Turnout for early voting, and interest the election overall, appears to be at an all-time high this election season. And there’s more than one way to cast a ballot.
Brandon Rottinghaus is a professor of political science at the University of Houston. He told Texas Standard that Texans may be able to avoid long lines by casting a ballot during the second week of early voting. That’s next week.
“I normally have a habit of grabbing a buddy, and we have tacos and vote and make a day of it,” Rottinghaus said.
Advocacy groups have encouraged voters to “have a plan” to vote. Rottinghaus agreed that’s important. Having a plan makes it more likely that a voter will follow through, and not forget to visit the polls.
Rottinghaus said voters should learn where to vote, either by visiting their county election website or the secretary of state’s office’s voting site, where you can look up your voter registration and available polling places. You’ll also learn what hours polling places are open during early voting and on Election Day. And keep in mind that not all polling locations are open during both.
The plan should also include printing a sample ballot to help you choose and remember who you want to vote for, Rottinghaus said. And be sure to print it, or hand-write your notes, because you’re not allowed to use your cell phone while voting, though you can have the phone with you.
“The ballots are really long,” he said. “And in Texas, we historically have lots of offices to vote for, all the way down to the courthouse.”
Polling places also have rules that voters should keep in mind. For example, you can’t bring or wear political messages into the polling place.
Early voting began this week with record-breaking turnouts in large counties across Texas, Rottinghaus said, with the highest growth in North Texas, followed by Travis County and the Hill Country in Central Texas.
“There’s a lot of new voters in those areas,” Rottinghaus said.
In Harris County, which has also seen high number of early voters, the county clerk has vastly increased the number of polling locations available during early voting.
“People are worried that their votes aren’t going to count, so they’re doing everything they can to make sure they get in line, and get it done early,” Rottinghaus said.
For those eligible to vote by mail, Rottinghaus suggested requesting and returning the ballot as soon as possible. Mail-in ballots must be requested by Oct. 23, and must be postmarked by Election Day. You can mail or hand-deliver it to a designated county drop-off location.