Original reporting provided by Alex Samuels, reporter at The Texas Tribune. Supplemental reporting provided by Marie Albiges, reporter at Community Impact Newspaper.
As the March 6 primary elections approach, races across the Hays County ballot are starting to heat up. This year, Texas has the earliest primaries in the country.
“We’ve been forward-thinking for several months now, and we’ve been pretty prepared for just about everything,” Hays County Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson said.
She said some of the most common inquiries she receives are questions on where and when to vote as well as whether a resident is registered to vote, how to change the address on their registration and what precinct they live in.
Anderson said she isn’t aware of any voter fraud cases reported in Texas. If a voter does not have the necessary forms of identification at the polling place, he or she is still able to vote provisionally and given the chance to present the appropriate documents.
Citizens who vote provisionally must fill out a Reasonable Impediment Declaration. Anderson said in Hays County, she received 49 Reasonable Impediment Declarations in the November 2016 elections and two in the November 2017 elections.
In an interview, Anderson encouraged residents to go to the polls.
“If you want to know where your biggest tax dollars are spent, they are spent locally,” she said. “To me [local elections]impact the citizens of Hays County more in those areas because these are the people that are making decisions on your services; these are the people that are collecting your tax dollars right here and using them more directly on you. They affect me more on a daily basis than the federal government does.”
This election cycle has an unusually high number of prominent open races, with eight Texans in the U.S. House opting not to run for re-election, and more than a dozen in the Texas Legislature doing the same.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott, both Republicans, are up for re-election and facing primary challengers. Other statewide officials seeking re-election include Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick, all of whom are Republicans.
How do I know if I’m registered to vote?
The deadline to register to vote in the upcoming primaries has passed (and Texas doesn’t allow voter registration on the day of an election). If you aren’t already registered, you won’t be able to cast a ballot in this year’s primaries.
Don’t know if you’re registered? Check the Texas Secretary of State’s website. All you’ll need to do is enter your full name, birthdate, zip code and the county you live in.
Of note: There’s no way to register online in Texas, but if you want to make sure you’re set for future elections, you can register in person at your county voter registrar’s office or by filling out a voter registration application online, printing it and mailing it to your county’s registrar.
When does early voting start?
Early voting runs from Feb. 20 through March 2.
Where can I cast my ballot and what polling places are near me?
Using the same portal that voters can use to find out if they’re registered, they can also find their polling location options on election day and during the early voting period.
During the early voting period, voters can vote at any location in the county they are registered to vote in, according to secretary of state spokesman Sam Taylor.
Things work differently on March 6, the day of the primaries, depending on where you live. Some counties participate in the Countywide Polling Place Program which allows voters to vote at any precinct in their county of registration even on the day of an election. For voters in counties who do not participate in the program, they will have to vote in their specific precinct on election day.
Here are the polling places for Hays County:
Can I vote for either party?
Yes because Texas is an open-primary state. This means voters can decide every two years whether they’d rather help pick the Republican or the Democratic nominees (or hold out and go to third-party conventions).
Of note: Whatever primary you decide to vote in, you can only vote in that same party’s runoff, if a runoff is held.
What form of ID do I need to bring to the polls?
If you’re confused about what ID to bring to the polls for the 2018 election, you’re probably not alone. The legal wrangling over the state’s requirements has turned rather complicated. Here are the seven types of photo ID that will be accepted at the polls for the primaries:
- A state driver’s license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
- A Texas election identification certificate (issued by DPS)
- A Texas personal identification card (issued by DPS)
- A Texas license to carry a handgun (issued by DPS)
- A U.S. military ID card that includes a personal photo
- A U.S. citizenship certificate that includes a personal photo
- A U.S. passport
So, what if I don’t have one of the seven approved forms of ID?
If you have qualifying photo ID, bring it. But if you have not obtained one, you can still cast a ballot.
Voters who do not have any of those documents and cannot “reasonably obtain” them can still cast a vote if they sign a form in which theyswear that they have a “reasonable impediment” from obtaining appropriate identification.
Those voters will also have topresent one of the following types of ID:
- Valid voter registration certificate
- Certified birth certificate
- Copy or original of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other document that shows the voter’s name and address (any government document that contains a voter’s photo must be an original)
A “reasonable impediment” can include a lack of transportation, disability or illness, family responsibilities or lost or stolen identification, among other things. And election judges may not question a voter about the reasonableness of a claimed impediment.
The “reasonable impediment” declaration forms will be available at each polling location. Voters are not expected to fill them out ahead of time, Taylor said.
Who will I be voting for?
For both parties, the race for U.S. Senate will be at the top of the ballot. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is vying against four other Republicans in his bid for re-election and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, is the most well-known of three Democrats aiming to unseat him.
At the state level, nine candidates are crowding the Democratic gubernatorial primary, with the highest-profile being former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston entrepreneur Andrew White, son of late Texas Gov. Mark White. And Republican Land Commissioner George P. Bush is running for re-election and facing three primary challengers including Jerry Patterson, who previously held the job.
Lower on the ballot, all of the seats in the Texas House of Representatives and half of those in the Texas Senate are up for re-election, including State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, who faces one Republican challenger and two Democratic challengers in the Senate District 25 race. The seat of State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, is up for re-election in District 45 as Isaac is running for U.S. District 21. Five Republicans and three Democrats are running for the Texas House of Representatives seat.
Two Democrats are competing for the county judge seat after current judge Bert Cobb announced he would not be running again. Former Precinct 3 commissioner Will Conley’s seat is also up for election as Conley resigned to run as a Republican in the judge race. Two Republicans are running in the Precinct 3 seat. The Precinct 2 seat is also contested in the March primaries.
In addition, the Republican party of Texas will pose several propositions at the bottom of its primary ballot related to property taxes, E-verify, toll roads, Obamacare and more.
What would it take for an election to end up in a runoff?
If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the primary (i.e. 50 percent of the votes plus at least one additional vote) the top two vote-getters will compete in a primary runoff on May 22.
With several competitive races with multiple candidates shaping up across the state, it’s likely some will result in runoff elections.
Eight Texans in the U.S. House aren’t running for re-election, which has led to some packed races to replace them, including 18 Republicans and four Democrats running for the seat U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, has held for more than 30 years.
There’s also expected to be competitive Democratic primaries for at least three congressional district seats. Republican U.S. Reps. John Culberson of Houston, Pete Sessions of Dallas and Will Hurd of Helotes have emerged as top targets for Democrats in November, and in each district, several Democrats are vying to be their party’s nominee.
How can I learn more about 2018 candidates and races?
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