AUSTIN — Jan. 31 is the last day to register to vote for the March 1 Republican and Democratic primaries in Texas.
Early voting runs from Feb. 14 through Feb 25. Any primary runoffs would be decided on May 24.
Here’s what you need to know about voting in the primaries, including the recent changes in the state’s election laws.
When is the election?
Election Day for primary races is Tuesday, March 1.
Polls on Election Day will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Polling sites must allow people to cast their vote if they are in line by 7 p.m.
Am I registered to vote?
If you have moved within the same county since the last election, you should contact your voter registrar to update your address. You can also do this online at the secretary of state’s website.
If you moved to a new county, you must have registered with your new county to be eligible to vote.
Texas says supply chain issues have limited the number of voter registration forms it can give out, KUT reports. The state doesn’t have online voter registration, so people must use paper, which the secretary of state’s office says is hard to get right now.
Your voter registration becomes effective 30 days after it is submitted and accepted by the county voter registrar. After you apply, a voter registration certificate – your proof of registration – will be mailed to you.
Review the information on the card to make sure it’s accurate. If you see any mistakes, correct them and return it to your voter registrar. Don’t forget to sign it and keep it in a safe place.
Do the addresses on my driver’s license and voter registration need to match?
No. The state does not require your driver’s license address to match your voter registration card.
While it’s always good to have your license up to date, the state’s voter identification law allows voters to cast a ballot with a license that has been expired for up to four years. Voters over 70 can use any expired license.
How can I vote by mail?
Feb. 18 is the last day to apply for a mail-in ballot for the primary election. The application must be received, not just postmarked, by that date. Mail ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on March 1.
This year there are added ID requirements for mail-in ballots, which means there are new application forms that include the ID field.
A high volume of applications for ballots that don’t meet the new requirements are being rejected in some of Texas’ largest counties. Hundreds have been rejected in North Texas counties, in many cases because voters are submitting an outdated form, CBS-11 reports.
The state’s new, GOP-backed election law requires absentee voters to include a Department of Public Safety-issued driver license number or identification card number on their application to vote by mail and on the envelope used to send in their ballot. Those without either can use the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
The information must match what’s in the voter’s registration file. To avoid issues, voting advocates recommend voters provide both their driver’s license number or state ID number and the last four digits of their Social Security number.
Texas does not have “no excuse” mail voting. The Supreme Court of Texas has said that lack of immunity to COVID-19 alone does not qualify a person to vote by mail. Voters must have another physical condition that prevents them from going to the polls because of risk to their health.
But the court has not specified what those conditions are. It has left that determination up to voters, who risk violating state law.
To be eligible to vote by mail, Texans must fall under one of these qualifications:
- Be 65 or older.
- Plan to be away from your county of residence for the duration of the election (this will include members of the military, college students and those stationed overseas for work).
- Have a disability or sickness
- Be expected to give birth within three weeks before or after Election Day.
- Be confined in jail without having been finally convicted of a felony.
State officials recommend sending your application as early as 60 days before an election to give you plenty of time to receive your ballot, mark it, and mail it back to the early voting clerk in your county.
County officials must try to reach voters before their ballots are rejected and give them a chance to fix them. Voters can also use a new online tracker to check the status of their mail-in ballot and the application, as well as to make corrections.
Also under the controversial new law, election officials can face jail time for distributing unsolicited mail ballot applications, even to voters who qualify. They also can’t solicit the submission of an application from a voter who didn’t ask for one. Campaigns and candidates aren’t subject to the same restrictions.
Where can I vote?
Each county lists its voting sites on its website. Anyone who is registered to vote may vote early in person.
Dallas, Collin and Tarrant counties have moved to countywide voting centers. That means voters can cast their ballot at any of the open polling locations in the county, increasing voter flexibility and convenience.
In Dallas County, voters can cast their ballot at any of the countywide voting centers listed on the county elections website. Voters are not tied to one precinct location. To help voters avoid lines, the Dallas County elections website tracks which polling locations have long lines and which lines are moving more quickly.
What forms of documentation can I use to meet the state’s voter ID rules?
You must provide one of the seven following types of photo ID:
- Texas driver’s license
- Texas election ID certificate
- Texas personal ID card
- Texas handgun license
- U.S. citizenship certificate with photo
- U.S. military ID card with photo
- U.S. passport
If you cannot reasonably obtain one of these, you may still cast a ballot by signing a Reasonable Impediment Declaration and providing one of the following:
- Birth certificate
- Current utility bill
- Bank statement
- Government check
- Government document with your name and address, including your voter registration certificate
What’s on the ballot?
Voters will choose each party’s candidate for district-level elections and seven statewide races – including governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. All U.S. House seats also are up for election.
Austin correspondent Allie Morris and Senior Editor of News Mede Nix contributed to this report.