Less than a month remains until the Oct. 9 deadline to register to vote in November’s midterm election. But given the recent legal challenges around Texas voting laws, some voters may be a little confused when it comes to registering and voting.
Susan Nold, director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, and Kassie Barroquillo, graduate research assistant coordinating the TX Votes’ Civic Engagement Alliance, encourage voters to check if they’re registered by the deadline.
“It’s a great time to fix any issues if you’ve moved since the last election or last time you’ve registered,” Nold says.
She says that can easily be done by going to the Texas Secretary of State’s website, votetexas.gov, to check registration information. However, Nold warns that voters cannot register online, they can only use the site to see if they’re already registered.
“You cannot fully get registered online. We still have a law that requires, they call it, a ‘wet signature,'” she says. “You [still] have to sign your name on a physical piece of paper.”
She says there are also a lot of ways to register to vote in person. Places like libraries or government offices in each county often have voter registration forms.
Barroquillo says high school principals are also empowered to register voters in person, including students.
“This is very important for our younger voters because they don’t realize even if you’re in high school, as long as you’re 18 years old, you can vote,” Barroquillo says.
Barroquillo scoured the internet to evaluate the voter registration website for each Texas county that has one. That amounted to 252 sites out of a total 254 counties, but Barroquillo says the quality of information varies among the sites.
“Some counties have really fantastic websites … where you can look up your voter registration online on their website,” she says. “Others just have the very core information: where polling locations are at and sample ballots.”
Voters don’t need to show identification to register, but they will when they cast their ballot on November 6. Nold says voters can use one of seven acceptable forms of photo identification: a Texas driver’s license, a Department of Public Safety Texas Election Identification Certificate, a DPS Texas Identification Card, a Texas handgun license, a U.S. military identification card with a photograph, a citizenship certificate with a photograph or a U.S. passport. If a voter doesn’t have any of these forms of identifications, they can sign an affidavit and then sign a provisional ballot.
Barroquillo says the address listed on the identification does not need to match the address on the voter rolls, but she says voters will have to cast a provisional ballot if their current address is different than the one they registered.
“The important part is getting registered at that new address,” Barroquillo says.
Nold says while there’s historically low voter turnout in Texas for midterm elections, this one may be different.
“The, sort of, impression that many people have about Texans not being voters, will be proven not to be true,” she says. “From our vantage point, certainly here at UT-Austin, there are lots of folks who are motivated about voting, and there’s a lot of interest in this midterm,” Nold says.
Written by Caroline Covington.