Tuesday’s the day voters will return to the polls as early voting for the upcoming general election kicks off, and the stakes may have never been higher.

Although it’s unclear what to expect with regard to the turnout — which in the 2016 general election was just over 51% of the vote in Hidalgo County, or 176,160 of 338,990 registered voters at that time (389,529 as of Oct. 5) — speculation about how the pandemic may influence people’s decisions to head to the polls has run rampant throughout the nation.

Early voting runs from Tuesday to Oct. 30 often between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.; exceptions are Sundays, when polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hidalgo County voters can cast their ballot in-person at any of the 31 polling locations in the county.

Voters will be casting their ballots in one of the most controversial presidential elections in modern history, deciding between President Donald Trump, who is still recovering from a COVID-19 infection, and former Vice President Joe Biden. Jo Jorgensen and Howie Hawkins are the Libertarian and Green Party candidates, respectively, also on the ballot for president.

Local voters also have a U.S. Senate race in Texas to decide, along with several state positions and many city and school district races to consider.

U.S. Sen. John Coryn, R-Texas, is facing Democratic challenger Mary “MJ” Hegar for the senior senator’s seat.

The race for railroad commissioner, between Republican James “Jim” Wright and Democrat Chrysta Castañeda, is also on the ballot as well as four seats on the state Supreme Court. Libertarian Matt Sterett and Green Party candidate Katija “Kat” Gruene are also on the ballot for railroad commissioner.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, is running for a second term for his District 15 congressional seat against Republican challenger Monica De La Cruz Hernandez.

In Hidalgo County, Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra, a Democrat, is vying for reelection against Republican challenger Ezequiel “Zeik” Jurado.

Edinburg voters have three school board seats to decide on. Vying for Place 4 for Edinburg CISD’s board is incumbent Robert Peña and Luis “Louie” Alamia, while incumbent Carmen Gonzalez is hoping to continue filling Place 6 as Ramiro Guerra is challenging for the seat. And John Rodriguez is seeking to unseat Miguel “Mike” Farias’ for Place 7.

Weslaco voters have three city propositions and as many school board seats to decide.

In Proposition A, Weslaco’s city commission is seeking to redraw district lines reducing the current six districts to four. The city’s six-member city commission would change to four city councilmen and two at-large members, if the measure is approved.

Currently, the city’s mayor and councilmembers serve unlimited three-year terms.

Proposition B is seeking to raise the service time of mayors and commissioners to four-year terms, while Proposition C limits them to no more than 12 consecutive years serving.

As for Weslaco ISD’s school board, residents will be deciding whether Place 1 trustee Erasmo “Moe” Lopez will keep his seat, or give it up to Jesus “Coach Jesse” Treviño. Richard Rivera, longtime Place 2 incumbent, is not running for reelection, leaving it up for grabs between Oscar Caballero, Marcos De Los Santos and Paula Sanchez.

Belinda Sagredo, division manager for voter registration for Hidalgo County, carries a form to a waiting vehicle as residents compete their voter registration at the Hidalgo County elections office in Edinburg on Sept. 22. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Vying for Place 3 is incumbent Patrick B. Kennedy and Jacklyn “Jacky” Muñoz Sustaita.

Edcouch’s board of aldermen is also proposing a charter amendment that would change the length of mayoral and aldermen terms, from two years to four.

Edcouch voters will also be deciding four school board seats. Robert Escobar is seeking to unseat Place 2 trustee Tony Barco, while Place 3 trustee Chris Morales is being challenged by John González and Jackie D. Gomez. For Place 6, incumbent Robert Schmalzried is defending his seat from Esiquiel “Zeke” Avila Jr. and Julio C. Ruiz. Running for Place 7 is incumbent Rollie Lozano and challenger Dori Rangel.

Donna residents will be voting to either keep Mayor Rick Moralez for another term in office, or replace him with Ernest Lugo, along with two city council posts and four school board seats.

Richie Moreno is seeking to unseat Place 1 incumbent councilman Oscar Gonzalez, while David Moreno is challenging Place 3 incumbent councilman Arturo Castillo.

As for Donna ISD’s school board, running for Place 1 is Jose L. Valdez and Richard Gaona, while Fernando Castillo and Rafael Reyna are vying for Place 2. Jose Rogelio Reyna Jr. is facing Francisco “Paco” Sanchez for Place 3, and Eva Castillo Watts and Julian “Jay” Villarreal are on the ballot for the Place 4 seat.

Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa is not seeking reelection, while Oscar D. Montoya and Israel Coronado are vying for the office.

Two city commission seats and three school board posts will also be on ballots of Mercedes voters this year.

Four people are running for Place 1 commissioner: incumbent Leo Villarreal, Melissa “Melly” Rincon, Velda J. Garcia and Jacob C. Howell. Vying for Place 3 are Ramon Mejia and Miguel A. Loya.

On Mercedes ISD’s school board, Place 5 incumbent Oscar ‘Big O’ Riojas is defending his seat against Lucy Alvarado Delgado. Running for the Place 6 post are Elvia Sandoval and Pete “Capt” Martinez III, while Horacio Pequeno and Eddie Howell Jr. are competing for Place 7.

The Sharyland school district is asking voters to approve two school bonds totaling $40 million, as two school board seats are also up for consideration.

Sharyland’s Proposition A asks for $34 million for additions and renovations for Sharyland High School, Sharyland Advanced Academic Academy (SA3), and John H. Shary Elementary. Proposal B is seeking $6 million to build a new headquarters facility for the district.

Place 1 incumbent Ricky Longoria has three challengers: Jozabad “Jay” Palacios, Cesar Ramirez and Matthew Richter. Alejandro Rodríguez is seeking to unseat Place 2 trustee Julio Cerda.

Mission voters have four seats on the school board to decide. Iris “Coach” Iglesias and Beto Garza are running for the Place 2 post, while incumbent Jerry Zamora is seeking to defend his Place 3 post against Sylvia Caratachea. Roy Vela is facing Oscar Martinez for Place 4, while incumbent Charlie Garcia III, Juan M. Gonzalez and Romeo C. González are on the ballot for the Place 5 seat.

And those within the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district jurisdiction will be deciding four school board members.

Place 4 incumbent Jorge L. Zambrano will face challenger Heather Garza for his seat, while Jesus A. “Jesse” Zambrano will defend his Place 5 position against Ruben Guajardo Jr. Then vying for Place 6 is Victor Perez and Jesse Vela Jr., while Celso Salinas and Cynthia A. Gutierrez are running for the Place 7 post.

On the ballot for La Joya residents will be four school board seats. Place 4 incumbent Claudia Ochoa is being challenged by Leonora Garcia and Alda T. “Dr. B” Benavides, while Place 5 incumbent Armin Garza is defending his seat against Anthony Uresti and Andie Lee “Dr.” Gonzalez. Place 6 incumbent Oscar “Coach” Salinas faces opposition in Irma Villarreal-Veloz and Pamela “Coach” Flores, and Jerry “Chief” Alaniz, Alex Cantú and Norma Chapa are vying for Place 7.

The last day to apply for mail-in ballots is Oct. 23. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.