Early Voting Starts Monday. Here’s What You Need to Know

A handy guide of what to expect at polling places this week.

By Rhonda FanningOctober 24, 2016 11:55 am|

Today’s the first day of early voting in Texas. With recent articles about voter ID laws, there’s some confusion about what’s required of Texans as they head to the polls. Texas Tribune’s Jim Malewitz is here with a Texplainer to clear up some concerns.

What forms of ID are acceptable in Texas to participate in early voting?

“Right now you still need to bring your photo ID if you have it – the ID that was required under the 2011 law. So that’s a state driver’ license, a Texas election identification certificate, a Texas personal ID card, a license to carry a handgun, a U.S. military ID card, a citizenship certificate that includes a personal photo, or a U.S. passport.”

Can a Texan vote early if they don’t have a photo ID?

“If you don’t have one of those IDs and you cannot reasonably obtain [one] you can still cast a vote – if you sign a form that talks about this reasonable impediment and bring either a valid voter registration certificate, birth certificate or a current utility bill, bank statement, or government check that has your name and address on it. “

What is a reasonable impediment for not being able to show a photo ID?

“There’s not a definition of what’s a reasonable impediment and really it’s up to the voter on that front. … The compromise in fixing this law said that election officials can’t question your reasonable impediment.”

What if election officials say that a voter’s impediment isn’t reasonable enough?

“You might have to complain to the Secretary of State’s Office or something along those lines … and they would handle the complaint from there. That can be a problem at the polls when poll workers might not be properly trained.”

What are the rules for poll watchers who may try and persuade voters just outside the voting booths?

“A poll watcher doesn’t have a whole lot of power to do much really – they sit back and observe the process. All they can do is report to the local election officials – the presiding judge at that polling place – if they see some sort of irregularity. They can’t communicate with voters when they’re trying to cast a vote. They can’t communicate with the election officials unless they’re making a report. … Anyone can’t just show up to poll watch, they have to be designated by the party or campaign.”

How do officials regulate the distance between campaigners and polling stations?

“That depends on the amount of scrutiny the officials at the polling station are giving to that. You can’t wear a badge or insignia in support of a party or candidate within – I believe it’s 100 feet – of the polling place. A lot of this depends on the election officials at the polling place knowing the rules. If they don’t, you have to complain after the fact and assess what happens from there.”

Post by Betsy Joles.