Primary Primer: Here Are The Basics To Voting In Texas

Jan 5, 2018

Welcome to the 2018 Elections!

Got questions for Ben about the elections? Email him at, and he may answer them in an upcoming column.
Credit Ben Hassan / Texas Tribune

This could be a historic year at the ballot box. Republicans are looking to sweep all the statewide offices again, but Democrats have fielded more candidates for more races than they have in years. To help you navigate through all of this, we’re starting a weekly column. It’ll include not only the politics at play, but also information on the basics, like how to register or find your polling place.

I know, it feels too early to be talking about all this, but the Texas primary is the earliest in the country. A March 6 Election Day means early voting starts Feb. 20 and the last day to register is Feb. 5 – just one month from today.

So let’s kick off these weekly musings with a simple guide to getting ready for the primaries.

Check to see if you're registered

Did you recently move to Texas, or did you recently move within the state? Either way, you’ll need to register at your new address to make sure you’re on the books and able to vote for the city and state officials in your part of Texas. Even if you’ve been registered for years, it doesn’t hurt to make sure a computer glitch or vast government conspiracy hasn’t kicked you off the rolls. You can use the Texas Secretary of State’s Am I Registered website to make sure everything’s good to go.

Make sure you have the right voter ID

Texas has a voter ID law. The law is being challenged in court, and an initial ruling last year gave voters additional options for what kind of identification they can show. There are two sets of ID you need to know about to vote. The first are the documents that get you into the polling booth no questions asked. That includes a driver’s license, Texas Election Identification Certificate and passport.

The second set are the things you can use if you sign an affidavit affirming you could not get a primary ID. Here’s that list:

  • Valid voter registration certificate
  • Certified birth certificate (must be an original)
  • 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 government document with your name and an address (original required if it contains a photograph)

But again, the law is still in court; a ruling is expected this year. That could lead to an immediate appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would mean a longer wait for a final resolution.

Find out what's on the ballot

I know I said it wasn’t too early to be talking about this, but as of Jan. 5, Travis County didn’t have a sample ballot up for the March 6 primaries. So I can’t give you a link that lets you know everything you can vote for … yet. Once they're up, you can find out what will be on your ballot at

What you can do is check out who represents you and what district that lawmaker represents. Just go to the Texas Legislature’s Who Represents Me website. That will give you information on your U.S. and state representatives, state senator and even state school board member. Knowing that, you can head over to the Texas Tribune and match up your districts with a list of candidates. Eventually, hopefully soon, we’ll have sample ballots letting you see everything that you’ll have a chance to vote for on primary day.

Do your own research

OK, yes, my goal is to help inform you about what’s on the ballot, what issues are being debated and even what things aren’t but should be. In the end, you have to do your own work to participate in a democracy. I’ll give you information like who's on the ballot and maybe their campaign promises, but it’s on you to look a little deeper and make up your mind. That’s how things work.

OK, maybe KUT can help a little more

If you do have a question about the primaries, from campaign promises to how to find a polling place, send it in to KUT’s Texas Decides project. We’ll try to answer as many of those as possible.

Welcome to the 2018 Elections!