Early voting for the Nov. 3 general election begins 12 days from now – on Oct. 13. To cast a ballot early, or on Election Day, you must be registered to vote in Texas, and the deadline to do that is Monday, Oct. 5.
But the countdown to Election Day actually consists of several deadlines voters should keep in mind says Rebecca Deen, political science chair at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Deen said Texas doesn’t provide online voter registration. But you can begin the process of getting registered at votetexas.gov. Check to see whether you’re already registered to vote, and if you’re not, fill out the form on the site to complete a registration application.
“[It’s] a step-by-step process, walking through, giving information, and then it will produce a form that’s prepopulated,” Deen said. “And if they have access to a printer, they can print that out.”
Sign the form, and either mail it to your county’s election registrar, or deliver it to the county elections office. A mailed form must be postmarked by Oct. 5.
If you’re doing any business with the Texas Department of Public Safety between now and the registration deadline, you can obtain a voter registration form at the office – or when you renew a driver’s license or state ID card online – and turn it in at that time.
Voting By Mail
Texas is one of only six states that has not expanded access to absentee ballots because of the pandemic, Deen said. In Texas, you must meet one of four criteria to vote by mail: be 65 years of age or older, have a disability that would prevent you from voting in person, be incarcerated but otherwise eligible to vote or be traveling outside your home county for the entire early voting and Election Day period.
Next, an eligible voter must obtain an application for an absentee ballot from the state. Mail that application to your county elections’ office before the deadline, Oct. 23. Deen advised sending in your application as soon as possible. When you receive a ballot from the county elections’ office, fill it out and return it. Ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day, Nov. 3.
An End To Straight-Ticket Voting
A law passed by the Legislature eliminated straight-ticket voting in Texas, beginning with the 2020 general election. Several groups sued to restore the ability to select an option to vote for all candidates from a single party, arguing that the lack of such an option would increase the length of voting lines, which would, they said, present a danger because of COVID-19. A federal court initially sided with plaintiffs, but this week, an appeals court sided with the state of Texas, meaning there will be no straight-ticket option on November ballots.
Where To Vote
Deen said Texas counties choose the location and number of their own polling places. In some counties, you can vote at any county polling place, while others only allow you to vote at your home precinct polling place. Check your county election website, or votetexas.gov for your county’s rules. You can look up your voter registration information at the site and learn exactly where you can cast a ballot, both during early voting and on Election Day.
Correction: The audio version of this story incorrectly names the agency where Texans renew their driver’s licenses and state ID cards. Texans renew their licenses at the Department of Public Safety.