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It's election season, peak time for the power of negative thinking.
With voters making their decisions about what to do when the polls open in October — just a month from now — politicians aren’t talking about solving problems. They’re all about their disagreements. They’re not after what they have in common. They're chasing the differences between them and their opponents.
That's why you're not hearing appeals to people who support law enforcement and also believe Black lives matter. You’re hearing appeals that make those principles seem incompatible and that, instead, hide them behind social media hashtags used to mark our political tribes.
Voting in Texas
When was the last day to register to vote?
The deadline to register to vote in the 2020 general election was Oct. 5. Check if you’re registered to vote here. If not, you’ll need to fill out and submit an application, which you can request here or download here.
When can I vote early?
Early voting for the 2020 general election runs from Oct. 13 to Oct. 30. Voters can cast ballots at any polling location in the county where they are registered to vote during early voting. Election Day is Nov. 3.
How will voting be different because of the pandemic?
In general, polling locations will have guidelines in place for social distancing and regular cleaning. Several counties will offer ballot marking devices so voters avoid contact with election equipment. Poll workers will likely be wearing face masks and other protective equipment, but masks will not be required for voters.
How do I know if I qualify to vote by mail?
Texas is one of just a few states that hasn’t opened up mail-in voting to any voter concerned about getting COVID-19 at a polling place. You can find eligibility requirements and review other questions about voting by mail here.
Are polling locations the same on Election Day as they are during early voting?
Not always. You’ll want to check for open polling locations with your local elections office before you head out to vote. Additionally, you can confirm with your county elections office whether Election Day voting is restricted to locations in your designated precinct or if you can cast a ballot at any polling place.
Can I still vote if I have COVID-19?
Yes. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms, consider requesting an emergency mail-in ballot or using curbside voting. Contact your county elections office for more details about both options.
See our voter guide
Have you run into hurdles or problems while trying to vote in Texas? We want your help in reporting on those challenges. Tell The Texas Tribune your voting story.
Even the way you vote has become a dividing line in Texas.
The same approach to politics explains why it took so long to get elected leaders to put masks on — to stymie the coronavirus and to encourage the rest of us to do the same. A false choice between community health and personal freedom turned protective facewear into a political marker. That faded, at least in the ranks of the elected class, when the coronavirus began its summer surge in May and June. He almost never does it publicly, but even President Donald Trump wears a mask sometimes. But the divisions remain; you can find them at your nearest grocery store or gas station.
Other states have solved this one, holding secure elections without impeding their voters. Texas isn’t there yet, and arguments over the security of absentee voting and the safety of in-person voting during a pandemic found new fuel in the president’s attacks on voting by mail. He does it himself, even while saying expanded voting by mail increases chances of fraud.
In Texas, Democrats have been pushing for expanded voting by mail, saying it’s safer than voting in person during a pandemic, and also arguing that age shouldn’t be used to qualify Texans for the right to vote absentee. Current law allows four groups to vote by mail: People 65 years old and older, who cite a disability or illness, who are in jail but eligible, or who will be outside their home county while the election is conducted. Everybody else has to show up to cast a vote.
Republicans, including state officials, have argued that the state’s voting-by-mail laws shouldn’t be stretched because of COVID-19 anxieties. The governor added almost a week to early voting to thin the crowds. But many leaders have picked up the president’s argument that voting by mail is a boon to fraudsters.
It's easy to get so balled up about politics that you let practical things slip from your thoughts. It’s a seasonal affliction brought on by candidates’ need to distinguish themselves by pointing out what they see as their most important differences. Every opponent becomes a vile monster, endangering voters in so many ways, and only this candidate can save us.
Most people — even the political ones — don’t come from the fascist right or the socialist left. Those are just dirty words the pols use to inspire followers and insult foes. And they use them more when they're wrestling for jobs than when they're trying to solve problems, when they’re focused on ambitions and not on the work they’re supposed to do if they get elected.
That’s the season we’re in. The governing part — solving things, if we’re lucky — starts after the election.