House, they may try to push some version of Medicaid expansion at the Legislature next year. Some Republicans have suggested that a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying will be their priority.
Texas is facing an unusually large number of congressional battlegrounds. Democrats are targeting 10 seats held by Republicans this year, while Republicans are working to flip two.
“I can absolutely tell you that there is no state more discussed in national politics when it comes to US House races than Texas,” said Washington Bureau Chief Abby Livingston. “I think most reasonable political insiders think Democrats make gains in Texas this year, it’s a question of how many?”
Are there efforts to improve Latino turnout?
One reader asked: Is anyone taking any serious steps to improve voter turnout among Latino Texans?
Political reporter Alex Samuels said yes. In addition to individuals like former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, groups like Mi Familia Vota and Voto Latino have been registering new voters with a focus on the state’s growing Latino population.
“With the pandemic and groups unable to register folks in-person, some of these organizations fear that the Latino population, which has been disproportionately hit by the pandemic, and lower-income residents who don’t own printers and are therefore unable to print off voter registration forms, will be hit particularly hard,” Samuels said.
However, Texas Organizing Project, which focuses more on voter turnout, said improving Latino turnout is top of mind — especially ahead of this election cycle.