Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Texas Elections (But Were Afraid to Ask)

To kick off our #TXDecides series, we answer your questions in a rapid-fire round.

By Texas Standard & Texas Station CollaborativeOctober 21, 2016 11:45 am, , ,

Early voting in the November Election starts next week. But there’s a lot about the process that a lot of Texans don’t really understand. That’s what we’re hearing from public radio listeners across the state who’ve been submitting questions to us, and to our partner stations.

As we kick off a series called Texas Decides, we begin with the lighting round, and the questions come from you. Here to answer your questions are Alicia Pierce of the Texas Secretary of State‘s office and Democratic political analyst Harold Cook.

Was there ever a time Texas voted in large numbers?

Cook: “Unfortunately the answer is not in modern elections. Texas ranks near the bottom in participation when compared to the other states.”

Can I write in my vote for who I want?

Pierce: “In Texas, you can vote for write-in candidates, but you can’t just vote for any name. It’d have to be ones of the write-in candidates that’s been certified by our office. … You can always put one of their names, and as a reminder, you do not have to spell the name exactly correctly. You should try to spell the best you can, but if an election judge can discern the intent of the voter that vote will count.”

Since Texas usually votes red, does my vote otherwise really count in the electoral college?

Cook: “Every state except Nebraska and Maine is a winner-take-all in the electoral college. In Texas, all the electoral votes go to the candidate who got the most popular votes among Texans. This time the presidential race is unusually close in Texas, so your participation may turn out to be very important. It’s also important to remember that there are a ton of other legislative and local races on the same ballot, so your voice in those races is important too.”

How do I vote absentee?

Pierce: “You have to fall into one of four categories: If you’re age 65 or older, if you have a disability, if you will be out of your county of registration both during early voting and election day. And then finally, if you are incarcerated but otherwise able to vote. The last day to request a ballot by mail is Oct. 28.”

What happened to the Democratic Party in Texas? How did the party of LBJ get so weakened that they don’t put candidates forward for many seats?

Cook: “It’s equally true that the Republicans don’t fill candidates in a lot of districts currently held by the Democrats. Neither is a function of weak political parties, but more a function of partisan gerrymandering in the drawing of those districts. Most legislative districts are either so Republican or so Democratic that it’s virtual mathematical certainty that the other party can’t win it.”

Why do we not get proof of our vote?

Pierce: “When you’re voting on an electronic voting machine you do not get a receipt for what you voted for, but you will have a confirmation screen at the end of your voting experience. So make sure and review that confirmation screen very carefully, because once you push the ‘cast ballot’ button, you can’t undo that vote.”

Are there any elections – maybe at the local level – that U.S. Permanent Residents, like “green card” holders, are allowed to participate in?

Cook: “No, there’s not a single one. You have to be a citizen of the United States to be an eligible voter in all U.S. elections – and that’s all the way from president down to dog-catcher.”

Did we get to all your questions? No? We’ll keep at it in the coming weeks. You can let us know what’s on your mind on social media using #TXDecides.