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National political leaders barnstormed through the Lone Star State this weekend to help Texans from both political parties make their final plea to voters on the eve of the midterm elections.
First lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats, joined campaigns in Harris County while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and national party chair Ronna McDaniel rallied Republican supporters in South Texas.
The first lady stopped in Houston churches to push Texans to vote. Biden appeared alongside two Texas Democrats facing reelection, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston.
“So much is at stake in this election. And with the polls closing in just two days, all of us need to make our voices heard,” Biden said Sunday at the Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, where the pews were filled. “We must speak up on justice and democracy.”
Political observers had anticipated the state’s competitive governor’s race to drive turnout similar to high-watermark elections in 2018 and 2020. However, so far, turnout has been slower, making this weekend’s push to engage voters more salient.
Thirty-one percent of registered voters had voted by Friday, the last day of early voting, according to the secretary of state’s website. More people vote early than on Election Day — a trend that has been consistent at least since the 2008 presidential election.
Incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott started his final push to energize supporters in Lubbock on Saturday.
“We have got to get more people in the polls. Lubbock is Republican territory, and … there are many people who have not yet voted,” Abbott said at a Lubbock barbecue restaurant before knocking on a few doors, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. It was his second campaign visit to West Texas in the past two weeks.
His Democratic challenger, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, spent Saturday evening block walking in Houston.
“I think this is going to be really close. It could be decided by a matter of votes, it could be decided by the votes of those doors that you’ll be knocking on,” O’Rourke said to campaign volunteers in Houston.
Abbott, a Republican who is seeking his third four-year term as governor, has promised voters he’ll continue pushing a conservative agenda focused on jobs and border security. O’Rourke has criticized Abbott’s handling of the 2021 winter storm, mass shootings and support for a ban on abortion, including in cases of rape and incest.
High-profile Democrats rally for down-ticket races
The vice president also threw her support behind Hidalgo. Harris called in to a virtual phone bank for the Harris County leader on Friday evening. She recalled her interactions with Hidalgo during the 2021 power-grid failure and said Hidalgo has been an “extraordinary leader during immense crisis.”
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.
“You have proven yourself during some of the most difficult times for Harris County,” the vice president told Hidalgo before urging volunteers to redouble their efforts for the final weekend before the election. “She has been an extraordinary leader, but we can’t take her for granted.”
Four years after unexpectedly ousting a well-liked Republican, Hidalgo is facing a tough reelection battle against a well-funded Republican opponent, Alexandra del Moral Mealer.
While Harris did not mention Mealer, she did paint a contrast with Republicans, who she suggested are trying to divide people and want to unwind the progress of the Biden administration. She warned they would repeal the Inflation Reduction Act and pass a national abortion ban, touching on an issue — abortion rights — that Hidalgo has made central to her campaign.
Mealer has focused most of her campaign on the county’s high number of homicides and the criminal indictment of three Hidalgo staffers.
National GOP leaders focus on South Texas congressional races
In South Texas, GOP heavyweights McCarthy, McDaniel and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich rallied voters Sunday evening. They appeared alongside Congresswoman Mayra Flores and candidates Monica De La Cruz and Cassy Garcia in an effort to secure a Republican majority in the House. The news media was not allowed inside the event.
Republicans are calling Flores, De La Cruz and Garcia a triple threat. GOP leaders are increasingly bullish on a sweep of all three seats.
In 2020, De La Cruz came within 3 percentage points of unseating Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez in Congressional District 15, a heavily Hispanic border district that includes McAllen. This year, De La Cruz is running for the same seat after Gonzalez was drawn out of the district and moved over to neighboring District 34. Flores is the incumbent congresswoman after winning a special election this year to replace Democrat Filemon Vela, who had resigned before the end of his term. And Garcia, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, is facing off in Laredo-based District 28 against longtime Democrat incumbent Henry Cuellar.
The Republican campaign stop in South Texas won’t go unchecked. Former president Bill Clinton is expected to stump in South Texas on Monday to support Cuellar and Democratic House candidate Michelle Vallejo, De La Cruz’s challenger.