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President Donald Trump wins Texas, Republican John Cornyn wins another Senate term

Last updated on November 16, 2020

President Donald Trump wins Texas, Republican John Cornyn wins another Senate term” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Tuesday’s biggest developments

  • Watch results in Texas’ biggest races
  • Texas Republicans fighting off Democrats in battleground congressional races
  • Without evidence, President Donald Trump again accuses Democrats of trying to steal election
  • President Donald Trump defeats Joe Biden in Texas
  • John Cornyn defeats MJ Hegar to retain U.S. Senate seat

Texas Republicans fighting off Democrats in battleground congressional races

[12:41 a.m.] Texas Republicans largely held off Democrats‘ ambitious goal of taking several U.S. House seats from the GOP late Tuesday night.

The Texas congressional delegation was at status quo — with several key races still too close to call — as no incumbent had yet lost their race before midnight and no seats had flipped parties.

At least five Republican incumbents whom Democrats targeted cruised to reelection, according to races called by Decision Desk HQ. They included U.S. Reps. Chip Roy of Austin, Dan Crenshaw of Houston, Van Taylor of Plano, Roger Williams of Austin and John Carter of Round Rock. — Abby Livingston and Kelsey Carolan

Without evidence, President Donald Trump accuses Democrats of trying to steal election

[12:12 a.m] With several battleground states still too close to call, President Donald Trump again accused Democrats of attempting to steal the election, without any evidence.

“We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!” the president tweeted before midnight. Twitter quickly flagged the tweet as containing disputed or misleading information about the election.

Trump’s comments came shortly after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden gave a short speech expressing optimism for his chances of winning. — Rebekah Allen

President Donald Trump defeats Joe Biden in Texas

[11:05 p.m.] President Donald Trump narrowly carried Texas on Tuesday as national results continue to show him and former Vice President Joe Biden in a neck-and-neck race.

The Republican incumbent was poised to win Texas’ 38 electoral votes — 52% to 46.6%, based on returns from early voting, Decision Desk HQ data showed. Early returns don’t include votes cast on Election Day. Polls have shown that Republicans are more likely to vote in person on Election Day than Democrats.

Trump’s margin over Biden marks the second-closest Texas race for the White House. In 1996, GOP nominee Bob Dole beat Bill Clinton by 5 points. Trump prevailed over Hillary Clinton in Texas by 9 points in 2016. — Alex Samuels

Texas Republicans holding ground in battle for state House

[10:10 p.m.] A number of Texas House Republicans were leading against well-financed Democratic challengers in early voting returns shortly after 10 p.m. on Election Day.

In Tarrant County, three GOP incumbents — Matt Krause of Fort Worth, Craig Goldman of Fort Worth and Tony Tinderholt of Arlington — were leading their opponents. In Collin County, Matt Shaheen and Jeff Leach, both of Plano, had narrow leads over their challengers. But in one Houston-area race, state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, was behind her Democratic challenger, Ann Johnson, by nearly 7 percentage points, according to early vote returns.

Democrats, after flipping a dozen seats in 2018, are nine seats away from leading the 150-member chamber. Dozens of seats are in play across the state, including nine in districts that Democrat Beto O’Rourke won in 2018 that Republicans represent. With the GOP’s majority in the Texas House on the line and Democrats within striking distance of flipping the chamber for the first time in nearly two decades, the stakes of this general election are huge. — Cassandra Pollock and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff

Joe Biden and Donald Trump are in a tight race in Texas, early returns show

[9:08 p.m.] The race between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden in Texas was surprisingly tight just after 9 p.m. Tuesday night. Less than an hour before, early returns showed the former vice president gaining ground in the historically red state, with Trump gradually narrowing the gap between them as more conservative counties were counted.

Presidential polling prior to Election Day showed historically tight margins in a state that has not elected a Democratic presidential candidate statewide for over three decades.

Just after 9 p.m. Central, data from Decision Desk HQ showed Biden and Trump in a neck-and-neck fight for Texas. These early returns don’t include votes cast on Election Day. Polls have shown that Republicans are more likely to vote in person on Election Day than Democrats.

The tight margins Tuesday night came after several election prognosticators argued Texas was a swing state for the first time in decades. Various polls over the last month showed Biden narrowly winning the state, and others showed Trump up by single-digit margins. In 2016, Trump won Texas by 9 points — the smallest margin of victory for a Republican nominee in the solidly red state in two decades. — Alex Samuels

John Cornyn defeats MJ Hegar to retain U.S. Senate seat

With an estimated 63.9% of the votes counted and Cornyn in front by 1 percentage point, Decision Desk HQ called the race for the incumbent, 49.3% to 48.3%.

Hegar called Cornyn and conceded within minutes of the race being called, according to both campaigns.

The results reflect many of the state’s biggest urban counties, which tend to favor Democrats, while many of the Republican-friendly rural counties were not reporting results yet. Cornyn was competing for his fourth term against Hegar, the former Air Force helicopter pilot who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. House two years ago in suburban Austin. — Patrick Svitek

Polls are closed in most of Texas

[Updated at 8 p.m.] The polls in Texas are now closed.

The state’s last four counties with polling places still open passed the deadline for people to get in line to vote at 8 p.m. Central. Two of those counties — El Paso and Hudspeth — closed an hour later because they are in the Mountain time zone. Two others — Hidalgo and Upshur — extended voting for an hour after delays earlier in the day caused by technical issues.

Still, anyone in line before the polls closed could stay there and cast their ballots after the deadline. With the polls closed, all counties may now begin reporting their results.

You can track the returns here, and you can read more about how to watch the results during this unusual election night here. — Sami Sparber

Post office says it can’t comply with order to search for undelivered ballots in Houston

[Updated 5:40 p.m.] The U.S. Postal Service failed to meet a U.S. district judge’s 3:30 p.m. Central time deadline to conduct a sweep of mail facilities in Houston and across the country with large numbers of mail-in ballots that had yet to be delivered as of Tuesday morning. According to court documents, about 300,000 ballots lacked a scan indicating delivery nationwide.

In a response to U.S District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order, attorneys for the Postal Service said inspectors were unable to comply. “Defendants were unable to accelerate the daily review process to run from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. without significantly disrupting preexisting activities on the day of the Election,” attorneys told the judge, noting that a daily review process had been previously scheduled for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time.

The sweep began at that time and was “ongoing,” attorneys wrote.

The sweep was ordered after the Postal Service reported 12 regions with low processing rates for ballots that must be returned today in order to be counted by state election officials. Houston’s processing rate was 80.8%, but it is not clear how many ballots in Texas are awaiting delivery.

A Texas-based Postal Service spokesperson did not immediately return a call requesting clarification.

Sullivan had ordered that all remaining mail-in ballots found in postal facilities be sent out for delivery. On Sunday, Sullivan ordered USPS to require offices to use “extraordinary measures” and increase resources to deliver mail-in ballots on time, according to the Washington Post.

The Washington, D.C.-based judge is overseeing ongoing litigation about Postal Service policy changes under the Trump administration that have led to complaints of slowed mail and delayed ballots. His series of orders comes after USPS delays caused concerns over mail-in ballots being delivered on time. Houston has “consistently underperformed on ballot mail or have not properly reported ballot mail-handling practices,” according to the Washington Post.

In Texas, mail-in ballots will be counted if postmarked by Election Day and received by local elections offices no later than Wednesday. — Jeremy Schwartz, Trinady Joslin and Karen Brooks Harper

Hidalgo County extends voting by one hour after tech slowdowns

[4:15 p.m.] Hidalgo County became the second Texas county keeping its polling locations open an extra hour, until 8 p.m. Central, after technical problems slowed voting early in the day.

The county’s elections department said 10 of their locations experienced technical issues.“Making sure our voters have the opportunity to cast their ballot is our utmost priority,” said Hidalgo County Elections Administrator Yvonne Ramón in a statement. “Extending the closure of the polls to 8 p.m. will provide that opportunity to the voters of Hidalgo County.”

The elections department said the problems were due to “laptop check-in issues.” Although currently all 74 county polling locations are operating, several of them had to postpone opening this morning, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project. — Juan Pablo Garnham

Austin police “ready to deploy” if capital sees election unrest

[3:00 p.m.] Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Tuesday that all local police officers of all ranks are on “tactical alert” and “ready to deploy” if unrest erupts in the state capital during or after the elections, according to a memorandum sent to the Austin City Council.

Police have not been made aware of any threats but “stand ready to address them should they occur” and will protect both voters and demonstrators “regardless of political affiliation,” the memo said.

Manley declined to detail the plan further, saying it could compromise operations, but said peaceful protesters will be managed “with the least amount of physical intervention necessary.”

Police in cities across Texas have said they will be ready for any potential Election Day unrest or issues.

The comments come as Austin takes criticism from Republican state leaders who say that a recent move by the Austin City Council to reduce funding for the police department puts residents at risk.

The cuts were part of a reorganization of the police department, spurred by violent clashes between Austin officers and anti-police brutality protesters that seriously injured some demonstrators and led to a ban on less-lethal rounds used in demonstrations, among other changes.

Manley sent his Tuesday letter in response to a request by the Council Committee on Public Safety last week, asking that he detail his plan to protect voters while adhering to non-violent methods of crowd control should protests occur.

“We want Chief Manley to help assure Austinites that we will not see a repeat of the violent tactics APD used against peaceful demonstrators this spring,” Austin Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, who will be sworn in as Travis County Attorney in January, said in a joint statement with other committee members last week. — Karen Brooks Harper

Dallas election judge again refuses to wear mask

[2:45 p.m.] Despite requests from county officials and their own party chairman, an election judge and poll workers at a Dallas voting location have refused to wear masks inside the precinct, The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday.

Election Judge Beth Biesel, a Republican working at the University Park United Methodist Church polling site, had already been removed as a poll worker for not wearing a mask during the primaries, the newspaper reported. But during a general election, poll workers are not considered county employees, and the county elections department cannot force her to use the mask, the paper reported.

Earlier in the summer, Biesel unsuccessfully sued Dallas County, trying to overturn its mask mandate. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he is asking the district attorney and local Republican Party to fix the situation.

“It is appropriate that we require people to wear a mask in the midst of a global pandemic,” Jenkins, a Democrat, told the paper. “When they don’t do that, it puts all voters at risk and it’s allowed them to suppress and intimidate the votes of people who are concerned about getting a deadly virus.”

Rodney Anderson, chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party, told The Texas Tribune that he encourages election workers to wear masks, but that he can’t force them. “I had a conversation with Ms. Biesel. I asked her to wear a mask and her response was that she is following the [executive] order of Gov. Abbott,” Anderson said. “Out of 450 locations, this is the only one that we’ve had any complaints about relative to masks.”

The episode caused Lynn Dickinson, who was set to serve as an alternate Democratic election judge, to walk off the site moments after arriving because she felt unsafe.

Dickinson said she and Biesel had spoken about the mask issue several days ago and she had gotten assurances from Biesel that masks would be worn.

She said she was surprised when Biesel and her husband came in with no masks, and when Biesel told her she would not be enforcing masks on poll workers, either.

“I left,” said Dickinson, who had never been an election judge before. “I had already backed up physically to give them some space so I’m not breathing the air they’re spewing all over the place that isn’t safe. So I left and brought my stuff to my car, and began alerting officials to what was happening.”

After more than an hour of waiting in her car, she went home to wait for the issue to be resolved, but it never was, she said.

“To make up for my lack of service at the polls, I spent my day phone banking to get people to the polls,” she said.

Judge orders Upshur County voting hours extended after morning glitches

[11:45 a.m.] Voters in Upshur County will have until 8 p.m. tonight to cast their ballots, after a state district judge extended poll hours because of a roughly 90-minute delay in getting locations open this morning.

The judge’s order said the morning delays were due to “polling equipment technical issues” that “were in no way created” by county officials, including the election administrator and her staff.

A spokesperson for the Texas secretary of state’s office, Stephen Chang, said the problem “as it was relayed to us was connectivity issues with their KnowInk e-poll books.” It had been resolved by mid-morning, he said, and voting had resumed. Voters who get in line after 7 p.m. will have to cast a provisional ballot, and those ballots will count, Chang said.

A “limited” number of additional counties — four out of an estimated 100 in the state using KnowInk — reported a similar issue to the secretary of state’s office Tuesday morning, Chang said. Those too had been fixed, he said.

Among those counties was Hopkins, in northeast Texas.

County Clerk Tracy Smith said a problem with KnowInk prevented polling locations from going online for up to two hours in rural parts of the county.“We made several phone calls in to KnowInk. It’s not just Texas, it’s nationwide,” she said. “It was an issue on their side and it evidently hit them hard.”

Election workers manually entered voters’ info in the meantime, she said.

The situation was similar in Comal County, near San Antonio.

Cary Zayas, a spokesperson for the county, said KnowInk poll pads were offline for some three to four hours and that there was a “connectivity issue.”

“Our poll pads were not connecting back with the main site,” she said. Voters were not turned away but the process took “a few more minutes” because they had to sign forms after election workers manually entered their information.

The devices previously “snarled” an election in Los Angeles County, according to Politico, and once malfunctioned “intermittently” in Georgia, the Newnan Times-Herald reported.

Chang said counties with a back-up check-in method, like Comal, could “continue moving voters along.” KnowInk did not immediately respond to questions. — Shannon Najmabadi

In Burleson County, poll worker error prevents handful from voting for president

[11:35 a.m.] Four or five voters at a polling place in Burleson County weren’t allowed to vote in the presidential race Tuesday morning, and instead were only allowed to cast votes in local races. County elections administrator Dorothy Oliver said the error was caused by an experienced poll worker who did not realize they were supposed to give voters an access code to vote in the presidential race.

Oliver said all voters were contacted and agreed to come back to the location to cast their votes for president. The poll worker who made the error is still working at the location, but is no longer allowed to touch the machine, Oliver said. — Trinady Joslin

Polls open late at scattered locations across Texas

[10:45 a.m.] Although most polling places opened on time at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, the Texas Civil Rights Project said it had received reports of at least a dozen locations across Texas that were still closed by 8 a.m.

“What we’ve seen most affecting voters is late polling location opens,” said Zenén Jaimes Pérez, the project’s director of advocacy and communications. That’s fairly typical, Jaimes Pérez said, but, “this time we’ve had some clusters of areas that are particular problems.”

One cluster was in Hidalgo County in the Rio Grande Valley, where the project found polls closed at four schools. In Upshur County, in East Texas, the problem was widespread across several locations, although TCRP said it had been informed that voting places are now open. TCRP also identified closed polling places in Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties.

A cable issue at Keller City Hall, which saw the highest early voting turnout in Tarrant County, forced the polling site to open 25 minutes late, but a county official confirmed the issue has been resolved. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports about 100 people were already in line waiting.

According to Jaimes Pérez, officials have mostly described the problems as “technical issues” and many of the voting sites are open now. The organization is trying to redirect voters to other polling locations in the affected counties, but is concerned about workers that only have limited time to vote and could have missed an opportunity early on Tuesday.

“We’ve seen time and time and time again across Texas where polling locations are consistently opening late, and we know that there’s going to be some issues every election, but this is a large number and particularly concentrated in certain counties,” Jaimes Pérez said. “For some people, they can only go out to vote in the morning… And so when polling locations don’t open on time, that means that by definition, some folks might be disenfranchised or might not be able to vote.” — Juan Pablo Garnham and Kate McGee

Harris County sees heavy turnout as polls open

[8:50 a.m.] Some 21,000 votes were cast in Harris County in the first hour after polls opened Tuesday, according to the county clerk. Going into Election Day the county, home to Houston, had easily surpassed the early voting turnout it had seen in 2016. County officials tripled the number of early and Election Day polling locations this year, and increased the election budget from $4 million in 2016 to $33 million. Yesterday, the county clerk closed nine out of 10 locations for drive-thru voting, citing legal challenges from a conservative activist and three Republican candidates for office. — Shannon Najmabadi

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

This article was originally published on President Donald Trump wins Texas, Republican John Cornyn wins another Senate term

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