Why Vote Early and Other Questions You’ve Got About Voting in Texas

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Early voting starts today in Texas, and we know you’ve got questions. Should you vote early? Should you vote straight ticket? What can you wear? What if you see funny business at the polls? What kind of ID should you take? Should you take a photo of your ballot? Should I vote if I think the candidates are all the same? Is Texas really a swing state?

We’ve got you covered.

Should you vote early?

YES. A thousand times yes. Here are the top 5 reasons you should vote early:

  1. You might get the opportunity to run away with the circus or go live with a gorgeous billionaire, whose values and mores align with your own and who has a small herd of baby goats in pajamas, on a remote island with strong wifi. You don’t want to have to decline those opportunities to stay and vote on election day.
  2. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow, which I include only because some of you didn’t get that the first item on the list was a nicer way of saying what if you die a horrible death or contract an illness that renders you incapable of voting before November 8th.
  3. It could rain. In other states, sometimes it rains on or near election day and entire cities aren’t washed away completely. But this is Texas. And we’re not expecting a hurricane, either, but we still have another week of hurricane season.
  4. Shorter lines, same ballot. Don’t be one of those people who shows up on election day to a 2-hour wait. What if you don’t have 2 hours to wait?
  5. Set a good example. The #1 best way to convince your friends to vote is to vote yourself and ask them to as well. Snap a photo of yourself post-voting for some positive peer pressure.

Extra for experts: on election night, county clerks generally release the early voting totals before any other results are counted. If you have any love in your heart for the election nerds among us, run these early vote numbers up so we can have something to talk about while we wait a couple of hours for the county clerks to get their totals up (and then wait another couple of hours for Stan Stanart in Harris County to catch up).

Should you vote straight ticket?

That depends. Good governance is not limited to any one political party.

If you’re in a rush or really fed up, and you vote the straight Democratic ticket, no one will judge you.

You should know this, however—in most instances, you can click the straight ticket button, then go to individual races and change your selection in just certain races. You can also leave a race blank by unselecting someone automatically checked by the straight ticket button. Ask the election staff if you aren’t sure whether you can do this.

Remember, too, that propositions and some local races are nonpartisan, so voting straight ticket leaves those choices blank unless you affirmatively cast a vote in them.

What can you wear?

You cannot wear, per Texas election law, clothes or buttons that advocate for a candidate. Different election judges take this to extremes. Some might make you turn your Hamilton cast t-shirt inside out (even though we know he wasn’t actually president); others are fine with past presidents or campaign t-shirts, but exclude only shirts/buttons for people on the ballot. I saw a guy get turned away in an LBJ t-shirt in 2008.

Play it safe & bring a jacket you can zip up.

If you wear your Pussy Grabs Back t-shirt, let me know what happens. It should be allowed, but we know that Texas, given the opportunity, generally takes an anti-pussy position.

What if you see funny business at the polls?

If you are concerned about overzealous poll watchers, or see election staff making recommendations about how people should vote, or witness people being turned away even when it seems like they have ID, call the voter protection hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, or the Spanish-language hotline, 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA. Attorneys are standing by to help. This hotline is run by a coalition of nonpartisan organizations.

The ACLU has a hotline as well, which is 1-888-507-2970.

Anyone who is in line to vote when the polls close gets to vote. Stay. Do what you can to help people stay. Also, see above about voting early.

If you get anonymously-authored attack mailers, or sketchy phone calls reminding voters to go to the polls the day after elections end because of the huge crowds, keep or record them, and call your local Democratic party and the election protection hotline. You can also call the media. It’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube as far as anyone getting in trouble for these mailings or calls, but you can at least get the word out that they are crooked.

What kind of ID should you take?

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the country’s most conservative court, found that the Texas voter ID law is discriminatory. That means that voters can use any of the following:

  1. Texas Driver license
  2. Texas Election Identification Certificate
  3. Texas Handgun License
  4. U.S. Citizenship certificate with your photo
  5. Texas Personal ID card issued by DPS
  6. U.S. Military Identification Card with photograph
  7. U.S. Passport

Any of these must be current, or, if expired, must have expired in the past 4 years.

BUT, if you cannot reasonably obtain one of those forms of ID, you have to sign a statement saying that at the poll (this takes no time) and present one of the following documents:

  1. Valid voter registration certificate (this does not have a photo)
  2. Certified original birth certificate
  3. Copy or original bank statement
  4. Copy or original government check or paycheck
  5. Copy or original of current utility bill
  6. Copy or original government document with voter’s name and address (original required if it contains a photograph).

If you use one of these secondary forms of ID, and the election staff asks you why, all you are obligated to say is that you could not reasonably obtain one of the other forms in time for the election. You don’t owe them any information beyond that.

You will need to sign the Reasonable Impediment Declaration if you use one of the secondary forms. It is an affidavit. Sign it.

If they ask for an explanation, tell you you are at risk of being investigated, or pressure you in any way, just calmly repeat that the law says you may use any of these forms, ask to sign the affidavit and be allowed to vote, and then, call the voter protection hotline to report voter intimidation.

If you do not have any form of ID from either list, but your name is on the list that the election staff has, you may cast a provisional ballot. Ask to do so.

If you vote provisionally, you must then go to your county’s voter registrar (tax assessor-collector and voter registrar) office within 6 days (calendar days) after the election to show your ID and get that ballot counted. Six calendar days realistically means you should go Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday November 9-11th, and not wait until Monday in case they count election day as the first day, which they should not, but they might.

A reminder: the voter ID law said that the requirement was to determine whether your name on the ID matches your name on the voter roll. You still need to be registered to vote, or all of the ID in the world won’t matter.

Should you take a photo of your ballot?

Probably not. It’s against the law, even though that’s a stupid law. In other states, it is OK, and some election judges here don’t care. But don’t risk it.

If you want to take a guide or list into the polls, it must be on paper. Again, not ideal, but don’t chance it.

Should I vote if I think all of the candidates are the same?

That depends.

Who am I kidding? You came here seeking guidance, and here it is.

If you think Hillary Clinton is no different than the GOP nominee for president, then I cannot help you. You may not like some or many of her positions, but there are stark differences between these two candidates.

Voting for a third-party candidate is a protest vote, and opinions differ on efficacy of such votes.

But a vote for the GOP nominee, given what we know about his stability and abilities, suggests you should not be trusted to operate heavy machinery or be around small children or animals.

Is Texas really a swing state?

Some are saying it is because the difference between the two presidential candidates is within the margin of error (that is, the GOP nominee is ahead by 3-4 points, but the poll is only accurate to within 3-4 points).

Some are saying it isn’t because of the sheer number of voters a point represents in Texas.

We’re seeing high turnout so far for the first day of voting. If this continues, especially in the large cities, things could get really exciting come 8pm or so election night when the early vote totals get released.

What would it take to flip Texas? 

  1. You and every Democrat, liberal, and progressive you know should vote, and vote early to create momentum and excitement.
  2. Have a quiet, respectful conversation with the reasonable Republicans in your life and ask them to skip the presidential race if they cannot vote for Hillary Clinton. Many of them will be glad to vote for Clinton, but it is more important that they not give the GOP candidate more votes.

Even if we don’t flip it, if we can jack up voter participation rates among Democrats, national organizations and parties and donors will start to spend more time and money in our state. Texas donors will find more reasons to keep their money here.

So let’s do it, Texas.

Push hard, vote early, and let’s see what we can accomplish. 

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About Author

Andrea Greer

Andrea, an activist, fundraiser, feminist, writer, and baker, is not as tall as you think she is. She's been at this a long time, and wants to know what you are doing to make the pie higher and raise more hell. Her mother would like you to know she's got a law degree.

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