By Margaret Mitschke*
As a student that attends Sam Houston, possibly from another city, county, or country, it is important to understand how and if you can participate in elections. This includes how and when you should register to vote, where you can vote, or if you can vote using an absentee ballot.
How To Register
VoteTexas.gov, a website by the Texas Secretary of State, explains how students that spend several weeks or months a year in different locations should decide where to register: “You’ll need to decide which place in Texas is the place you call ‘home,’ i.e., where you intend to return after you’ve been away.” This could be your parents’ address, or your college address, however you cannot be registered in both locations at once. If you consider yourself a permanent resident of another state, then you will need to check the registration requirements of that state. The Texas Secretary of State website lists the different locations an individual may obtain an application to register to vote in Texas, including:
- The County Voter Registrar’s office;
- The Secretary of State’s office;
- Secretary of State’s website;
- Many Post Offices; and
- High Schools.
The application must be received in the County Voter Registrar’s office or postmarked 30 days before an election in order for you to be eligible to vote in that election. All voters who register to vote in Texas must provide one of the following for the application:
- A Texas driver’s license number;
- Personal Identification number issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety; or
- The last four digits of your social security number.
If you do not have any of these when you register, then you must submit proof of identification when voting with one of the following:
- Texas driver’s license issued by the Texas DPS;
- Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS;
- Texas personal identification card issued by DPS;
- Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS;
- United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph;
- United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph; or
- United States passport.
Who Can Register
To register to vote in Texas, an individual must be:
- A United States citizen;
- A resident of the Texas county in which the application for registration is made;
- At least 18 years old on Election Day;
- At least 17 years and 10 months of age on the date of application;
- Not convicted of a felony (or if so convicted, must have (1) been fully discharged of the sentence, including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision, or completed a period of probation ordered by a court; or (2) been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disability to vote); and
- Not determined by a final judgement of a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be (1) totally mentally incapacitated; or (2) partially mentally incapacitation without the right to vote.
Once you have applied, a voter registration certificate, also called proof of registration, will be mailed to you within 30 days. You will also automatically receive a new certificate every two years.
However, if you move to a new address, either inside or outside the county, you must notify the County Voter Registrar and have your address updated. If you move within the county, you can update your address online at the Secretary of State’s website. If you move to another county, you must re-register to vote by filling out a new application. If you change your name, then you can go online to the Secretary of State’s website and follow the same steps as moving within the county.
Most counties allow for registered voters to vote early, either in person or by mail. To find out the location, dates, and times that early voting will take place, you can call or check the websites of your County Clerk or County Elections Administrator.
If you are voting by mail, you must be:
- Out of the county during early voting and on Election Day;
- Age 65 or older;
- Sick or disabled; or
- Confined to jail.
If you qualify to vote by mail, then you can print out an application for a ballot by mail, and mail it to your Early Voting Clerk.
If you are attending a university or college away from home, and you have registered to vote at a different address than your university, you can vote early by mail, also called absentee voting. To request that an absentee ballot be send to the address you will be on Election Day, you must fill out an absentee ballot request application for your home state.
Voting on Election Day
On your Voter Registration Certificate, there is a precinct number where you will vote on Election Day. Generally, you can only vote at the Election Day precinct assigned to you. Voting hours are from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
The Constitutional Amendment Election for Texas will take place on November 3, 2015, with the last day to register on October 5, 2015. The election for the 2016 Texas primaries will be held on March 1, 2016, with the last day to register on February 1, 2016, and the general election will take place on November 8th, 2016, with the deadline to register on October 8, 2016. For more information about registering you can contact the Secretary of State’s Office at 1-800-252-8683. The Tax Assessor-Collector for Walker County is Diana McRae, and can be contacted at 979-826-2546.