The 2020 election is being called one of the most critical elections in a generation. While some may argue that term is used in every election cycle, it's hard to disagree that the lead up to election day is divisive.
While President of the United States headlines the ballot, Texans will also be casting votes for U.S. Senate, several house races as well as deciding the balance of power in Austin.
On election nights, all results will be posted at 12NewsNow.com/elections.
Below is information you need to know as you prepare to cast your vote.
Key dates for the November 3 general elections
- October 5: Last day to register to vote
- October 13: Early voting begins
- October 23: Last day to apply for ballot by mail
- October 30: Last day of voting early by personal appearance
- Last day to receive ballot by mail - November 3 at 7 p.m. if carrier envelope is not postmarked or November 4 at 5 p.m. if carrier envelope is postmarked by 7 p.m. at the location of the election on Election Day
What to bring to polling locations
You don't want to get to a polling location and not be ready. There are certain types of ID you need to show before you cast your ballot. We've compiled a list of all of the acceptable ID forms here.
What to know about mail-in voting in Texas
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there could be a surge in mail-in voting. You have to meet certain criteria to cast your ballot by mail. They are:
- Away from the county of residence on Election Day and during the early voting period
- Sick or disabled
- 65 years of age or older on Election Day
- Confined in jail, but eligible to vote
How to register to vote
You can register by mail to vote in Texas by printing a voter registration form, filling it out and mailing it to your local election office (you can fill it out digitally here). You can also register to vote in person if you prefer.
To register in Texas you must:
- be a citizen of the United States
- be a resident of the county in which the application for registration is made
- be at least 17 years and 10 months old (you must be 18 to vote)
- not be finally convicted of a felony, or if a convicted felon, you must have fully discharged your punishment, including any incarceration, parole, supervision, period of probation or be pardoned
- have not been declared mentally incompetent by final judgment of a court of law
Chapter one: Biden vs. Trump
Incumbent Republican President Donald Trump goes up against former Vice President and Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the biggest race on the ballot.
In 2016, Trump took Texas by 9 percentage points over Hillary Clinton en route to his White House win.
Recent polls show that historically red Texas could be a close contest and be a state in play for democrats. Biden and Trump are in a statistical dead-heat, according to July polls by CBS News and Quinnipiac University.
However, an August poll by the Dallas Morning News shows Trump with a 2-point advantage.
The polling has given the Biden campaign confidence, with the former Vice President adding 13 more members to its team in Texas in the final stretch before Election Day. The Biden campaign has also reserved TV ad space across the state.
Trump campaign officials continue to dismiss the notion that Biden will be a serious contender in the Lone Star state.
Pollsters believe Hispanics are the key constituency in Texas, and Hispanic voters across the state lean more towards Biden than Trump by nearly 10%.
"“This poll reinforces the fact that Hispanic voters are not monolithic and have a unique perspective on this race," Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation president Jason Villalba said. "Despite Biden’s nearly 10% lead, neither presidential candidate has yet to completely lock down the Texas Hispanic vote."
Texas’ Latinos are on pace to become the largest population group in the state by 2022.
Chapter two: Hegar vs. Cornyn
A democratic outsider is trying to unseat the republican incumbent -- something they came up short in doing in 2018.
MJ Hegar, who has never held a political office, sealed the democratic nomination in July to take on Sen. John Cornyn in November.
Cornyn has represented Texas since 2002.
For the democrats, it's a tweaked playbook from 2018 when sophomore Democratic congressman Beto O'Rourke came up 3 points short in unseating Sen. Ted Cruz. That was one of the closest races in Texas in 40 years.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee doesn't want to lose that opportunity again, and have committed at least $1 million to help the Air Force helicopter pilot in her uphill challenge.
This is the first time the committee has made a coordinated investment in a Texas general election.
"This race is a dead heat, and our increased investment reflects how MJ's campaign and the increasingly competitive climate has put another offensive opportunity on the map," said DCCC Executive Director Scott Fairchild in a statement to Politico.
Cornyn responded to the DSCC investment, saying, "This is a swamp-driven effort to make Texas kowtow to radical D.C. policies that are bad for our state and hard-working Texas families."
Cornyn has a stealthy $14 million war chest heading into the November election.
Chapter three: Odom vs. Stephens
Republican David Odom enjoyed a relatively stress-free primary race in March, where he easily won with nearly 92% of the votes. But his fight against incumbent Jefferson Co. Sheriff, democrat Zena Stephens, is expected to be much closer.
Odom, a Marine veteran and retired sergeant with the Nederland Police Dept, told 12News he was humbled by his Super Tuesday victory for the republican nomination.
He will face Stephens, the democrat who was sworn in as the first Black sheriff in Texas in 2017. When she was elected, she was one of only two Black women who held the title of sheriff in the entire country.
Chapter four: Balance of Power in Austin
The last time Democrats controlled the House of the Texas Legislature was 2002, but the party is hoping to flip it blue in 2020.
Dems have gained 12 seats in the Texas House of Representatives in two years. They need to pick up nine more seats in November to take the House back.
The political action committee Forward Majority, which touts itself as a group "fighting to take back GOP-held state legislative chambers", plans to spend more than $6 million on 18 House races across Texas, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Dems are hoping a close Presidential race and a hotly-contested U.S. Senate race will help them pick up down-ballot races. State party leaders have recruited in potential swing districts to drum up support.
One reason so much money and resources are in play is because of redistricting. Both parties are fighting for control to redraw legislative maps to influence the state legislature as well as Congressional districts for the next decade.
Chapter five: U.S. House of Representative Dist. 14
Incumbent Republican U.S. Representative Randy Weber will face Democrat Adrienne Bell in the race for District 14. This is the second time the two candidate will meet in a general election.
Weber has represented Texas' 14th Congressional district since 2013, succeeding Ron Paul. He defeated Bell 59% to 39% in 2018.
Weber, a former member of the Texas State House, is a ranking member of the Energy Subcommittee in Congress. He also serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee and is a member of the Freedom Caucus.
Bell is from the Houston area. She was part of the grassroots team that led to the re-election of Barack Obama as President. She was also a deputy field director with Battleground Texas.
Bell was one of the 118 candidates endorsed by former President Obama in August.
The 14th Congressional District stretches from Freeport to Beaumont and includes Galveston, Jefferson and parts of Brazoria County.