Early voting for the 2020 primary election starts Tuesday, Feb. 18 in Harris County (and nearby counties), and “Super Tuesday” — the primary Election Day with the greatest number of states holding primary elections, including Texas — is just around the corner, on March 3.
State law is making it easier to vote in this election. Curbside voting is available for people who are physically unable to enter the polling place without help or there’s a likelihood of injury to the voter’s health.
There’s a lot on the ballot this time around: Voters will choose a challenger to Donald Trump, as well as a challenger to face John Cornyn in the Senate. There are also important races locally, like the Democratic primary for Harris County District Attorney, which sees current DA Kim Ogg face off against three challengers.
Harris County has made big leaps in its voter turnout for recent general elections, especially among young people. Turnout for 18-to-24-year-olds jumped nearly 30 percentage points between 2014 and 2016, to 42.4%, according to the Harris County Clerk’s Office. It dropped only slightly to 35.6% in 2018. And with an upcoming presidential election, there’s reason to think that number can go even higher. But the county’s turnout for the primaries has been less enthusiastic, with just 14.4% of eligible voters turning out during the 2018 midterms.
More people live in Harris County alone than half the states in the country, and with recent snafus in reporting election results on time, both in Iowa earlier this month and right here in Harris County last November, the pressure’s on for election officials to get things right.
But local officials say they’ve cleared up problems with the Texas Secretary of State’s office that led to the delays in reporting last time.
“Last election season there were some misunderstandings and I think we’ve corrected that because now we’re in contact with them, we’re looking at the advisories, we’re communicating with them and as of right now we feel very confident we can comply with all the advisories,” said Michael Winn, director of elections for the Harris County Clerk’s Office.
Winn says the state has updated its returns portal, so election officials will be able to see the kind of results party officials can use to release delegate counts for the presidential primary.
Here’s what you should know about where, when and how to vote in the 2020 primary.
When can you vote?
Early voting for the primary in Texas starts Tuesday, Feb. 18, and lasts until Feb. 28. After that, you’ll need to wait until primary Election Day on March 3 to vote in person. To apply for a ballot by mail, the state must receive your application by Feb. 21. And March 3 is also the last day for the state to receive mail-in ballots.
Are you registered to vote?
If you haven’t already registered to vote, you’ve missed the cutoff for the primary. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to vote in November. Check your status with the Secretary of State, and make sure you’re registered by Oct. 5 to take part in the 2020 general election.
Who can you vote for?
Texas is an open-primary state, which means you can choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary, although not both. That means if there are runoff elections in your district, you can only vote for the candidates in the party you chose on or in the lead-up to Election Day. For your own personalized ballot, check out Vote411, a project of the League of Women Voters.
What’s a runoff?
If none of the candidates in a particular race reach the 50-percent vote threshold needed to declare victory, the top two candidates by vote total will head to a second round of voting called a runoff election, which will take place on May 26.
Where’s your polling place? In Harris County, it’s anywhere.
Harris County voters have long been able to choose any polling place for early voting. But now, voters who wait until Super Tuesday will have the same options.
The Texas Secretary of State last year authorized Harris County to implement its Countywide Polling Place Program, making it possible for the county to establish non-precinct based Election Day Voting Centers. Those centers are similar to those already used by the county during early voting periods, and every site can be used, whether you’re a registered democrat or republican. To find your nearest polling site, click here.
You need to bring an ID
Texas passed a controversial voter ID law in 2011, which requires voters to present acceptable identification in order to vote in person in all Texas elections. There are seven acceptable forms of identification at the polls:
- Texas Driver License issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety
- Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
- Texas Personal Identification Card issued by DPS
- Texas Handgun License issued by DPS
- United States Military Identification Card containing the person’s photograph
- United States Citizenship Certificate containing the person’s photograph
- United States Passport (book or card)
If you don’t have an acceptable form of ID handy, you can still vote by bringing certain forms of ID that can be presented if you “cannot reasonably obtain” one of the pre-approved forms, according to the Secretary of State:
- Copy or original of a government document that shows the voter’s name and an address, including the voter’s voter registration certificate
- Copy of or original current utility bill
- Copy of or original bank statement
- Copy of or original government check
- Copy of or original paycheck
- Copy of or original of (a) a certified domestic (from a U.S. state or territory) birth certificate or (b) a document confirming birth admissible in a court of law which establishes the voter’s identity (which may include a foreign birth document).
After presenting one of the forms of supporting ID listed above, the voter must execute a Reasonable Impediment Declaration, available at every polling location, according to the Secretary of State. “Reasonable impediments” include lack of transportation, disability or illness, lack of birth certificate or other documents needed to obtain acceptable photo ID, work schedule, family responsibilities, lost or stolen ID, or acceptable form of photo ID applied for but not received.