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Live blog: Election Day 2020 in El Paso

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El Paso Matters journalists are documenting developments during this historic day. Check back frequently for updates.

Wednesday, Nov. 4, 8 a.m. El Paso sets voting record

More than 256,000 votes have been counted in El Paso County, a 17% increase over the 2016 presidential election and an all-time high for the county. About 7,000 mail ballots and 2,000 provisional ballots are still being processed, Elections Administrator Lisa Wise said.

The recorded vote so far represents a 52.5% turnout among registered voters, the highest in the county in at least 20 years. Depending on how many mail and provisional ballots are accepted, turnout could surpass 54%. The turnout in 2016 was 51%

The turnout came in the midst of the worst COVID-19 outbreak in any major U.S. city. El Paso reported early Wednesday that 3,100 new infections were reported on Election Day.

Wednesday, Nov. 4, 7:45 a.m. Mayoral, Northeast and West-Central City Council races headed to December runoff

The race for El Paso’s next mayor is headed to a December runoff that pits against each other two candidates who have both held the position.

Oscar Leeser, El Paso’s mayor from 2013-2017, secured 42% of the vote, according to unofficial final election results.

Incumbent Dee Margo received 25% of the vote. Margo trailed Leeser by more than 36,000 votes.

Political newcomer Verónica Carbajal missed the runoff by about 6,000 votes.

Carbajal received 22% of the total vote, while urban planner Carlos Gallinar had 7%, and Dean “Dino” Martinez and Calvin Zielsdorf split the remaining votes.

About 207,000 El Pasoans cast ballots in the mayoral election.

Incumbent District 3 city Rep. Cassandra Hernandez and incumbent District 7 city Rep. Henry Rivera kept their council seats for a second term.

Hernandez had 54% of the total vote and Rivera had 57%.

Judy Gutierrez, a longtime District 2 chief of staff, will face her former boss, incumbent city Rep. Alexsandra Annello, in December’s runoff. Gutierrez received 48% of the vote, and Annello had 36%, a difference of almost 2,000 votes.

Incumbent District 4 city Rep. Sam Morgan, who is awaiting trial on felony and misdemeanor domestic violence charges, led his four challenges, but failed to secure more than the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. He won 32% of the vote and will face Joe Molinar, a retired El Paso police lieutenant and former Socorro ISD police officer, who earned 28% of the vote.

Final election results will be posted in the coming days.

The date of the runoff has not yet been set.

7:40 p.m.: Two City Council incumbents headed to re-election, two others in runoffs

DISTRICT 2

Former District 2 staffer Judy Gutierrez leads her former boss, incumbent city Rep. Alexsandra Annello, by 1,264 votes, according to unofficial early voting results.

Gutierrez received 47% of early votes, and Annello won 37%. If Gutierrez doesn’t reach 50% when all votes are counted Tuesday night, the two will meet in a December runoff.

James Campos trailed early voting with 15%.

Almost 13,500 District 2 residents voted during early voting.

DISTRICT 3

Incumbent District 3 city Rep. Cassandra Hernandez appears headed to re-election, winning 54% of the early vote.

Challenger Jose Rodriguez received 30% of the early vote and Will Veliz earned 15%.

Last year, Hernandez and Veliz went into a runoff after she received 46% of votes in the November 2019 special election.

Nearly 18,500 District 3 residents cast a ballot during early voting.

DISTRICT 4

Early voting results suggest the race for Northeast El Paso’s District 4 will likely go to a run-off between incumbent Sam Morgan and Joe Molinar. Morgan received 32% of the early vote, while Molinar received 28%. 

Community volunteer Dorothy “Sissy” M. Byrd received the next highest vote tally, with 23%, followed by college student Wesley Lawrence at 10% and Shawn Nixon (who was incarcerated for the majority of early voting) with 5%.

DISTRICT 7 

Incumbent Henry Rivera won another term on City Council, winning 57% of the early vote against challenger Aaron Montes.

Nearly 18,000 early votes were cast in the District 7 City Council race.  

7:30 p.m.: Escobar cruises to second term in Congress

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who became one of the first two Texas Latinas elected to Congress in 2018, is headed to an easy re-election victory.

Escobar had 65% of the early votes, compared to 35% for Republican Irene Armendariz-Jackson.

7:25 p.m.: Biden wins big in El Paso early voting, though Trump improves slightly over 2016

Former Vice President Joe Biden built a huge lead over President Donald Trump in El Paso early voting. Residents of a community deeply affected by many of Trump’s policies repudiated Trump, although he was performing slightly better than his historically poor 2016 result in El Paso.

Biden won 68% of the El Paso early vote compared to Trump’s 31%. The president won less than 26% of the El Paso vote in 2016.

The Trump administration conducted a pilot test in El Paso in 2017 of its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which resulted in hundreds of migrant children being separated from their parents. More than three years later, more than 500 of those children still haven’t been reunited with their parents.

Hundreds more parents and children were separated in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector in the spring of 2018 when the administration made its zero tolerance strategy a national policy. The administration also created a tent encampment near Tornillo in the spring of 2018 to house unaccompanied children, most from Central America, who arrived at the border.

In the fall of 2018 into the spring of 2019, tens of thousands of migrants arrived in El Paso as the Trump administration struggled to handle the surge. Many El Pasoans volunteered to feed and clothe the migrants while they were here.

The Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, in El Paso County, became a point of controversy in the spring of 2019 because of overcrowded housing conditions for migrant children.

On Aug. 3, 2019, a gunman opened fire in an El Paso Walmart, killing 23 and injuring 22. Police and prosecutors said the gunman released a manifesto just before the shooting saying he was trying to prevent a “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. 

The language in the manifesto was similar to that used by Trump and other Republican leaders. Many El Pasoans accused Trump’s rhetoric of enflaming the gunman, something the White House denied.

As El Paso voted, the city was the site of the worst COVID-19 outbreak among major U.S. cities. Trump has been heavily criticized by many for mishandling the pandemic.

7:15 p.m.: Leeser leads mayor’s race in early voting

Oscar Leeser, El Paso’s mayor from 2013-17, built a substantial lead in early voting but is short of the majority he needs to avoid a runoff. Current Mayor Dee Margo and lawyer Veronica Carbajal are battling for the second spot in a December runoff.

Leeser led the early votes with 43%, while Margo had 25% and Carbajal 21%. Urban planner Carlos Gallinar had 8%. Dean Martinez and Calvin Zielsdorf split the remaining 3% of early votes.

5:20 p.m.: If you’re in line when polls close at 7 p.m., stay in line

You can cast your ballot as long as you’re in line by 7 p.m., per state law.

El Paso County has 151 polling sites, and this year — for the first time — voters can cast their ballot from any site.

4:30 p.m.: Lines of last-minute voters form at some polling places

El Paso is in its last three hours of early voting and lines are beginning to form in some areas. Polling places traditionally get busier as people get off work, but it’s not clear if that will happen in an election with record early voting turnout.

A line of voters waiting to cast their votes snakes outside Grandview Park Senior Center. (Video by René Kladzyk/El Paso Matters)

El Paso’s pace of voting is picking up as the afternoon progresses. More than 52% of El Paso voters have cast ballots on early voting and as of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

2:50 p.m. Escobar, O’Rourke enlist nation in last-minute push for El Paso turnout

Rep. Veronica Escobar and her predecessor, Beto O’Rourke, are asking volunteers across the country to join them in a last-minute push to get El Pasoans to the polls.

Rep. Veronica Escobar

The request came via O’Rourke’s Powered by People PAC, and cited an El Paso Matters report that a Democratic strategist said the party believed it could carry Texas for the first time since 1976 if El Paso County turnout hit 60% of registered voters.

El Paso is well off that pace right now, trending toward a 54-55% turnout by the time polls close at 7 p.m.

Volunteers joining Escobar and O’Rourke will call El Paso voters beginning at 4 p.m. Mountain Time to remind them to vote. Powered by People PAC volunteers have made millions of calls to Texas voters in recent days.

2:30 p.m.: Free transportation for voters 

Sun Metro is offering free bus rides to voters today. Both fixed route and LIFT paratransit services will have waived fares for registered voters. For more information, call (915) 212-3333.

Follow @elpasomatters on Instagram for this and more voter information. 

2:20 p.m.: El Paso turnout surpasses 50% of registered voters

More than half of all registered El Paso County voters have cast ballots in this election, only the second time since 2000 that has happened. The previous time was in 2016.

Just over 24,000 people had cast ballots on Election Day as of 2 p.m., adding to more than 222,000 early votes cast.

1:40 p.m.: Voters using express curbside voting for first time ever on Election Day

A steady stream of voters using express curbside option at Sunland Park Mall. Itzel Payan,24, missed early voting because she was recovering from a mild case of  from COVID and quarantined. She’s determined to vote on Election Day.

Video by Angela Kocherga

The county has seven express curbside locations that allow voters to cast ballots without leaving their vehicles. Like other voting locations, they are open until 7 p.m.

1:30 p.m.: Elections department to release early voting results at 7 p.m.

The El Paso County Elections Department will release early voting results when polls close at 7 p.m.

Early voting ran from Oct. 13 through Oct. 30, and 222,149 El Pasoans cast their ballots over that three-week period.

Final unofficial Election Day results should be released by 11 p.m. today. Official results take several days, since these include mail ballots postmarked by Tuesday and received by Wednesday.

1:15 p.m.: A reminder that municipal races are different

Most elections on El Paso’s ballot will be settled when polls close Tuesday. But municipal races are different.

To be elected to City Council or a municipal judgeship, a candidate must win 50% plus 1 of all votes cast in the race. If no candidate hits that threshold, the top two finishers meet in a runoff in December. The races for mayor and three of the four City Council positions on the ballot have three or more candidates, making a runoff possible in those races.

12:30 p.m.: When results come in, look at the margins

Joe Biden will defeat Donald Trump in El Paso. That’s a given considering history of the last 30 years. A key question will be by how much.

Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 92,331 votes in 2016 in El Paso County. Two years later, Beto O’Rourke had 100,539 more El Paso votes than Ted Cruz in their Senate race.

Early vote results will be posted at 7 p.m., based on more than 222,000 votes cast as of Friday. If Biden approaches 70% of the vote (Clinton had 68% in 2016 and O’Rourke 74% in 2018) he will build up somewhere close to a 93,000-vote margin.

Based on current voting totals (17,500 Election Day votes as of noon), that margin could grow by another 20,000 as Election Day returns are counted. That’s probably not what Democrats are hoping for as they try to win Texas’ electoral votes for the first time since 1976. They’d likely feel more comfortable with something above a 120,000 vote margin.

Matching O’Rourke’s 74% of the vote probably would push Biden’s El Paso margin above 120,000, but it would be a challenge to match the performance of a hometown candidate.

11:30 a.m.: Some things you may not know about El Paso political history

Mayor Dee Margo faces five challengers as he seeks re-election. The last El Paso mayor to lose re-election was Joe Wardy, in 2005. He was defeated by John Cook. Wardy had ousted incumbent Ray Caballero in 2003. Cook was re-elected in 2009. Oscar Leeser, elected in 2013, chose not to seek re-election in 2017, but he’s running again this year. City elections were moved to even-numbered years in 2018.

Democrat Veronica Escobar is being challenged by Irene Armendariz-Jackson for El Paso’s 16th Congressional District seat. The last Republican to win that seat was Ed Foreman in 1962. Foreman lost the seat to Richard White in 1964, but later went on to be elected to Congress from New Mexico. He’s one of the few people to represent two states in the House of Representatives.

El Paso is one of the most Democratic-leaning counties in Texas, but it hasn’t always been that way. Republican Richard Nixon carried El Paso in 1972 and GOP standard bearer Ronald Reagan did so in 1980 and 1984. Since Reagan’s re-election win, the best Republican performance was George H.W. Bush’s 46.8% in 1988.

Donald Trump received 25.7% of the vote in El Paso in 2016, the worst performance ever in the county by a major party presidential candidate.

Despite El Paso being the sixth-largest city in Texas, no El Pasoan has ever been elected to statewide office. William Moody, judge of El Paso’s 34th District Court, ran three times for the Texas Supreme Court. He received 45% of the vote in 2006, the best statewide performance by an El Pasoan until Beto O’Rourke won 48% in his 2018 challenge to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz. 

11:05 a.m.: El Pasoans voting amid COVID-19 case surge

Cars lined up for COVID-19 testing on the UTEP campus Tuesday. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

The El Paso Department of Public Health reported 1,085 new coronavirus cases today. Almost 1,000 people are hospitalized. Untold thousand are under quarantine orders.

More than 10,000 El Pasoans tested positive last week for COVID-19, and October had more than 25,000 new cases, more than the number of cases from March to September combined.

To curb the case surge, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego has ordered a two week shutdown of non-essential businesses, though the order is being challenged in court. Voting is an essential activity.

The El Paso County Elections Department has upped its safety precautions so El Pasoans can safely vote. Poll workers clean down voting machines after someone casts their ballot. Voters receive a finger cot, so their bare finger doesn’t touch the machine. They also get sanitizer wipes along with their “I Voted” sticker.

10:45 a.m.: El Paso police putting up barricades at command centers

The El Paso Police Department has put up barricades around its regional command centers on Election Day.

“We have contingency plans in place for any major incidents and are prepared to respond accordingly,” said Sgt. Enrique Carrillo, EPPD spokesperson.

“Any necessary precautionary measures are being taken,” Carrillo said when asked about the barricades. He wouldn’t comment further.

Police across the country have said they are preparing for possible unrest related to the election.

The El Paso Police Department erected barricades at the Westside Regional Command Center on Tuesday morning. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

10:30 a.m.: Khalid urges El Pasoans to vote

R&B superstar Khalid tweeted that his fellow El Pasoans should vote but be careful while doing so.

Khalid cast an early vote in El Paso on Friday, county voting records show.

10:10 a.m. Democrats see strong El Paso turnout as key to winning Texas

Texas Democrats believe they can carry Texas if El Paso turnout hits 60% of registered voters, a Democratic strategist told El Paso Matters on condition they not be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly.

El Paso County had 11,000 Election Day voters as of 10 a.m., county elections officials said. Reaching 60% turnout would require another 60,000 El Pasoans to cast ballots today.

El Paso has long struggled with low voter participation. The last presidential election in 2016 is the only time in the last 20 years that more than 50% of registered voters cast ballots.

El Paso County was at 48% turnout as of 10 a.m., including early voting and the first three hours of Election Day voting.

9:30 a.m.: A tale of two lines

With a pandemic raging, El Pasoans are forming two lines today — one to get tested for COVID-19, the other to vote.

Two lines are forming in El Paso on Tuesday — one for COVID-19 tests (left) and one for voting (right). (Photos by Corrie Boudreaux and Elida S. Perez)

9 a.m.: El Paso’s Joe Moody is a candidate for Texas House speaker

State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, announced on Election Day that he will be a candidate for Texas House speaker if Democrats win control of that chamber. He likely will face a crowded field.

8:50 a.m. El Paso GOP sends incorrect voting information to its email list

8:35 a.m.: New citizen just missed being able to vote

Martha had hoped to get her citizenship in time to vote this year, but it came through just after Texas’ registration deadline. She’s looking forward to voting in 2022, Claudia Tristán reports.

8:20 a.m.: No long lines as El Paso Election Day begins

Voters line up at Marty Robbins Recreation Center on Tuesday morning before the polls open. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Voting appeared to be off to a smooth start in El Paso Tuesday morning. People were lined up at some polling places before 7 a.m., waiting for doors to open. But voters appear to be moving through quickly.

More than 222,000 El Pasoans cast early votes, making it much less likely that we’ll see long lines on Election Day. In fact, El Paso is likely to see longer lines at COVID-19 testing sites than at polling places on Tuesday.

8:05 a.m.: When to expect El Paso results

El Paso Matters CEO Robert Moore talked with Angela Kocherga of KTEP-88.5 FM about some of the logistics of voting today, including when to expect results.

7:50 a.m.: El Paso County seeing record vote, but turnout lags behind other large Texas counties

A record 222,149 El Paso County voters cast a ballot during the three-week early voting period that ended Friday. That’s up more than 3,000 votes from the total turnout in the 2016 general election, the last time a presidential race was on the ballot.

This year’s early voting turnout also topped total turnout in 2018, when Beto O’Rourke challenged U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for his seat.

Going into Election Day this year, 45% of the county’s 488,980 registered voters had cast their ballot. That’s the lowest turnout of Texas’ 10 counties with the most registered voters, according to The Texas Tribune. Hidalgo County, home to McAllen, had slightly higher early voting turnout at 48%.

6:30 a.m.: Some basic information about Election Day

Polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This is the first year voters can cast a ballot at any of El Paso County’s 151 polling sites. Polling place locations can be found here.

Voters can also cast a ballot without leaving their car at the county’s seven express curbside sites.

If you have a mail ballot that you haven’t returned, don’t place it in the mail. It may not arrive in time to be counted. Drop it off Downtown at the County Courthouse, 500 E. San Antonio Ave, by 7 p.m. Make sure you have an approved form of photo ID with you when you drop it off.

El Pasoans aren’t just casting a ballot for president this election season. The race for El Paso mayor and District 2, District 3, District 4 and District 7 city representatives are also on the ballot, as are other local, state and federal races.

The El Paso Matters voters guide has information about the local candidates for positions ranging from congresswoman to constable.

Before you head to the polls today, make sure you have a photo ID with you, like your Texas driver’s license, U.S. passport or Texas personal identification card.

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