First-time Texas voters: Here's what to expect

Ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, which experts said may garner one of the highest voter turnout rates of any election in recent years, many Texans will likely be voting for the first time this fall. (Courtesy Canva)
Ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, which experts said may garner one of the highest voter turnout rates of any election in recent years, many Texans will likely be voting for the first time this fall. (Courtesy Canva)

Ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, which experts said may garner one of the highest voter turnout rates of any election in recent years, many Texans will likely be voting for the first time this fall. (Courtesy Canva)

Ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, which experts said may garner one of the highest voter turnout rates of any election in recent years, many Texans will likely be voting for the first time this fall.

While the actual voting method can vary based on the polling location and type of election, voters in Texas can expect the in-person voting process to follow the same basic steps.


According to VoteTexas.gov, upon arrival at the polling location, the voter will be asked to present one of the seven acceptable forms of photo identification unless the voter has a permanent exemption on the voter's registration certificate. If the voter does not possess a form of acceptable photo identification and cannot reasonably obtain one, the voter may show a supporting form of identification to the election official and execute a Reasonable Impediment Declaration.

The election official will then ask if the voter has recently moved before asking the voter to sign the list of people who have voted in the precinct.

Depending on the type of election, the voter will then be handed one of the following:

  • a paper ballot on which the voter will select his or her choices and which will be counted by hand;

  • a paper ballot on which the voter will select choices by darkening an oval, completing an arrow, or marking with the aid of a voting machine; or

  • a slip of paper with a numerical access code or a ballot activator card. In the next available voting booth, the voter will then enter the code or card and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the voting process.


Depending on the polling location, Texans may cast their votes using one of the following systems, which are decided upon by the political subdivision in which the voter lives:


  • Paper ballots: Voters mark their ballot by hand with an indelible marker—a marker that cannot be erased—or pen and place the finished ballot in a ballot box. Local officials then count the votes by hand.


    • For step-by-step instructions for using a paper ballot, click here.



  • Optical scan voting systems: Voters mark their choices on preprinted ballots by either connecting arrows or filling in bubbles next to the candidates' names. The ballot is then inserted into an electronic ballot counter, which then counts the marked bubbles or arrows on each ballot and automatically computes the totals for each candidate and/or issue.

    • For step-by-step instructions for using an optical scan voting system, click here.



  • Direct Record Electronic systems: Voters record their choices electronically directly to the machine. While there are several types of DREs, some with dials and others with touch screens, they all enable voters to move back and forth between ballot pages to select the candidates and/or issues they wish to vote for. Once the voter has made their choices, the DRE provides a summary screen that presents those choices and gives the voter the ability to go back and make any changes before pressing the "vote" or "cast ballot" button.

    • For step-by-step instructions for using a DRE voting system, click here for the Election Systems & Software AutoMARK, here for the Dominion Voting Systems Inc. AccuVote TX or TSX, here for the Election Systems & Software iVotronic, or here for the Hart InterCivic eSlate.




After casting a completed ballot, the voter may pick up an "I Voted" sticker from an election official while exiting the polling location. Election results will become available to the public beginning Election Day on Nov. 3 after polls close at 7 p.m. For more information about voting in Texas, candidate Q&A's and election results, visit Community Impact Newspaper's 2020 Voter Guide.
By Hannah Zedaker
Born and raised in Cypress, Texas, Hannah Zedaker graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a minor in political science. She began as an intern with Community Impact Newspaper in 2015 and was hired upon graduation as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in May 2016. In January 2019, she was promoted to serve as the editor of the Spring/Klein edition where she covers Spring ISD and Harris County Commissioners Court, in addition to business, development and transportation news.


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