Election 2020

Election Day 2020: Cornyn, Crenshaw Fend Off Challenges; Houston-Area Incumbents Keep Their Seats

Houston Public Media is following the news as it happens on Election Day.

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, won reelection against Democratic challenger Sima Ladjevardian.

Houston Public Media is following all the news on Election Day. Keep checking back here for more.

Updated 10:30 p.m. CT

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, two high-profile Texas Republican targets for local and national Democrats, have cruised to reelection.

As of 10 p.m., Cornyn beat his opponent, M.J Hegar, by about 52.5% to 45%. Hegar has already conceded, saying in a tweet that she is proud to have built a powerful grassroots movement.

Dan Crenshaw's race was called almost immediately after the polls closed, and as of 10 p.m., was leading his opponent, Sima Ladjevardian, about 53% to 44%. Crenshaw tweeted out his thanks to his district earlier this evening.

Other Houston-area incumbents retained their positions, including Rep. Al Green from District 9, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee from District 18, Rep. Sylvia R. Garcia from District 29, and Rep. Brian Babin from District 36.

Updated 6:01 p.m. CT

Mayor Sylvester Turner at an Acres Homes polling place on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.

More than 21,000 people turned out to vote at three Houston-area college campuses from Oct. 13-30, during Mayor Sylvester Turner's Early Vote Challenge, according to results announced on Turner's Twitter Tuesday evening.

The challenge? To see which local institution — the University of Houston, Rice University or Texas Southern University — could garner the highest number of early ballots cast on their campus.

Rice University emerged victorious at 13,000 votes, while the University of Houston brought in 4,639 and Texas Southern accounted for 3,712.

"We're really excited that everyone was able to get out to vote in such high numbers," said Mason Reece, the Election Day presiding judge at the Rice polling location. "That's really the biggest takeaway for me, is having a successful election on all our campuses and getting people out to vote at a location that's been safe and accessible for everyone."

University of Houston student leader Isaiah Martin also touched on the challenge's success in encouraging voter turnout. To further stimulate student voter engagement, Martin created a spin-off on the mayor's event dubbed "Isaiah's challenge" that asked UH student organizations to create a video skit about voting on campus.

However, Martin and Reece both acknowledged that voting is not over yet, and people still have a chance to cast their ballot on their campuses — or at one of the other 800-plus polling locations in Harris County — before the 7 p.m. cutoff.

"This is the most important election of our lifetime,” Martin said. “Regardless of which candidate you vote for, it is essential that your voice is heard."

Updated 2:42 p.m. CT

Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, left, with Mayor Sylvester Turner in Acres Homes on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.

While Harris County saw a record number of registered voters turn out to the polls, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins says he expects to see results on Election Night — no matter how long it takes.

Harris made the announcement while greeting voters, in a horse-drawn carriage, with Mayor Sylvester Turner in Acres Homes Tuesday morning. The results will account for the 1.4 million ballots cast in early voting, including mail in ballots. Results of early voting will be rolled out around 7 p.m. election night, he said.

"We will not have an election week here, we're going to have an election night," Hollins said. "We're going to know who won those races this evening."

Hollins' promise for expedient election results was couched between calls for the remaining one million voters yet to have cast their ballot in Harris County to head to the polls today.

"Whether you're Democrat, whether you're Republican, young or old, black, white, brown, or anything in between, come out and make your voice heard,” he said.

“Su voto es su voz," he said — Spanish for, “your vote is your voice.”

Turner emphasized that "every precaution" has been taken to ensure that voters are safe at the polls.

"You can come out and vote without fear of intimidation, voter suppression, harassment,” Turner said. “Just come out and exercise your right to vote."

A man on horseback escorts Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.

Updated 12:49 p.m. CT

The U.S. Justice Department has deployed federal monitors to voting locations today in Harris and Waller counties, tasked with making sure voters’ civil rights are protected.

In Waller County, home to the historically Black Prairie View A&M University, there’s been longstanding scrutiny over voting access for students.

Melanye Price, a political science professor there, said she remembers problems from back when she was a student at Prairie View in the 1990s.

“Why is it that you’re constantly having to send federal monitors?” Price said. “Why is it that the county is constantly putting bad actors in place who are running the elections? And part of the answer to that is because the county doesn’t want those students to vote.”

Price says to truly protect people’s voting rights, the U.S. needs a new Voting Rights Act, and to restore federal oversight for any changes to voting, something called preclearance, which the Supreme Court struck down in 2013.

She also wants to see more accountability and punitive measures for election administrators and counties that try to suppress voters.

Signs direct people to a drive-thru voting location at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston on Nov. 3, 2020. A federal judge on Monday rejected an attempt by Texas Republicans to toss 127,000 drive-thru votes in Harris County, but despite this, County Clerk Chris Hollins closed nine out of 10 drive-thru locations in order to prevent future litigation.

Updated 12:26 p.m. CT

Despite two federal courts tossing out challenges to Harris County’s drive-thru voting policy, County Clerk Chris Hollins late Monday night announced he would close all but one drive-thru location, in an effort to avoid any future litigation.

That location was at the Toyota Center, where on Election Day a short line of cars caravanned its way into the arena’s parking garage, where drivers and passengers could cast their ballots. There was a steady stream of vehicles making its way through, but the line moved quickly Tuesday morning. Hollins has said he expects as many as 20,000 drive-thru votes on Election Day.

The county clerk’s office stressed that all drive-thru votes would be counted, and advised voters not to attempt a second ballot.

Updated 9:50 a.m. CT

A mariachi musician serenades voters in line to cast their ballots at the Ripley House polling place in Houston’s East End on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.

At BakerRipley’s Ripley House in Houston’s East End, the morning of Election Day had a celebratory tone. Mariachi musicians serenaded the line of voters trickling in to cast their ballot, while volunteers doled out horchata, tacos and conchas from a table with signage that read, “el voto latino es poder” — “the Latino vote is power.”

Angelica Razo, from the Latino voting outreach group Mi Familia Vota, said the group wanted to bring joy to the people coming out to vote, in what she considered a historic election.

“Latinos have always been an integral part to Texas, to Houston,” Razo said. “We have been historically underrepresented in electoral participation, and we have seen the consequences of that. We see how voter suppression has intentionally left us out. And so Latinos are really fighting to be part of the democratic process this year, because there’s so much at stake for our community.”

If Latino voters in do turn out in large numbers, it will likely be on the strength of younger voters, recent data suggests. The citizen voting age population of Latinos in Harris County grew by more than 50% between 2009 and 2018.

Griscelda Razo, 33, serves food to voters waiting to cast their ballot at BakerRipley’s Ripley Center in Houston’s Est End, on Nov. 3, 2020.

Latinos make up about a third of Texans eligible to vote, but the population’s voting numbers have historically fallen well short of that. Democrats in particular hope that changes in 2020, after nearly four years of Donald Trump as president.

Outside the Ripley House polling place, 60-year-old Second Ward native Larry Luna sang with the band — Mariachi Nuevo Imperio — and spoke about the largely Latino neighborhood in which he grew up. He voted a week ago, but when he heard the music, he walked the two blocks from his home to join in.

He also said he’s going through hard times right now — he injured his hand, and doesn’t have health insurance. He can’t even play his guitar, he said.

Luna is a longtime Democratic voter, but almost sat out this year. He felt dissatisfied with both parties after years of what he said was inaction by both Democrats and Republicans.

But ultimately, he felt this election was too important to miss.

“The way the world’s going around right now, the epidemic thing,” Luna said. “I think Donald Trump’s a big liar. To me personally, I think he’s racist. I don’t know if the other guy’s going to do any better, but I hope he does better, Biden.”

A mariachi band plays for voters outside the Ripley House polling place in Houston’s East End on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.

It’s election day, and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Just like with early voting, you can vote at any polling location in Harris County.

Harris County has already shattered turnout records, with more than 1.4 million people casting their ballot before Election Day during an early voting period expanded by Gov. Greg Abbott because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly 58% of the county’s 2.5 million registered voters have already voted.

So far, in Texas, there have already been more than 9.7 million early votes cast, surpassing the 8.9 million total ballots cast in the 2016 general election. In November of 2016, 15.1 million Texans were registered to vote. By March of this year, that number increased to 16.2 million.

But this election cycle in Texas has also been met with a grab bag of legal challenges. On Monday, a federal judge in Houston denied a challenge from Texas Republicans to throw out 127,000 drive-thru ballots.

The plaintiffs, led by GOP activist Steve Hotze, claimed that County Clerk Chris Hollins' move to offer drive-thru voting was an illegal expansion of curbside voting, which is reserved for voters with disabilities. Hotze said the practice violated Texas election law and would lead to voter fraud.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen threw out the case on Monday, though he did caution that drive-thru voting on Election Day was likely to be found illegal. In response, Hollins announced late Monday night that he limit drive-thru voting from 10 locations to just one, at the Toyota Center.

Hotze, meanwhile, appealed the judge’s decision. That appeal was rejected shortly before midnight.

Hotze’s move to federal court came after being denied twice in the state Supreme Court. On Sunday, the Texas Supreme Court refused his effort to toss out the 127,000 drive-thru votes cast in Harris County during the Early Voting period, about 10% of the county's total early votes.

Here are some facts you should know as you head to the polls:

Texas Voter ID Laws

Texas requires you to have a valid form of identification in order to vote. There are seven possible IDs you can bring to the polls with you.

  1. Texas Driver License issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety
  2. Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  3. Texas Personal Identification Card issued by DPS
  4. Texas Handgun License issued by DPS
  5. United States Military Identification Card containing the person's photograph
  6. United States Citizenship Certificate containing the person's photograph
  7. United States Passport (book or card)

If you "cannot reasonably obtain" one of these forms of identification, you can still vote if you bring one of the following, according to the Secretary of State:

  • Copy or original of a government document that shows the voter's name and an address, including the voter's voter registration certificate
  • Copy of or original current utility bill
  • Copy of or original bank statement
  • Copy of or original government check
  • Copy of or original paycheck
  • Copy of or original of (a) a certified domestic (from a U.S. state or territory) birth certificate or (b) a document confirming birth admissible in a court of law which establishes the voter's identity (which may include a foreign birth document).

After you've provided one of the above supporting forms of ID, you'll have to fill out a form called a “reasonable impediment declaration.” Reasonable impediments include lack of transportation, disability or illness, lack of birth certificate or other documents needed to obtain acceptable photo ID, work schedule, family responsibilities, lost or stolen ID, or acceptable form of photo ID applied for but not received.

Provisional Ballots

If you show up to a polling location and there's an issue with your registration, you can request a provisional ballot.

You can receive a provisional ballot if the polling place can't verify your registration, or if:

  1. You don't have one of the acceptable forms of ID with you but you can reasonably obtain one of them
  2. You have an acceptable ID but you didn't bring it with you to the polling place
  3. You don't have one of the seven forms of ID and "could otherwise not reasonably obtain one", and also don't have one of the supporting forms of ID with you either.

If you receive a provisional ballot and want it to count, you'll have to visit the voter registrar's office within six calendar days of the election date and do one of the following:

  1. Present one of the seven acceptable forms of ID
  2. Submit a reasonable impediment declaration alongside one of the supporting forms of ID
  3. If applicable, you can submit a temporary affidavit. Those include for religious objections to being photographed, or a natural disaster preventing a reasonable impediment declaration
  4. If applicable, you can qualify for a permanent disability exemption

Results

Don't expect to see the results of the election by tonight. In the 2016 election, results came in about 1 a.m. This year, there are a lot more reasons why even staying up late won't guarantee that you see who wins. Mail-in ballots, overseas voters, and a generally higher turnout could delay results.

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Elizabeth Trovall

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Elizabeth Trovall is an immigration reporter for Houston Public Media. She joined the News 88.7 team after several years abroad in Santiago, Chile, where she reported on business, energy, politics and culture. Trovall's work has been featured on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, Latino...

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