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Beto O’Rourke accused Gov. Greg Abbott of refusing to face voters during the candidates’ first and only gubernatorial debate by not allowing a studio audience to view the event.
“It’ll be empty—no seats filled—because Abbott refuses to face those he’s failed these last 8 years,” O’Rourke said in a tweet with a photo of an empty auditorium before the debate began.
Abbott’s team rejected the assertion, saying that O’Rourke agreed to the audience-free debate months ago.
“The terms of debate were agreed to by both campaigns months ago, and now at the last minute Beto doesn’t like them. He’s a fraud surrounded [by] incompetence,” said Mark Miner, a campaign spokesperson for Abbott.
The debate, which began at 7 p.m., is taking place at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg in front of hundreds of empty seats. Even the media covering the event is stationed in a separate room and is not allowed to be in the space where the debate is taking place.
An email shared with The Texas Tribune by O’Rourke’s campaign indicates that the governor declined several requests by O’Rourke’s team to change several aspects of the debate.
“I received feedback from the Abbott campaign on the requested changes we discussed yesterday in reference to, adding an audience, town hallstyle format, standing for Beto, and date change,” read an email between O’Rourke’s campaign and Nexstar, the debate organizer.
O’Rourke criticized Abbott on social media after holding a press conference with family members of the Uvalde shooting victims. About 35 family members boarded a bus from Uvalde on Friday morning to travel 280 miles and nearly five hours to the news conference in Edinburg.
With no option to watch the debate in person, the family members will instead see the event at an O’Rourke watch party before heading back home. The families of the Uvalde school shooting victims have been vocal in their advocacy for gun control measures, meeting with lawmakers in Austin and Washington and keeping the issue in news, even four months after the shooting.
Voting FAQ: 2022 midterms
How do I know if I'm registered to vote?
The deadline to register to vote in the 2022 primary election was Oct. 11. Check if you’re registered to vote here.
When can I vote?
Election day is Nov. 8. Early voting ended Nov. 4.
How do I know if I qualify to vote by mail?
This option is fairly limited in Texas. You’re allowed to vote by mail only if: You will be 65 or older by Election Day, you will not be in your county for the entire span of voting, including early voting, you cite a sickness or disability that prevents you from voting in person without needing personal assistance or without the likelihood of injuring your health, you’re expected to give birth within three weeks before or after Election Day or you are confined in jail but otherwise eligible (i.e., not convicted of a felony).
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.
How can I find which polling places are near me?
County election offices are supposed to post on their websites information on polling locations for Election Day and during the early-voting period by Oct. 18. The secretary of state’s website will also have information on polling locations closer to the start of voting. However, polling locations may change, so be sure to check your county’s election website before going to vote.
What form of ID do I need to bring to vote?
You’ll need one of seven types of valid photo ID to vote in Texas: A state driver’s license, a Texas election identification certificate, a Texas personal identification card, a Texas license to carry a handgun, a U.S. military ID card with a personal photo, a U.S. citizenship certificate with a personal photo or a U.S. passport. Voters can still cast votes without those IDs if they sign a form swearing that they have a “reasonable impediment” from obtaining a proper photo ID or use a provisional ballot. Find more details here.
What can I do if I have trouble voting?
You can contact your county elections official or call the Texas Secretary of State's helpline at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683). A coalition of voting rights groups is also helping voters navigate election concerns through the 866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683) voter-protection helpline. The coalition also has hotlines available in other languages and for Texans with disabilities.
Disclosure: The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.