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Abortion, immigration and gun safety are key issues for Texas voters – The Texas Tribune

Texas voters cast their ballots Tuesday with a wide variety of issues on their minds, including the state’s grid and the Uvalde shooting.
Nov. 8, 2022 Updated: 2:19 PM Central
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There is no shortage of issues inspiring Texas voters Tuesday, the last day to vote in the 2022 midterm elections.
The state’s marquee race is between Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. The two candidates have spent millions of dollars to define the race on their terms.
On Tuesday, we asked voters across the state what issues mattered most to them. Texas Tribune reporters and partner newsrooms — Fort Worth Report, KERA and San Antonio Report — will provide updates throughout the day with stories from around the state.
The deadline to register to vote in the 2022 primary election was Oct. 11. Check if you’re registered to vote here.
Election day is Nov. 8. Early voting ended Nov. 4.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
LUFKIN — Slade Allison is still in pain from a stroke he suffered three weeks ago. But pain did not stop him from getting to the polls on the morning of Election Day to cast his ballot for Gov. Greg Abbott and a slate of Republican candidates.
“I would have someone bring me out in a gurney and push the buttons to vote if I had to,” Allison said after he cast his ballot at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Lufkin, the largest city in East Texas’ Angelina County. “We have to get the right party in there.”
Allison asked a friend to drive him to the polls because the stroke caused nerve damage in his left leg and has made it difficult for him to walk. The 72-year-old retired army veteran voted straight Republican and said he is most concerned with border security and the sanctity of the legal system.
Calling the Federal Bureau of Investigations “corrupt,” Allison said the Democratic Party has swung too far to the left.
“The country is in shambles,” Allison said. “I believe there’s no Democratic Party. There’s the Republican Party and the Communist Party.”
Although Texas has banned all abortions except to save the life of a pregnant person, Allison believes abortions are “running rampant” and must be stopped.
Allison was one of several Lufkin voters who said they are concerned about the economy and the lack of jobs in Lufkin. To boost the state’s economy, Allison said, the country should stop importing oil from foreign countries and instead invest more in the nation’s oil and gas industry. — Pooja Salhorta, The Texas Tribune
DENTON — Elizabeth Garcia, a third-year music student at the University of North Texas in Denton, said the importance of this election hit like a wave Monday night.
“Oh my gosh, I didn’t know how much the election was impacting me until, like, yesterday, when all my family members were discussing it and talking about it,” Garcia said.
Denton has a large student population, with just under 60,000 students enrolled across two universities: about 44,500 at UNT, and about 15,000 more at Texas Woman’s University. Students make up a huge share of the city’s 148,000 residents.
As the polls opened, a few people trickled into the UNT polling place at the Gateway Center. Garcia was among the first people to cast their ballots Tuesday morning. They voted for Democrat Beto O’Rourke and gave reasons both policy-based and personal: fixing the state power grid, expanding health care for people with PTSD and overturning the state’s abortion ban.
But they also zeroed in on one key measure: marijuana legalization.
Texas legalized hemp and CBD in 2019, but THC — the chemical in the cannabis plant that gets you high — is still illegal. O’Rourke said he would push to change that.
Denton voters like Garcia also will weigh in on a marijuana decriminalization measure. Under Proposition B, the drug would still not be legalized — a move that can only be made at the state level — but the ordinance aims to eliminate citations and arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession in most cases.
Supporters say it would also stop Denton police from using the smell of pot as probable cause in a vehicle or home search and would end citations for drug paraphernalia.
Garcia said that would go a long way to helping her grandmother, who is dealing with her third cancer diagnosis. The stigma associated with marijuana use and its illegal status has kept her from using it therapeutically, Garcia said.
“At this point, like, we’ve just got to let her live. We can’t continue to be giving her all these treatments and be putting her through all this suffering,” Garcia said. “So if that stigma from marijuana was removed, maybe my grandma would be more eager to jump on that, I guess, ‘recreational’ use.” — Jacob Wells, KERA
SAN ANTONIO — As he stood in line behind eight people, Pedro Olivarez thought of his 2-month-old daughter Emilia and let his mind travel forward in time to imagine her as a young woman.
“When she’s older, she should have the right to do what she wants with her body,” Olivarez said after walking out of the polling place Tuesday. “It’s common sense.”
Olivarez, 26, said baby Emilia was his driving motivation to get to the polls 10 minutes before they opened. The new father voted at Las Palmas Library on San Antonio’s West Side, a traditionally Democratic area that has been the focus of Republican efforts to sway Hispanic voters by emphasizing the party’s traditional values.
A consistent voter, Olivarez said he cast his votes for Democrats up and down the ballot as usual, driven more by interest in statewide races and issues than in local ones.
While his family members voted early, Olivarez chose to wait until Election Day. And Texas’ recent moves to end abortion rights were a motivating factor for him.
“I’ll take anything, even if it’s a small change, to push Texas in the right way to have the rights for women that they need that they don’t have now,” he said. “Any small stride is a win in my book.”
While no candidates knocked on his door to campaign, Olivarez said he received a variety of flyers in his mailbox from candidates whose names he said he couldn’t remember.
After he voted, Olivarez walked toward a growing crowd awaiting the arrival of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke. When he arrived, Olivarez stood by to listen and made a video recording of O’Rourke on his iPhone. — Raquel Torres, San Antonio Report
LUFKIN — When Liliana Ayala voted for Democrat Beto O’Rourke, she felt as if she had cast a ballot on behalf of her entire family. In a sense, she had.
Born in Mexico and raised in Lufkin, Ayala is the only one among her parents and sister who holds U.S. citizenship and therefore the legal right to vote. Ayala’s partner, though legally able to vote, chooses not to. It’s an attitude that Ayala said is shared among many of her friends, too.
“They just feel like their vote doesn’t matter,” said Ayala, 28. “They’ve always felt that way.”
The young mother, who has another baby on the way, is most worried about guns in schools. Ever since May 24, when a gunman fatally shot 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Ayala has felt anxious about the safety of her 4-year-old son.
“Shootings in schools should not happen,” Ayala said. Crying, she used the back of her hand to wipe away tears.
“I don’t want to feel like I have to drop off my kid, and there’s a chance he could get shot that day,” she said.
Ayala is six months pregnant, and the pregnancy, like her first one, is considered high risk. She quit her job as a paraprofessional at Garrett Primary School to take care of her health and to visit her doctor in Nacogdoches each week. — Pooja Salhorta, The Texas Tribune
SAN ANTONIO — Gigi Hughes was 6 when she saw her grandmother get arrested for attempting to vote. That was during the 1960s in Memphis, Tennessee, when Black people were harrassed, evicted or arrested if they tried to vote.
“That was the first time I couldn’t run to my grandmother,” Hughes said. “I remember my grandmother looking at my grandfather and saying, ‘Just meet us at the jail.’”
Because of that experience, she has never taken voting rights for granted.
Now 63 and publisher of a local newspaper, the San Antonio Herald News, Hughes said she has voted in every election since 1976. And she requires her three adult children to show her their “I voted” stickers, too.
On Tuesday, Hughes cast her ballot at the Claude Black Community Center on San Antonio’s East Side at 9 a.m. with a friend.
In this election, immigration and social issues were Hughes’ main priorities when casting her vote. She said she voted for Republicans for statewide offices and for Democrats in local races. Hughes’ faith underpins her political beliefs, causing her to lean Republican, but her community connections led her to support local Democrats, such as Peter Sakai, who is running for Bexar County judge, and state District Judge Stephanie Boyd.
“I don’t like what’s going on at the border. I think everybody that comes to the country should be treated with dignity and respect,” she said, adding that more law enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border is necessary to stop human trafficking and smuggling of drugs like fentanyl.
Driven by her religious values, Hughes said she is an opponent of abortion and does not support same-sex marriage and expanding rights for transgender people.
“There aren’t [various] genders,” she said. — Raquel Torres, San Antonio Report
LUBBOCK — Katie Joiner had two children in the last few years. When she cast her vote Tuesday in downtown Lubbock, she had them in mind.
“I’m really looking into the future this year, especially with things like choice,” Joiner said outside Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock. “Choice is something I’ve become more empathetic with. I know what it’s like to have kids.”
Joiner is a 31-year-old business owner in Lubbock, but she didn’t vote until the 2020 election. When she was younger, Joiner wasn’t in tune with the political landscape and didn’t care. That’s not the case now.
“As I’ve gotten older and learned that we actually are affected by who’s in leadership in our country, that’s perked my ears up,” Joiner said. “I’m more aware and excited to learn about what’s going on. I care enough to vote and do believe my vote matters.”
Joiner added, “I’m looking for leaders who will be more proactive on things like gun control and choice in a way that works for Texas.”
Joiner comes from a hunting family, and her husband still hunts, so she believes in responsible gun ownership. After seeing mass shootings over the years, though, she now wants more steps in place before someone can buy a gun.
“Seeing how shootings over the years have transpired has changed how I feel about who can buy a gun and how easy it is to buy a gun,” Joiner said. “I don’t think it would hurt us. I’m not saying I want the government to take away our guns, but I think we could benefit from a few more steps.” — Jayme Lozano, The Texas Tribune
LUFKIN — Sarah Rosenzweig tried to pull into the parking lot of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on Election Day, but a sharp dip in the road made it nearly impossible for her accessible van to access a parking spot.
Once she finally parked and made it inside the polling place, Rosenzweig, who uses a wheelchair, found it difficult to read the screen. She said the screens were angled for a person standing. Sitting in her wheelchair, she used her hand to block the glare and read her ballot.
“I didn’t know it would be so problematic,” said Rosenzweig, 43.
Rosenzweig was born and raised in Lufkin and was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, about 10 years ago. The former public school music teacher votes in every election, even if she has to overcome hurdles at a polling place.
“Everyone at the voting location was friendly and helpful,” she said. “‘I’ve had workers say, ‘I’ll push the screen and read it to you.’ But it should be that I am able to do it myself.”
A registered Democrat, Rosenzweig said she is most worried about equal rights, including the right to an abortion.
Texas’ near-total abortion ban went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion this summer. The state’s ban is among the most stringent in the nation, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The procedure is allowed only to save the life of the pregnant person.
“If it doesn’t personally affect you and your body and your family in that exact instance, I’m not sure why you feel the need to control that,” Rosenzweig said.
“We are founded on religious freedom and being able to be the person you are, yet if you don’t conform to this one view, you’re going to be screwed,” Rosenzweig said. “That seems to be taking over in a horrifying way.” — Pooja Salhorta, The Texas Tribune
MISSION — Diana Cantu, 61, entered the voting booth at the Mission Boys and Girls Club in South Texas on Tuesday certain of one thing: She wasn’t going to vote along party lines.
“I don’t vote a straight ticket,” said Cantu, a resident of this border town. “Voting a straight ticket is lazy.”
Cantu said while it means doing a lot of “homework,” voters should read up on the backgrounds of candidates in the state. She said she votes strictly on the background of the candidate and not because of their party affiliation.
While she did not want to reveal whom she voted for, she was particularly focused on the Supreme Court races in the state.
She was also concerned about returning to a sense of civility in American politics and getting rid of the “gang mentality” that exists in the political system. She also said that border security, abortion and government ethics are some of the most important issues to her as a voter.
“There is a clear lapse. … There is dishonesty that is now normalcy,” Cantu said. “That has to stop.” — Stephen Neukam, The Texas Tribune
LUBBOCK — While there has been widespread attention on statewide races, some in Lubbock are focused on the local issues on the ballot.
Lubbock voters will have the choice to approve a $200 million bond to fund major street improvements over 22 miles of roadway. Last year, voters rejected the original proposed bond — $174.5 million to cover 11 miles of roadway.
“I think it’s important to vote for city growth, specifically the transportation and improvement bond for city streets,” Kyle Jacobson said outside Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock. “I know there’s a lot of statewide races as well as locally, but the road one was one of the most important items on the ballot.”
Jacobson was voting during a quick break from his job in downtown Lubbock. He said he votes every election and likes to be informed on the choices, but he hopes voters are putting thought into each item on the ballot.
“I just want people to pay attention to issues and candidates up and down the ballot,” Jacobson said. “The races usually at the top command most attention, but there are so many important local races, too.” — Jayme Lozano, The Texas Tribune
Disclosure: The University of North Texas 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.
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