If this election season has been confusing, little happened Tuesday night during the debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden to help clear things up.
At face value, the debate made things murkier.
Between trading barbs, neither candidate made much headway toward explaining his platform. Instead, the event ended up coming off more like a schoolyard shouting match than a presidential debate.
But the debate was not the only confusing thing.
For instance, the Texas Attorney General’s Office this week moved to kill a Republican group’s legal challenge to the state’s earlier-than-normal start of early voting, calling the lawsuit “deficient on its face.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office responded Monday to the lawsuit filed in the Texas Supreme Court last week by a group including Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, conservative activist Steven Hotze and Texas GOP Chairman Allen West, challenging the legality of the planned Oct. 13 start of early voting.
The state election code sets early voting to begin three weeks before Election Day, which would be Oct. 19 this year. Gov. Greg Abbott ordered polls to open a week earlier than that in effort to reduce crowding at polling places during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit argues that Abbott didn’t have the authority to make the change and should have called a special session of the legislature over the matter.
Less than three weeks before early voting begins in Texas, a U.S. district judge has blocked the state from eliminating straight-ticket voting as an option for people who go to the polls this November.
In a ruling issued late last week, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo cited the coronavirus pandemic, saying the elimination of the voting practice would “cause irreparable injury” to voters “by creating mass lines at the polls and increasing the amount of time voters are exposed to COVID-19.”
More recently, however, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Marmolejo, which means Texans probably won’t be able to cast straight-ticket ballots after all.
Then there was the debate over mail-in voting between counties and the state and federal governments. Some counties, such as Harris, wanted to encourage mail-in. The state did not.
Then there was the question of whether the postal service could deliver the ballots from the voters to the governing body in time to be counted.
Abbott complicated that situation Thursday by ordering counties to operate only one location where wary voters could hand-deliver their mail-in ballots. Several counties had established more than one place for voters to hand in ballots.
Abbott argued he did so to prevent voter fraud.
Others will argue he did it in effort to reduce the number of ballots cast, which would work to the benefit of Republican candidates.
Whatever the motives behind various Republication actions aimed at limiting mail-in and early voting — whether it’s voter suppression or defense of state law or protecting the integrity of elections — one thing is true: Voter suppression can happen only if voters allow themselves to be suppressed.
Good Americans should not allow that. Instead, we should recall the blood, sweat and tears that went into the Voting Rights Act or into the 19th Amendment or go all the way back to the long winter at Valley Forge if that’s what it takes. But go vote, no matter what or who tries to stop you.
• Dave Mathews