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For Immediate Release: Texas Equity PAC Makes Final Endorsements for Pro-Equality Texas House & Senate Candidates for the 2020 General Election

For Immediate Release Contact:  Angela Hale, Equality Texas  angela@equalitytexas.org

Austin, TX (September 25, 2020) – Today, the Texas Equity PAC, the political action committee of Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ Texans, endorsed our final seven pro-equality Texas Senate and House candidates for the November 2020 General Election.

“It is critically important that Equality Texans turn out en masse to vote this November to ensure that Texas continues its march toward equal justice under the law. Electing pro-equality House and Senate candidates can help us protect Texans from discrimination by blocking the Lt. Governor from fast-tracking anti-LGBTQ bills to the floor for a hearing. These candidates for office have committed to supporting LGBTQ rights, civil rights and social justice. We strongly support their candidacies. We believe voters will overwhelmingly reject candidates who engage in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and homophobic and transphobic campaign tactics. If these pro-equality leaders are elected, many of them will replace incumbents who espouse anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies,” said Ricardo Martinez,” CEO of the Texas Equity PAC.

As we mark the countdown to the November General Election that is now less than 40 days away, the Texas Equity PAC proudly endorses democratic challengers in these key Texas House and Senate races.  

  • SD 1 Audrey Spanko – Democrat (SD 1 represents northeast Texas, including Tyler, Marshall and Texarkana)
  • SD 22 Robert Vick – Democrat (SD 22 includes Ellis, Hood, Johnson, Somervell, & Tarrant counties)
  • SD 19 Roland Gutierrez – Democrat (SD 19 includes San Antonio and Bexar County and stretches to Ft. Stockton and Del Rio)
  • HD 38 Eddie Lucio III – Democrat Brownsville
  • HD 113 Rhetta Bowers – Democrat Mesquite
  • HD 114 John Turner – Democrat Garland
  • HD 116 Trey Martinez Fischer – Democrat San Antonio

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The Texas Equity PAC helps elect pro-equality state & local candidates. It is the political action committee of Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.

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Every Vote Counts: Tuesday GOTV Tips — The Importance of Voting Down Ballot

September 22, 2020 by Debi Jackson

Written by Rachel Hill, Community Outreach and Engagement Manager (North)

As we mourn the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a legal giant and a liberating force for the most vulnerable, we may feel like things are out of our control. I know I certainly do. The loss of Justice Ginsberg feels twofold — the personal loss for a pioneering champion and the national loss for our democracy and the values she held dear. 

Yes, casting a vote for President this November can help ensure that our next President picks a Supreme Court Justice who upholds the values of LGBTQ equality, reproductive justice, and racial equity, and we should vote in part for that reason. But I know I’m not alone in feeling like the federal politics of nominating a Supreme Court Justice are happening a little out of my reach. 

Voting Down Ballot

Our votes absolutely play a role in what happens in DC, but to be honest, that’s never where I feel my vote the most. When I’m staring at the ballot the names that make me excited to press “select” aren’t always at the top, the presidential level. They’re all the names below, or what’s known as “down ballot,” the State Board of Education member, State Senator, State Representative, Mayor, City Councilmember, School Board member, District Judge and more. These are the folks who make the decisions that most directly impact my life. 

We feel the impact of all levels of government, but the further “down ballot” you go, the more you’ll see that impact in your day to day existence, from highway construction to police budgets, ID laws to school curriculum. The names “down ballot” are those state and local elected officials are also more accessible to you, and are more likely to be the ones that work with you through situations where the government can help. I try to vote all the way down the ballot because I want to know I’ve had a say in the government representatives I’ll be dealing with directly. 

Voting “down ballot” also has its perks in that your impact on the race is crystal clear. There’s no calculating electoral college math, it’s all by popular vote — and the margins are in the hundreds or the thousands instead of the millions. I happen to live in a district where the race was decided by only 200 votes. To put that in perspective, the stadium capacity for my high school football team is over 14,000, and my local synagogue serves about 400. If either of those groups voted as a bloc, they would absolutely have changed the outcome of that race.   

My district isn’t an outlier by any means. In 2018, candidates for the Texas House won 14 races with less than 5% of the vote. A total of 27 House races were won with less than 10% of the vote. That’s a lot of room to have an impact, and that’s still a state level race. Local race margins can be even slimmer.

Okay, I’m convinced. How do I know who to vote for when it comes to voting “down ballot”? 

One thing to note is that there is no more “straight ticket voting” or voting for every member of your party down the entire ballot. If you vote “down ballot,” you must select each candidate individually.

This is where sample ballots are your friend. When I vote, I build in a little time to look up a sample ballot and research any candidates I’m not sure about as part of my early voting plan. You can typically find a sample ballot on your county’s website — I often just google Dallas County Sample Ballot. You may need to know your precinct, which you can find on the same Texas Secretary of State site where you find polling places and hours. 

Once you have your sample ballot you can look up the candidate’s website, their endorsements, or news articles that tell you what they’re about. Your local newspaper may also have candidate questionnaires which you can read through and see who best fits your values. 

I know we’re all incredibly busy, but what’s better than casting your ballot in a race where you can directly see your impact? It takes less than an hour of research to be able to tell your local legislator that you voted in their race and they will remember you better for it. 

Every vote counts. From the top of the ticket to the bottom, voting is a way to share your priorities with the world. It’s one thing to say, but another to feel. I feel my vote by voting “down ballot,” which helps me feel connected to the people whose names are in front of me in the polling booth. And when DC feels a little out of touch, I turn my thoughts to all the ways I can make change in my community with the folks I’ve helped elect. 

Help us Queer the Vote at all levels of government, and remember to vote “down ballot.”

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For Immediate Release: Equality Texas Releases Statement from CEO Ricardo Martinez on the Death of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

September 18, 2020 by Debi Jackson

Angela Hale, Equality Texas, 512.289.2995 angela.hale@equalitytexas.org

Equality Texas Releases Statement from CEO Ricardo Martinez on the Death of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Austin, Texas – September 18, 2020 – Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ Texans, today released a statement from CEO Ricardo Martinez on the death tonight of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

We have lost a legal giant tonight. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away at the age of 87, and millions of Americans are in tears. 

Justice Ginsburg was a symbol of hope, a champion of LGBTQ rights, equal rights, voting rights, women’s rights, and civil rights. She is someone who deeply understood the plight of the most marginalized Americans and wrote opinions as a liberating force to help the most vulnerable.

She believed in dialogue, respectful discourse, participatory democracy, and was a fierce defender of our constitution. Her impact and absence will be deeply felt. We understand the significance of her passing and palpable fear and anxiety the LGBTQ community will undoubtedly feel as we process yet another tragedy in 2020. As we mourn her passing, we also celebrate her incredible legacy and impact. We are devastated but not hopeless. She taught us that, and we will continue our fight for full equality.

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Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration. The Equality Texas Foundation works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through education, community organizing, and collaboration.

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Every Vote Counts: Tuesday GOTV Tips — The 3 Things You Need to Know about Mail-in Ballots

September 15, 2020 by Debi Jackson

Absentee and mail-in ballots in Texas can be confusing at the best of times. Add a global pandemic, postal service delays, and a whiplash-inducing tug of war in the courts, and the thought of casting a vote by mail has become an overwhelming experience for many. 

We’ll help you cut through the noise with the 3 things you need to know about voting by mail so you can determine if it’s right for you. 

  1. How do I know if I’m eligible for a mail-in or absentee ballot? 

So far, any potential changes to the voting by mail process have only looked to expand eligibility. The standard qualifications for mail-in ballots are not up for debate right now, and if you fall under one of these categories, you’re safe to request a mail-in ballot, regardless of the court cases in the news. If you fall under one of these qualifications, you are eligible for a mail-in or absentee ballot

What qualifies as a disability?

The Texas election code defines disability as a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from appearing in person without personal assistance or the “likelihood of injuring the voter’s health.” The Texas Supreme Court ruled in May that voters should take into account their medical history (including conditions that increase risk of contracting COVID-19) as part of their determination to cite disability as the reason for requesting a mail-in ballot. 

The bottom line here is that you cannot not solely use fear of contracting COVID-19 as a reason to request a mail-in ballot. You can, however, request a mail-in ballot marked as “disabled” if you have medical factors that increase your risk of contracting COVID-19, such as diabetes, immunocompromisation, obesity or other risk factors (click here for the CDC’s full list of underlying medical conditions that increase risk of severe illness from COVID19).

The Texas Supreme Court was clear in its decision that it’s up to the individual voter to decide whether or not they qualify under this definition. You do not have to disclose your reasons for marking “disabled” as your reason for requesting a ballot. 

  1. I qualify! How do I get my ballot? 

To receive your mail-in ballot, you must send in an application for the ballot to your county elections office. You can print out your own application, contact your local elections office to receive one or request one from the secretary of state’s office.

You can request a ballot at any time and we recommend you do so sooner rather than later to account for any postal delays. The U.S. Postal Service recommends that you ask for your mail-in ballot no later than 15 days out from the deadline, which adds up to October 19 this year. 

If you’re sending in your application by mail, it must be received by October 23. If you’re dropping it off in person at your county elections office, you’ll have to have it in by October 13.

  1. How do I submit my ballot? 

Your ballot needs to be in the hands of your county elections office either by mail or by hand on Election Day, November 3. If it’s postmarked by 7 p.m. that day, it’ll be counted as long as it comes in on November 4 by 5 p.m.

You can turn your ballot in by mail or in person as soon as you’ve finished filling it out (don’t forget the state and local races!). The USPS recommends that you send in your ballot at least a week ahead of the deadline to account for any delays, which will be October 27 this year. You can also return your completed ballot in person, where you’ll need to present a photo ID when dropping it off. 

Once you’ve sent it in you can always call your local county elections office to see if they have your ballot. And most importantly, don’t forget to sign your ballot before you turn it in!

If you qualify, voting by mail can be one of the most convenient and safe ways to exercise your right to vote. If you have additional questions, you can always call your county elections office to determine if it’s the right voting method for you — that’s part of what they’re there for. Whatever voting method you determine is right for you, make sure you’re informed, have a plan, and queer the vote this November.

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We’re Running Out of Time to Protect the Trans Community — Submit a Public Comment about the Proposed Anti-Trans HUD Rule Now

September 10, 2020 by Debi Jackson

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a proposed rule change that would eliminate the protections for transgender people currently in place under the Equal Access Rule. This would leave trans people seeking shelter vulnerable to being denied placement and forced out onto the streets.

A 2016 update of the Equal Access Rule protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in HUD-funded services, and explicitly protects transgender people from discrimination in homeless shelters.

This proposed change is the latest move by the Trump administration to allow discrimination against LGBTQ individuals under the false pretenses of religious liberty and concern for women’s safety.

Equality Texans recently gathered online for a briefing with attorney DJ Healey to discussed the details of the proposed rule and to go through the process of creating comments together. At the end of the webinar, attendees we able to hit “Submit” and make their voices heard on this important issue.

You can watch the webinar here so that you feel confident in submitting your own public comment. The first half covers the background information. If you are already familiar with the proposed rule, jump to 31:20 to learn more about the rules regarding submitting a public comment, 37:20 to walk through the writing process and hear suggestions about what to say, or 49:35 to find out exactly how to submit your comment.

The public comment period ends on September 22nd. Please submit your comment now.

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Every Vote Counts: Tuesday GOTV Tips — An ode to early voting & step by step guide

September 8, 2020 by Debi Jackson

Written by Rachel Hill, Community Outreach and Engagement Manager (North)

I’ve only voted on election day once in my life — and that’s a conscious choice. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly something special about the buzz of energy while waiting in line to cast a ballot the first Tuesday of November. But I quickly realized that I could get that same buzz voting early, getting in and out of the polling location in about 20 minutes without having to dodge the (admittedly nice) folks passing out flyers and the awkward small talk of strangers in line trying to (not so subtly) figure out who I’m voting for. 

I’m a huge advocate of early voting always, but especially now, when social distancing has become a way of life and I’m trying to get in and out of most places as quickly and painlessly as possible. Lucky for me and other early voting enthusiasts, Texas has expanded the early voting period to two weeks, from October 13 – October 30. Below, I walk through what you need to know when early voting and where to start. 

Find Your Polling Place

One of the (many) great things about early voting is that you can vote at any early voting polling location in your county — you’re not limited to your precinct number like you may be on election day, depending on your county. A few days before election day the Texas Secretary of State will post early voting polling places and hours on this website. You can use your Texas Drivers License number, or your name, county and date of birth to look up polling information tailored to you. I’m a little scatterbrained these days, so I always put a reminder in my calendar to do this the day before early voting starts — this year it’s October 12th. 

Make your voting plan

Once you know your polling place and what hours they’re open you can start making your plan to vote early. Most polling locations are open 7 days a week throughout the day, so you can go according to your schedule. I often plan to vote when I know I’m going to be out anyway running errands so that I don’t feel like I’m making an extra trip. Once you’ve picked a day to go vote, again, put it in your calendar if it will help you remember. 

Part of my voting plan also means building in time to look up a sample ballot and research any candidates I’m not sure about. You can typically find a sample ballot on your county’s website — I often just google Dallas County Sample Ballot. You may need to know your precinct, which you can find on the same Texas Secretary of State site where you find polling places and hours. Even if you know who you’re voting for at the top of the ticket, looking up a sample ballot helps prepare you for the state and local races that directly impact so much of our daily lives. 

What to Bring

The mechanics of early voting work the same as election day — just without the crowds. You’ll want to bring an approved form of photo ID like a driver’s license or passport. If you don’t have one of the 7 forms of approved photo IDs there are supporting forms of ID that you can bring that will still allow you to vote (with some added paperwork). 

You can bring handwritten notes into the voting booth, and I often do for those tricky local races that I may have just recently looked up. 

In these times, make sure to also bring a mask and the PPE you feel comfortable with. Most polling places will have hand sanitizer on site, but it never hurts to bring your own.

Finally, I like to refer to the ACLU’s Know Your Voting Rights list right before I go out to vote, just in case. I’ve never had anything happen, but I like to be prepared. 

And that’s it! Once you’ve voted early, it’s honestly hard to go back to election day (I never did). For those of us who are planning to cast an in-person ballot, early voting allows for a little more control in the process, voting on your timetable and  ensuring a little more social distance. It also doesn’t hurt as a reminder to your friends and family to go out and vote while they still can, something that can’t always be said for election day. 

However you choose to vote, by mail in ballot, voting early or on election day, it’s more important now than ever. Choose the process that best fits your situation and make your voice heard!

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Less Than 30 Days to Complete Your Census!

September 4, 2020 by Debi Jackson

Guest post by Austin-Travis County Census Collaborative

Every 10 years, the Census counts all people living within the United States. For every person counted, our neighborhoods will receive $1,500 per person, per year for the next 10 years.

The U.S. Census Bureau moved up the 2020 Census response deadline to September 30. This means that field data collection and self-response options will end on September 30.

We need you. As of today, Travis County is experiencing a low response rate, with a response rate of only 64.8%. Texas overall has a response rate of 60.1% and ranks 38th out of all of the states in the United States. This means that if 2020 Census were to end today, our community would lose over $350 million.

Click here to complete your Census!    

Do Your Part to #StopTheKnock

Census takers are currently knocking on doors to follow up with households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census. Due to COVID-19 protocols, Census takers will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health guidelines, will be wearing a mask and are trained on social distancing protocols. Workers can be identified by an official ID badge. More information can be found online.

We need your help to #StopTheKnock and lessen the possibility of a Census employee knocking on your door!

Census in the Community

The Austin-Travis County Census Action Team has partnered with Austin Public Library’s (APL) Bookmobile to help raise awareness. Both agencies joined the Austin Area League of Women Voters and Central Texas Food Bank at the following drive-thru events hosted by the Austin Voices for Education and Youth:

Navarro Early College High School
On August 24, more than 409 households (over 2,000 individuals) received a combined 30,000 pounds of free groceries and non-perishables. Residents also had the opportunity to complete the Census on-site, register to vote, receive safety tips on COIVD-19, information on adult education, finances and mental health, and free books from BookSpring and APL. MasksNow ATX and St. David’s/Austin FC donated masks.

Dobie Middle School
On August 31, the agencies teamed up again to provide resources to the public. Residents were safely served in their cars and drove away with groceries, information, and the completion of their voter registration and Census questionnaires.

3 Easy Ways to Take Action & Get Involved     

  1. Share census related posts and information with your following using these digital resources.      
  2. Host a Nextdoor volunteer training using this recorded webinar and these instructional resources.
  3. Raise awareness by posting flyers and yard signs, which you can request here.

Will you commit to these simple and impactful actions? Click here to pledge how you will help ‘Get Out the Count’. 

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For Immediate Release: Equality Texas Endorses Pro-Equality Texas House Candidates for the 2020 General Election

September 2, 2020 by Debi Jackson

Angela Hale, Equality Texas, 512.289.2995 angela.hale@equalitytexas.org

Austin, Texas – September 2, 2020- Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ Texans today endorsed more than a dozen pro-equality Texas House candidates for the November 2020 General Election.

“It is critically important that Equality Texans turn out in mass to vote this November to ensure that Texas continues its’ march toward equal justice under the law. The Texas House is 9 seats away from flipping to a pro-equality majority and these candidates for office have committed to supporting LGBTQ rights, civil rights and social justice.  We strongly support their candidacy. We believe voters will overwhelmingly reject candidates who engage in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and homophobic and transphobic campaign tactics. If these pro-equality leaders are elected many of them will replace incumbents who espouse anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies,” said Ricardo Martinez,” CEO of Equality Texas.

As we mark the countdown to the November General Election that is now close to 60 days away, Equality Texas proudly endorses key democratic challengers in the race to flip the Texas House of Representatives to a pro-equality majority. 

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Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration. The Equality Texas Foundation works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through education, community organizing, and collaboration.

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For Immediate Release: Texas Equity PAC Endorses Pro-Equality Texas House Candidates for the 2020 General Election

September 2, 2020 by Debi Jackson

For Immediate Release Contact:  Angela Hale, Equality Texas  angela@equalitytexas.org

Texas Equity PAC Endorses Pro-Equality Texas House Candidates for the 2020 General Election

Austin, TX (September 2, 2020) – Today, the Texas Equity PAC, the political action committee of Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ Texans, endorsed more than a dozen pro-equality Texas House candidates for the November 2020 General Election.

“It is critically important that Equality Texans turn out in mass to vote this November to ensure that Texas continues its’ march toward equal justice under the law. The Texas House is 9 seats away from flipping to a pro-equality majority and these candidates for office have committed to supporting LGBTQ rights, civil rights and social justice.  We strongly support their candidacy. We believe voters will overwhelmingly reject candidates who engage in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and homophobic and transphobic campaign tactics. If these pro-equality leaders are elected many of them will replace incumbents who espouse anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies,” said Ricardo Martinez,” CEO of the Texas Equity PAC.

As we mark the countdown to the November General Election that is now close to 60 days away, the Texas Equity PAC proudly endorses key democratic challengers in the race to flip the Texas House of Representatives to a pro-equality majority. 

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The Texas Equity PAC helps elect pro-equality state & local candidates. It is the political action committee of Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.

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Every Vote Counts: Tuesday GOTV Tips — Election Dates You Should Know

September 1, 2020 by Debi Jackson

2020 is turning out to be a year unlike any we have ever experienced. Before COVID-19 was even a concept for most of us, we knew that voting would be one of our priorities. Participating in elections and casting our ballot is one of the key freedoms of American life. Voting is a fundamental part of our democratic process, but voter disenfranchisement efforts are an ever-present danger. We have a legacy of voting restrictions that suppress minority votes, so we must be diligent about knowing our rights so that “every vote counts” finally becomes the truth of our society.

As people all across the country struggle to figure out how to vote during a pandemic, knowing key dates of the electoral process is essential. And some of those dates have changed as elected officials try to navigate the challenges of balancing public safety in a time when ideas of what is safe change regularly. We have compiled a list of dates you should know.

September 22 

National Voter Registration Day — Did you know that we have an actual holiday devoted to registering voters? The fourth Tuesday of every September is a day that our country focuses on getting citizens registered. While this isn’t an absolute deadline needed to vote this year, it’s a great public reminder to you or your friends that getting registered is important.

October 5

Last day to register to vote. THIS is the important day and hard deadline to be sure you can vote in November. If you are a procrastinator who likes to live on the edge, put this date on your calendar (now) so that you can send your registration in. Get an application to register here.

October 13

Early voting begins! Early voting has moved up from the 20th because of the coronavirus. Texas allows for early voting in person and by mail. By providing an extra week to vote, the hope is to keep crowd sizes down and not overwhelm the postal system. There are still limitations over who is permitted to vote by mail. Check your eligibility and learn how to vote early here. Early voting locations will be posted to your “My Voter Page” by October 11th.

October 23

Last day to apply for ballot by mail/absentee ballot (ballot received by clerk; not postmarked) — If you are 65 or older, are sick or disabled, are confined to jail, or will be away from your county on Election Day, you can request an absentee ballot. Your application must be sent to the Early Voting Clerk in the country where you are registered to vote. Find the address for your county’s clerk here.

October 30

Early Voting Ends — Friday, October 30th is the last day of early voting by personal appearance at a voting location. Early voting locations can be found here.

November 3

Election Day — Voting hours across the state are from 7:00am to 7:00pm. You can find your polling place by consulting your County Elections Office or searching the “My Voter Page” to get a precinct location.

November 4

Deadline to Return completed absentee ballot — This is the most confusing date in the entire election process. You may return your completed absentee ballot to your county clerk or a polling location before 7pm on November 3rd. OR you ballot may be received by Wednesday Nov 4th 5:00pm CST if the carrier envelope is postmarked by 7pm the prior day. But there is no guarantee that your ballot will arrive on time with the slower delivery rates the USPS is currently experiencing. Don’t wait. Mail your ballot at least one week prior to this deadline — or even earlier — to be sure it arrives on time.

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