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Texans are heading to the polls in the first primary of the 2022 election cycle. Here’s what you need to know

<i>Jennifer Lake/SIPA/AP Images</i><br/>Campaign signs line the sidewalks on February 18
Sipa USA via AP
Jennifer Lake/SIPA/AP Images
Campaign signs line the sidewalks on February 18

By Rachel Janfaza, Ethan Cohen and Melissa DePalo, CNN

Voting ends Tuesday in Texas, where the first primary races of the 2022 election cycle are taking place.

The primary races will set the scene for several key races up and down the Texas ballot this year, including the Lone Star State’s gubernatorial and attorney general elections. Tuesday’s primary is the first election to be held under Texas’ new elections law, which made significant changes to voting procedures in the state. Texans were able to early vote from February 14 to February 25, and some were eligible to mail in their ballots. Polls will be open on Tuesday.

Key races to watch


At the top of the ticket, seven Republican challengers are looking to oust incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, who’s vying for a third-term as Texas’ top executive. Buoyed by name recognition and the backing of former President Donald Trump, Abbott has spent most of his primary campaign focused on Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic House member — and Senate and presidential candidate — who is favored to win the Democratic nomination. In the lead up to the primary, Abbott’s GOP challengers, including former Texas Republican Party chair and former Florida Rep. Allen West and former Texas state Sen. Don Huffines, have pushed the governor further to the right on hot-button Republican issues after attacking him for not being conservative enough. Abbott now boasts a record that includes signing new elections law and a ban on abortions after six weeks. He also issued an executive order forbidding all entities, including private employers, from enforcing vaccine mandates.

Attorney general

The race for attorney general comes as incumbent Ken Paxton, who is being challenged by three other conservative candidates, faces an indictment — though it’s not the first time Paxton’s run while under investigation. In 2018, the attorney general ran while being indicted on charges of securities fraud, and that case is ongoing. Now Paxton faces more allegations of wrongdoing, after members of his staff accused him of bribery and abuse of office in 2020. Paxton, who has the backing of Trump, is up against one of the former President’s chief defenders, Rep. Louie Gomhert, as well as George P. Bush, the current Texas Land Commissioner as well as former President George W. Bush’s nephew and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s son, and Eva Guzman, the former state Supreme Court justice and only woman running on the Republican side.

28th congressional district

Down in South Texas, Rep. Henry Cuellar, considered a political institution in Laredo, is facing off in a rematch against 28-year-old progressive immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros. The race comes amid the backdrop of an FBI investigation into Cuellar — who survived his first matchup against Cisneros in 2020, winning by less than four percentage points. Cisneros is seizing on the FBI probe and capitalizing on progressive momentum. She has the support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez as well as many progressive organizations who are looking to oust one of the House’s most conservative Democrats. Cuellar is one of the only House Democrats who vocally disagrees with codifying the right to abortion and expanding abortion access.

How to vote

Polls in Texas open at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. local time. Most of Texas is on Central Time, but the western tip of the state around El Paso is on Mountain Time.

Candidates need to win more than 50% of the vote in order to avoid a runoff. Any races that advance to a runoff will take place on May 24.

Any voter in Texas can vote early in person. The first day of early in-person voting was February 14, and early voting in-person ended on February 25.

To vote by mail, a person must meet one of five criteria: They will be away from their county on Election Day and during the hours that early voting is conducted, are sick or disabled, expected to give birth within three weeks before or after Election Day, are 65 years old or older on Election Day or are confined in jail or involuntary civil commitment.

Vote-by-mail applications must have been received by the early voting clerk by February 18, and mail-in ballots can be received 5 p.m. on March 3, as long as they’re postmarked by 7 p.m. on March 1.

This primary is the first statewide election in Texas to be conducted under the state’s new restrictive election law. The law limited early voting hours, eliminated drive-through voting and added new ID requirements for mail voting, among other changes. The changes are already having an impact on voters.

The deadline to register to vote was January 31.

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