What you should watch — and what you should ignore — while the votes are being counted in Texas

On Election Day, The Texas Tribune will have reporters and photographers in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso and Washington, D.C., tracking whether voting is going smoothly and highlighting any major problems at the polls.                    Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune
On Election Day, The Texas Tribune will have reporters and photographers in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso and Washington, D.C., tracking whether voting is going smoothly and highlighting any major problems at the polls. Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune

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The presidential race in Texas looks more competitive than it has been in decades. More than 8 million Texans have already voted early. Many candidates will opt for social distancing instead of their normal results watch parties. And there's a decent chance we won't know many of the results by the time everyone goes to bed. If you're planning on watching the votes tick in, here are a few things to keep in mind.

How The Texas Tribune is covering this election

Our Election Day coverage begins bright and early as the polls open at 7 a.m. We'll have reporters and photographers in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso and Washington, D.C., tracking whether voting is going smoothly and highlighting any major problems at the polls. We've also partnered with ProPublica's Electionland, which monitors tips from readers and a voter protection hotline and flags any leads for our reporters and editors. If you see something that doesn't look right at the polls, you can share a tip here or notify us directly at tips@texastribune.org.

When the polls close at 7 p.m. Central time, the results will start to come in. (They'll close one hour later in El Paso, which is on Mountain time.) This year, our results page will be powered by Decision Desk HQ, a firm that collects, organizes and reports election night results. The numbers will be gathered from the Texas secretary of state's office, along with county offices across the state. Decision Desk will use polling, turnout models, demographic information and other data to track the races. Once it can confidently project who the winner is in a statewide or congressional race, Decision Desk will call that race for a particular candidate. We'll mark those calls on our results page, and for the big races, we'll write stories noting that declaration and share the news on our social media platforms.

Races to watch

You are probably familiar with the top of the ticket: Donald Trump versus Joe Biden in the race for president. Texas has long been a reliably Republican state, but there are signs that Biden could make it competitive here. The stakes are huge: It would be very difficult for Trump to win nationally if Biden were to win in Texas.

Next on the list is the race for U.S. Senate, where incumbent Republican John Cornyn faces Democrat MJ Hegar.