What do I need to know about mail-in voting?
How do I know if I’m eligible to vote by mail?
This option is fairly limited in Texas. You’re allowed to vote by mail only if:
You will be 65 years old or older by election day.
You will not be in your county for the entire span of voting, including early voting.
You cite a sickness or disability that prevents you from voting in person without needing personal assistance or without the likelihood of injuring your health.
You’re expected to give birth within three weeks before or after election day.
You are confined in jail but otherwise eligible (i.e., not convicted of a felony).
What identification do I need to vote by mail?
The Texas Legislature last year created new identification requirements for voting by mail that require voters to provide their driver’s license or state ID number or, if they haven’t been assigned those, the last four digits of their Social Security number on both the application for a ballot and the envelope used to return a completed ballot. If they don’t have either, voters can also indicate they have not been issued that identification.
More than 24,000 Texans lost their votes in the March primary because roughly 12.4% of mail-in ballots were rejected under the new voting law. The secretary of state’s office said it’s critical for voters to remember to add a license or ID number to their ballots.
“The issue that we saw was a lot of people just left that number off on the mailing ballots,” Taylor said.
Ahead of the March primary, hundreds of voters’ applications for mail-in ballots were also rejected, in some cases because they provided a license number that the state didn’t have on file. As of Dec. 20, a reported 493,823 registered voters didn’t have a driver’s license on file, which is the first number voters are asked to provide on both applications to register to vote and applications to vote by mail. The secretary of state has suggested contacting your local voter registrar to ask about how to add one of the required numbers to your voter registration record.
Other voting advocates suggest voters include both their driver’s license or state ID number and the last four digits of their Social Security number, if they have both, to avoid issues.
Does lack of immunity to COVID-19 qualify as a disability during the pandemic?
While a lack of immunity to COVID-19 alone does not allow a voter to request a ballot based on disability, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that it was up to voters to decide if that lack of immunity, combined with their medical history, allows them to meet the state’s eligibility criteria.
Take note that the Texas election code’s definition for disability is broader than other federal definitions. A voter is eligible to vote by mail if they have a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents them from voting in person without the likelihood of “needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.” It’s up to the voter to decide this, and election officials don’t have the authority to question a voter’s reasoning.
What kind of postage do I need to return my mail-in ballot?
It depends on where you live. Postage for mail-in ballots will vary by county because the style and size of the ballot could be vastly different from county to county — and some counties may pay postage for you. Local elections offices should have the specifics once ballots are finalized. That said, if you don’t have enough postage, your ballot is not supposed to be returned to you. Instead, the Postal Service is supposed to deliver the ballot and bill the county for the insufficient or missing postage.
What if there’s an issue with my mail-in ballot?
This will be the first major election in which Texas will allow voters to correct their mail-in ballots if they are at risk of being rejected for a technical error, including missing information or signatures. This also applies to issues with the applications for those ballots. County officials are responsible for alerting voters if there is a defect with their application or ballot.
Voters can use a new online ballot tracker to check the status of both their application to vote by mail and their ballot. The tracker can also be used to make corrections. You can access the tracker here.
Disclosure: The Texas Secretary of State has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
What do I need to know about going to the polls?
How does primary voting work?
Primary elections are used to designate who will be a party’s candidate in the general election in each race, so you’ll be selecting among members of the same party in casting your vote.
At the polls, you’ll have to choose whether you want to vote in the Republican or Democratic primary if you didn’t vote in the March 1 election. If you did, you have to stick to the same party. Some counties will host what’s known as a joint primary, which means everyone checks in at the same desk and uses the same voting machines. In other counties, there will be separate check-in stations and lines for either party.
How can I find which polling places are near me?
County election offices are supposed to post on their websites information on polling locations for election day and during the early voting period by May 3. The secretary of state’s website will also have information on polling locations closer to the start of voting. However, polling locations may change, so be sure to check your county’s election website before going to vote.
What form of ID do I need to bring?
You’ll need one of seven types of valid photo ID to vote in Texas:
A state driver’s license (issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety).
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 with a personal photo.
A U.S. citizenship certificate with a personal photo.
A U.S. passport.
Check out this story for more details.
What if I don’t have a valid photo ID?
Voters can still cast votes if they sign a form swearing that they have a “reasonable impediment” from obtaining a proper photo ID. However, those voters will also have to present one of the following types of identification:
A valid voter registration certificate.
A certified birth certificate.
A document confirming birth admissible in a court of law that establishes your identity (which may include a foreign birth document).
A copy of or an original 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.)
What does the pandemic mean for voting in this election?
You’ll likely see many of the same precautions we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years, including guidelines for social distancing, plastic barriers and regular cleaning. Poll workers may be wearing face masks and other protective equipment, but masks are not required for voters, though health officials still recommend wearing masks in indoor public places in areas with high transmission rates.
What if I was planning to vote in person, but I have been diagnosed with COVID-19?
If you have contracted COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms, consider requesting an emergency early voting ballot or using curbside voting.
Emergency ballot: These ballots can be requested if you become sick or disabled close to an election and are unable to go to a polling place on election day. To qualify, you must designate a representative to submit an application in person on your behalf and have a certified doctor’s note. The application must be received by your county’s early voting clerk before 5 p.m. on election day.
Your ballot must be returned by the same designated representative before 7 p.m. on election day to be counted. Contact your county elections office for more details about an emergency early voting ballot due to sickness or disability.
Curbside voting: You can also contact your county elections office to determine if you’re eligible for curbside voting, which must be made available at every polling place. Some counties have designated parking spots for curbside voters, while others use a doorbell-like system so poll workers know to bring out a portable voting machine.
What dates do I need to know?
Early voting in person runs from May 16-20.
Where am I allowed to vote early?
Voters can cast ballots at any polling location in the county where they are registered to vote. Check your county elections office’s website for early voting locations.
Who is eligible to vote early?
Anyone who is registered to vote may vote early, but it must be done in person unless you qualify to vote by mail.
Election day is May 24.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day.
Are polling locations the same on election day as they are during early voting?
Not always. It’s recommended to check the open polling locations in your area before you head out to cast your ballot. In some counties, election day voting may be restricted to locations in your designated precinct. Other counties allow voters to cast their ballot at any polling place on election day.
How do I check if I’m registered to vote?
You can check to see if you’re registered and verify your information through the Texas secretary of state’s website.
You’ll need one of the following three combinations to log in:
Providing your Texas driver’s license number and date of birth.
Providing your first and last names, date of birth and what county you reside in.
Providing your date of birth and Voter Unique Identifier, which appears on your voter registration certificate.
By when do I need to mail my ballot?
The deadline for mail-in ballots to be returned to the county is election day, which is May 24. If they’re postmarked by 7 p.m. that day, they’ll be counted if they’re received by the county by 5 p.m. May 25.
Absentee ballots also can be delivered to the county elections office in person with a valid form of ID while polls are open on election day.
Completed ballots from military or overseas voters are accepted if they’re received by May 31. (Military and overseas voters can go through a different ballot request and return process.)
What’s on the ballot?
Voters will make the final call in Democratic and Republican primary races that were left undecided after the March 1 election.
In crowded primary elections in which no candidate won more than 50% of votes, the two candidates with the most votes will appear on the ballot for the runoff.
The runoff winners will become their party’s pick for the November general election, during which they’ll face the candidate from the opposing party and possible Libertarian, Green Party and independent candidates.
This year, 50 primary races are headed to runoffs. This includes statewide races for the elected offices of Texas attorney general, lieutenant governor, land commissioner, comptroller and railroad commissioner.
Voters may also see runoff elections for representatives for their districts in the Texas House, Texas Senate, State Board of Education and Congress. If you share your address below, we’ll show you the candidates you get to vote for. (Don’t worry: We don’t store your information.)
Who can vote in the runoffs?
If you voted in the March 1 primary, you can cast your vote only in runoff races for the same party.
“If you vote in, say, the Democratic Party primary, you have to vote in the Democratic Party’s primary runoff. You can’t switch to the Republican runoff,” said Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for the Texas secretary of state’s office.
If you didn’t vote in the March primaries this year, you can choose to vote in either the Democratic or Republican runoffs but must be registered to vote 30 days before the election, which is by the April 25 deadline.
If you voted in March, you remain registered, but make sure your address is up to date.