AS YOU MUST KNOW BY NOW, the election is here. We’ll be updating this post periodically to keep you up to date with all the latest information about the 2020 election and what it means to Houstonians.
Updated 5:07 p.m. Nov 19
Over the past two weeks, while many of us tried to block the election out of our memories, the Harris County Clerk's Office plodded along, counting all 1,656,686 ballots cast in the 2020 general election. Here are the final results for Harris County:
President: Joe Biden (D)—55.96 percent of votes (918,193 ballots)
U.S. Senator: MJ Hegar (D)—52.9 percent of votes (854,158 ballots). Note: Hegar conceded to incumbent John Cornyn (R).
United States Representative, District 2: Dan Crenshaw (R)—55.61 percent of votes (192,828 ballots)
United States Representative, District 7: Lizzie Fletcher (D)—50.79 percent of votes (159,529 ballots)
United States Representative, District 9: Al Green (D)—75.04 percent of votes (121,576 ballots)
United States Representative, District 18: Sheila Jackson Lee (D)—73.29 percent of votes (180,952 ballots)
United States Representative, District 29: Sylvia Garcia (D)—71.13 percent (111,305 ballots)
State Representative, District 134: Ann Johnson (D)—52.27 percent of votes (56,895 ballots)
District Attorney: Kim Ogg (D)—53.89 percent of votes (841,914 ballots)
County Attorney: Christian Dashaun Menefee (D)—54.66 percent of votes (848,451 ballots)
Sheriff: Incumbent Ed Gonzalez (D)—57.46 percent of votes (903,736 ballots)
Read the complete list of winners here.
Updated 5:04 p.m. Nov. 8
Texas didn’t go blue, but former Vice President Joe Biden is now president-elect. So what does the coming Biden administration mean for Houston and for Texas? Initially, nothing much. The expectation is that at first Biden will be focused on broader issues, like dealing with Covid-19, the economic downturn, and passing a stimulus package, if the federal government hasn’t already passed a follow-up.
“I don’t think you see massive changes to start with,” UH political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus says.
The real question on the mind of most Houstonians, and most Texans, is how this will play out for the energy industry. Biden has spoken out against fracking, a move that likely spooked some Houston and Texas voters in the lead-up to Election Day. Houston, despite all claims to the contrary, is still very much an energy-centric city, as has been demonstrated by the latest oil downturn due to the pandemic, which has seen ExxonMobile announce a round of layoffs with about 1700 of them right here in Houston.
But Rottinghaus advises to keep in mind that Biden has historically been a moderate. While he will likely push energy companies to make some adjustments and to start to deal with the environmental concerns that have been being raised about oil and gas with increasing frequency in recent years, the changes are probably not going to be a surprise to the companies impacted.
“The Biden Administration will probably engage in some pretty hard love for energy companies, requiring them to shift their focus in a way that those companies probably should have years ago, but have been reluctant to fully commit to,” Rottinghaus says. “However, my sense is that a lot of those companies have been moving in that direction already, quietly, because they see the value, and the money, frankly, in that diversity. They’ve wanted to move in that direction, but they need the political cover to get there.”
Meanwhile, some may be wondering what all of that “swing state” talk means for Texas in the long run. Well, the split ended up being more decisive than most analysts were expecting (this was a trend overall in the polls leading up to Election Day, as you’ve surely noticed by now.) Overall though, the fact that Texas even gotten any attention at all may mean more deep thinking about Texas in elections to come, though that is arguably a decent win for the Texas Dems.
“For a long time spending money in Texas was like buying fool’s gold,” Rottinghaus says. “It was shiny and didn’t have real value. But it’s not much of a stretch to say that Texas being in play at the presidential level is a real change to electoral map, and this could change how campaigns and resources are devoted to the state in the coming years.”
Updated 3:30 p.m. Nov. 5
Yeah, so we still don't know who the next president is—and Texas is completely out of the loop, having gone to President Donald Trump by roughly 52 percent to former Vice President Joe Biden's 46 percent. And yeah, after all the talk of Texas as a "swing state" the election results have led to plenty of jokes from late night hosts about Texas being Texas. Honestly though, Texas usually plays such a small part in these things that, hell, we're just delighted by the notice.
But we digress.
As you may have also noticed unless you are living under a rock, or ... well, there's really no other way you wouldn't know about the votes being counted in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada, and how the fate of the election hangs in the balance, so we'll just assume you know. And if you know about all of that, you must know about how Trump's team is urging (and litigating) to stop counting legally submitted ballots in certain key areas of the country. In fact, it must by now be reminding you of back in 2000 when another presidential race was close in that key, and elusive Electoral College state, Florida, which led to a controversial recount that ultimately (hanging chads and all) saw the presidency go to George W. Bush. Right?
Well, Houston's own James Baker, who served as secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, has also been thinking back to those days. Admittedly, this is partly because he was the one who led George W. Bush's legal team in Florida 20 years ago. Baker weighed in on the president's calls to "stop counting votes" and the Trump team's push to make that happen while wistfully wishing for a "James Baker-like figure" to lead the charge on this on Thursday—and he's against it.
“We never said don’t count the votes,” Baker told the New York Times. “That’s a very hard decision to defend in a democracy.”
Baker said that the situation we are currently seeing play out in our country is very different from the circa-2000 legal fight, which ultimately landed before the U.S. Supreme Court and saw George W. Bush hang onto 537 ballots—just enough to retain Florida and win the election. “For one thing, our whole argument was that the votes have been counted and they’ve been counted and they’ve been counted and it’s time to end the process," Baker said. "That’s not exactly the message that I heard on election night. And so I think it’s pretty hard to be against counting the votes.”
Baker, who has criticized Trump but told the Times he still voted for him, pointed to local GOP attempts on Monday to throw out more than 127,000 drive-thru ballots in Houston as an example of the kind of antics he doesn't approve of. “I didn’t think that was a particularly wise thing to do and as it turns out it wasn’t wise legally, because they’ve lost in state court and in federal court,” he said.
Updated 6:45 a.m. Nov. 4
The predictions that Texas would go blue haven't panned out for the Dems. Brandon Rottinghaus, a UH political science professor, says that this isn't entirely a surprise (as most of us from here who've been through enough of these "blue wave" predictions also had suspected) particularly in the face of Biden's comments about fracking in the final debate last month. Still, the fact that Texas was seriously thought to be in play is a big win for the Texas Dems who've been building this Texas show for the past decade despite not getting much backing from the DNC.
“For a long time spending money in Texas was like buying fool’s gold,” Rottinghaus says. “It was shiny and didn’t have real value. But it’s not much of a stretch to say that Texas being in play at the presidential level is a real change to electoral map, and this could alter how campaigns and resources are devoted to the state in the coming years.”
But that's what this means for elections to come. On the local level, things essentially played out the way we all thought they would. Harris County had massive turnout and went for Biden, as expected, and the other big urban spots in Texas did the same. But the Republicans made a strong showing on Election Day (again, not a surprise) and the suburban and rural county turnout that would have had to go to the Dems to pull off a true political sea change in the Lone Star State wasn't enough to even flip blue-curious counties like Denton, thus keeping the state's 38 Electoral College votes in GOP hands. Barring any surprise ballot box "discoveries" that is.
(And yes, that is a ballot box 13 joke, but it is not meant in any way to imply that we're expecting any surprises in this century out of Alice, Texas or anywhere else in our state, a la the infamous LBJ-Coke Stevenson U.S. Senate race from way back when. We just really enjoy a good oblique Robert Caro reference. And to be very clear, there have been absolutely no indications of any misconduct with the ballots so far, despite President Donald Trump's statement early Wednesday morning that he was going to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to "stop the vote counting," which, by the way, he does not have the power to do.)
So what does this mean for the presidency? Well, we still do not know.
Again, let's make this crystal clear, it is not decided yet. Why? Because a whole bunch of mail-in ballots in battleground states are being tallied at this very moment. Trump's claims of victory are decidedly premature, and we still don't know who the next president is.
Lone Star State-wise, this means business as usual for us. As we've already noted, Texas was only going to really mean something if its 38 Electoral College votes went to Biden (which would've indicated a landslide victory for the Democrats.) Since that didn't happen, Texas is now back on the sidelines and both GOP and Democrat voters here have been left to wait this outplaying with the rest of the country as we watch Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania continue to count up their mail-in ballots.
In other words, as so many analysts warned going into this, it's the morning after Election Day and while we pretty much know where Texas stands (due to our requirements that you have one of the authorized reasons for using a mail-in ballot to get one, we have way less of them to deal with, and not enough to likely sway the outcome for the state), we don't know who is going to be taking the oath of office in D.C. come January, and we won't for at least a little while longer.
Updated 3:16 a.m. Nov 4
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, here are the Harris County winners:
President: Joe Biden (D)—55.3 percent of votes (907,179 ballots)
U.S. Senator: MJ Hegar (D)—52.76 percent of votes (843,980 ballots). Note: Hegar conceded to incumbent John Cornyn (R).
United States Representative, District 2: Dan Crenshaw (R)—56.13 percent of votes (196,752 ballots)
United States Representative, District 7: Lizzie Fletcher (D)—50.75 percent of votes (157,235 ballots)
United States Representative, District 9: Al Green (D)—75.09 percent of votes (119,898 ballots)
United States Representative, District 18: Sheila Jackson Lee (D)—73.34 percent of votes (179,450 ballots)
United States Representative, District 29: Sylvia Garcia (D)—71.18 percent (109,423 ballots)
State Representative, District 134: Ann Johnson (D)—52.31 percent of votes (56,359 ballots)
District Attorney: Kim Ogg (D)—53.77 percent of votes (834,806 ballots)
County Attorney: Christian Dashaun Menefee (D)—54.54 percent of votes (841,345 54.54 ballots)
Sheriff: Incumbent Ed Gonzalez (D)—57.34 percent of votes (896,094 ballots)
For the complete list, click here.
Updated 1:15 a.m. Nov 4
U.S. Representative Lizzie Fletcher has declared victory over Republican Wesley Hunt and Libertarian Shawn Kelly for District 7. Winning just more than half of the votes as of 12:20 a.m. (with 86 percent of precincts reporting), Fletcher's 50.77 percent of votes beats out Hunt's 47.48 percent and Kelly's 1.74 percent. Fletcher flipped the seat back in the 2018 midterms and while the GOP had hoped to reclaim it this time out, the district is blue (or just blue enough) to ward off the Republican challenge.
Updated 12:49 a.m. Nov 4
With 86 percent of voting centers reporting, Christian Meneffee (D) is currently leading in the race for Harris County Attorney. Menefee, a civil litigation lawyer who defeated three-term incumbent Vince Ryan in the March primary, has 54.5 percent of the vote over Republican opponent John Nation’s 45.4 percent.
Updated 12:27 a.m. Nov 4
With an estimated 91.3 percent of votes counted, President Donald Trump has won Texas with 52.2 percent (5,627,158 ballots) of the votes to former Vice President Joe Biden's 46.4 percent (4,994,291 ballots). In Harris County, Biden had won 55.86 percent of the votes, with 86 percents of precincts reporting.
Updated 12:01 a.m. Nov 4
With 59 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat incumbent Kim Ogg has defeated Republican challenger Mary Nan Huffman in the race for Harris County district attorney. Ogg has thus far won 53.96 percent of the vote (793,460 votes) against Huffman's 46.04 percent of the vote (677,060 votes).
Updated 10:57 p.m. Nov 3
While the state has its eyes on if the Texas House of Representatives will flip blue, our attention turns to a few local State Lege races that will likely have a direct impact on that happening or not. While Texas Republicans are trying to win back 12 Democratic seats (including two locally: HD-132 and HD-135), Texas Democrats aim to flip 22 Republican seats (including local seats HD-126, HD-129, HD-133, HD-134 and HD-138). We know some results now.
We have winners projected for HD-129—the incumbent Dennis Paul (R) beat Kayla Alix (D)—and in HD-133, in which the Republican incumbent Jim Murphy held off Sandra Moore (D) and James Harren (L) to win.
In one hotly-contended seat, HD-134, incumbent State Rep. Sarah Davis, a moderate Republican, who’s actually been pretty popular in the growing blue district in West U, is currently being held off by Democratic challenger Ann Johnson who holds 53 percent of the vote—or 53,989 votes to Davis's 47,606—so this is definitely one to watch.
Another seat that's very important for Texas Democrats, HD-135, is extremely close with incumbent Jon Rosenthal (D) and challenger Jay Ruiz (R) currently holding 49 percent of the vote each, and Paul Bilyeu (L) with 2 percent.
Updated 9:37 p.m. Nov 3
Democrat U.S. Rep. Al Green has defeated Republican Johnny Teague for the 9th District seat. With 28 voting centers reporting, the incumbent has 75.85 percent of the vote over Teague's 21.59 percent and Libertarian challenger Jose R. Sosa's 2.56 percent.
Democrat U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia has defeated Republican Jaimy Z. Blanco for the 29th District seat. With 28 voting centers reporting, the incumbent has 71.69 percent of the vote over Blanco's 26.98 percent and Libertarian challenger Phil Kurtz's 1.33 percent.
Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has defeated Republican Wendell Champion, Libertarian Luke Spencer, and Independent Vince Duncan for the 18th District seat. With 28 voting centers reporting, the incumbent has 74.13 percent of the vote over Champion's 22.87 percent, Spencer's 1.69 percent, and Duncan's 1.31 percent.
Updated 9:13 p.m. Nov 3
U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw has beat Democrat Sima Ladjevardian and Libertarian Elliott Robert Scheirman to keep his District 2 seat.
Updated 8:51 p.m. Nov 3
Sen. John Cornyn has won a fourth U.S. Senate term tonight, as expected. With 63 percent of the vote counted, he was ahead of Democratic challenger MJ Hegar 49.3 percent to 48.3 percent. Hegar had a campaign that began to gain some traction—and Democratic cash—but it was late in the race. Hegar called the incumbent senator to concede only minutes after the race was called for Cornyn.
Updated 7:39 p.m. Nov 3
Through early voting, Democrat Kim Ogg holds the lead over Republican Mary Nan Huffman in the race for Harris County district attorney. Ogg has 53.83 percent of the vote, or 726,330 votes cast, to Huffman's 46.17 percent.
Through early voting, Democrat Sylvia Garcia has a wide lead over Republican Jaimy Z. Blanco and Libertarian Phil Kurtz in the race for U.S. Representative for District 29. Garcia has 71.54 percent of the vote, or 89,486 votes cast, to Blanco's 27.13 percent and Kurtz's 1.33 percent.
Through early voting, Democrat Al Green has a huge lead over Republican Johnny Teague and Libertarian Jose R. Sosa in the race for U.S. Representative for District 9. Green has 75.23 percent of the vote, or 99,318 votes cast.
Through early voting, Republican Dan Crenshaw has a lead over Democrat Sima Ladjevardian in the race for U.S. Representative for District 2. Crenshaw has 55.57% of the vote, or 172,434 votes cast.
Through early voting, Democrat Lizzie Fletcher has a somewhat narrow lead over Republican Wesley Hunt with 51.27 percent to his 47.17 percent for U.S. District 7.
Meanwhile, through early voting, Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee has a huge lead 73.93 percent, or 155,068 ballots cast, over Republican Wendell Champion, Libertarian Luke Spencer, and Independent Vince Duncan for U.S. District 18.
Updated 6:52 p.m. Nov 3
We just passed 200,000 votes, but there's only eight minutes left. Remember, if you're in line at 7 p.m., you can still vote.
Updated 6:16 p.m. Nov 3
Harris County residents have officially cast more than 190,000 votes with a little less than an hour remaining before polls close. A total of 1.625 million ballots have been cast in Harris County with a record 88.3 percent of those votes coming in before Election Day.
Updated 6 p.m. Nov 3
Late this afternoon, the U.S. Post Service failed to meet a deadline set by a federal judge to deliver any remaining mail-in ballots on time.
Earlier today, Washington, D.C. Federal District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has already presided over several lawsuits related to postal service delays, gave the USPS until 3 p.m. to conduct full sweeps of facilities in several cities—including Houston—to ensure “that no ballots have been held up” and are immediately delivered before the polls close on Election Day.
The order followed the USPS’s disclosure that 300,523 ballots nationwide that had been received could not be accounted for and extended to facilities in 12 postal districts spanning 15 states, including battleground areas like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Greater South Carolina, Atlanta, and South Florida, as well as the Bayou City.
The U.S. Postal Service failed to meet Sullivan’s deadline.
“Given the time constraints set by this Court’s order, and the fact that Postal Inspectors operate on a nationwide basis, Defendants were unable to accelerate the daily review process to run from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. without significantly disrupting preexisting activities on the day of the Election, something which Defendants did not understand the Court to invite or require,” wrote John Robinson, an attorney with the Justice Department, which is representing the USPS, in a filing, which was first reported by The Hill.
This latest development over mail-in ballots comes as a record number of Americans have voted through the mail in the 2020 election. The postal service came under fire earlier this summer after it announced operational changes that some feared would delay the timely delivery of mail-in ballots. Texas is accepting mail ballots postmarked by Election Day and are received by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Updated 5:41 p.m. Nov 3
By 5:10 p.m., Harris County had surpassed 170,000 votes today. Houstonians still have an hour and 20 minutes left to vote.
Updated 3:55 p.m. Nov 3
As of 3:30 p.m. today, more than 140,000 ballots have been cast in Harris County.
A tiny sliver of those ballots came from the West University Scout House. A poll worker there said that 147 ballots had been cast as of 11:30 a.m.—one voter every 32 seconds or so. That means the Scout House has been a pretty calm, quiet place, though the poll worker said activity was at least steady, with people coming by at all times of the day.
Updated 2:28 p.m. Nov 3
Against a sunny backdrop in Pasadena, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo encouraged Harris County residents to go out and vote if they hadn't already. "It's a great day for anybody participating in our most fundamental right as Americans," she said.
The whole country is watching the county, she said, as Harris County continues to break voting records. "Please come out and vote."
The county has done everything it can to making voting easier, she continued, including opening 806 voting locations, short lines, and ballot and wait-time tracking. Hidalgo said that her hope is that, regardless of party, "you don't wake up tomorrow or this weekend wishing you had done more."
When asked about Harris County's decision late last night to close nine of the 10 drive-thru polling locations, Hidalgo called it sad, but she said they were closed to ensure every ballot cast today would be counted. She also expressed confidence that the federal courts would continue to dismiss the lawsuit attempting to invalidate drive-thru ballots.
In other news, as of 2 p.m., 119,000 people have cast ballots in Harris County today.
Updated 1:55 p.m. Nov 3
More than 100,000 ballots have been cast so far in Harris County. So far, more than 1.5 million county residents have cast ballots during this election, beating out the whole populations of 11 U.S. states, tweeted Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. Meanwhile, Fort Bend County has become the first county in the state to surpass 70 percent voter turnout, according to County Judge KP George.
Over in West Gray, voters are displaying signs and enthusiasm over the election.
Updated 11:23 a.m. Nov 3
As of 11 a.m., more than 75,000 Harris County residents have cast ballots today. Meanwhile, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins arrived at the Acres Home Multi-Service Center polling site (6719 W Montgomery Rd) at 10:30 a.m. this morning via horse-drawn carriage and accompanied by cowboys to greet voters. Yee haw.
Updated 11:13 a.m. Nov 3
An Acres Homes resident stood atop a bridge over I-10 near Wescott and TC Jester Tuesday morning, waving a flag and encouraging drivers below to vote. "I wanted to remind everybody to vote," he says.
Did you vote in the East End early this morning? If you did, you might have been serenaded by a mariachi band while enjoying horchatas. By 9:30 a.m., just two hours after polls opened this morning, 47,000 votes had been cast, the Harris County Clerk’s office announced on Twitter. Those early risers are now the proud owners of Harris County’s new “I Voted” sticker, featuring the Houston skyline.
Harris County has already surpassed its all-time voter turnout record, which was set in 2016.
Updated 9:12 A.M. Nov 3
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins has opted to close nine of the 10 drive-thru polling locations for Election Day. The Toyota Center's drive-thru set up in the garage will be the only drive-thru station in the county because Hollins says it is "unquestionably a suitable location for Election Day polling."
Meanwhile, a tribunal of judges from the Fifth Circuit has denied Steve Hotze and co.'s request for relief. The conservative crew motoring the bid to throw out more than 127,000 ballots cast via drive-thru in Harris County are now filing a petition for an en banc hearing, aka a review by the entire Fifth Circuit, all 17 of them.
Published 3:45 p.m. Nov 2
After much teeth-clenching, 127,000 Harris County ballots are safe, for now. On Monday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen rejected a GOP appeal to throw out all drive-thru ballots, according to several different reports.
The original lawsuit was filed on Friday, the last day of early voting in Texas, by conservative activist Steven Hotze and Harris County Republicans State Rep. Steve Toth, congressional candidate Wendell Champion, and judicial candidate Sharon Hemphill, in what appeared to be a last-ditch effort to fight drive-thru voting. Drive-thru voting accounts for about 10 percent of the total ballots cast in Harris County.
Drive-thru voting, which was tested by the county during the July runoffs, has been the subject of multiple dogfights this election season.
On October 12, the day before early voting began, the state GOP filed a lawsuit to limit curbside and drive-thru voting, voting, claiming the language of Texas Election Code, which includes provisions for those who are sick, disabled, or whose health could be endangered by voting indoors, did not include language addressing the coronavirus pandemic. Two days later, a three-judge panel on the Texas’s 14th Court of Appeals dismissed the case, noting the lateness of the lawsuit—again, the day before voting opened—and that Harris County announced its drive-thru plans in September. On October 22, the Texas Supreme Court rejected the state GOP’s appeal, allowing drive-thru voting to continue.
NEW: US District Court rejects the plaintiffs’ challenges to drive-thru voting and, frankly, to democracy. Drive-thru voting is safe, secure, and legal. It's beyond comprehension that anyone would seek to invalidate 127,000 votes. We fully expect an appeal. Please vote tomorrow.— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) November 2, 2020
Similarly, the state supreme court yesterday rejected the current lawsuit to invalidate the ballots that the court itself said could be cast less than two weeks ago. The case was then appealed to the federal courts. While Hanen has rejected the appeal of the Texas Supreme Court's decision, it is expected for the plaintiffs to appeal again, this time to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.