Elections Frequently Asked Questions
Austin PBS has been working with [America Amplified](https://www.americaamplified.org/ "America Amplified website") in recent weeks to answer people's election questions, and we want to share some of the most common answers with you! Have other questions about voting not covered here? You can submit your question on our elections home page and we will send you the answer!
Some questions have been edited for clarity and length.
Important Dates To Remember
Oct. 11: Last day to register to vote
Oct. 28: Last day to request a mail-in ballot
Oct. 24-Nov. 4: Early voting
Nov. 8: Election Day
Check your voter registration here, or with your county's election office. If you qualify for one, apply for a mail-in ballot here. Track your mail-in ballot here. Find your polling place and hours of operation here, or with your county's election office.
Who's on the ballot? -Bill
There are a lot of races on the ballot this year, including the Texas governor and lieutenant governor. And because political maps have been redrawn to factor in new census data, Texans everywhere are voting for U.S. representatives, state senators, state representatives, and State Board of Education members. But different areas will have different local races on their ballots, from city council races to school boards.
You can check your county's election office's website to find out who will be on your ballot. You can also check out the League of Women Voters site to find a voters guide with information on candidates you'll be voting on. You can also submit your address at Vote411.org and get a sample ballot.
My 17 year old will turn 18 on Nov 3, 2022. How can I make sure he is registered to vote? -Shannon
Any U.S. citizen who is 18 years old on Election Day is eligible to vote, if registered. The registration deadline for the Nov. 8 election is Oct. 11. You can check that you're registered to vote at the Texas Secretary of State's website.
What can I bring with me to vote? -anonymous
You'll need to have a couple things with you when you go to vote. First is an accepted form of ID:
- Texas Driver License
- U.S. Passport
- U.S. Citizenship Certificate with person's photograph
- Texas Election ID Certificate
- Texas Personal ID
- Texas Handgun License
- Military ID with person's photograph
If you don't have a photo ID, you may need to sign a form and bring a document that verifies where you live, like a voter registration certificate or a utility bill.
You'll also want to bring any notes you have on candidates or ballot measures. Remember, voters are not allowed to use wireless communication devices within 100 feet of a polling station, and that includes cell phones. So you can't check notes you may have saved on your phone, but you can bring written notes or print-outs.
Are mail-in ballots available? -John
Voting by mail is available in Texas to people who meet one of the following requirements:
- will be away from the county on election day AND during early voting hours
- are sick or disabled as defined by Texas Election Code
- expected to give birth within three weeks of Election Day
- confined in jail or involuntary civil commitment
- are 65 or older
If you meet one of these requirements, you can request your ballot by calling the county clerk's office, mailing in your application or emailing in your application. You can read more information about voting by mail on the Texas Secretary of State's website.
The deadline for vote by mail applications for the Nov. 8 elections is Oct. 28, 2022.
I registered to vote by mail in the primary election earlier this year. Do I need to register again to vote by mail for the November election? -Malcolm
If you registered for mail-in voting within the last year, you don't need to re-request a ballot. The registration is good for a year, not a single election. If more than a year passes, it's likely that you will have to request your ballot ahead of each election. You can do that by calling your local election office. If you want to check your voter registration status, you can do so at the Texas Secretary of State's website.
I'm an out-of-state college student. How does the process work? -Frances
If you're a Texas voter but you're attending college in another state, you can apply for an absentee ballot and vote by mail. You can find the application to vote by mail on the Texas Secretary of State's website.
If you have moved to Texas for college, you'll need to register to vote in Texas. If you are registered to vote in Texas but have moved, you'll need to update your registration. It can be tricky to fit college addresses into the forms, but you'll need to list your mailing address in the lines provided. If your residence has multiple lines when you normally write it out, you can still add all that information on the form in the same place. To find out more about registering on campus, visit the Campus Vote Project.
Can mail in ballots be returned to a drop box & if so can there only be one per county? -J.A.
Texas doesn't have drop boxes for mail in ballots. If you want to drop off your ballot in person, you can do so only on election day, between 7am and 7pm at your county clerk's office. You must do so in person and be able to present one of the seven forms of accepted ID.
If you mail your ballot what is the deadline for postmark? -J.A.
It must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, and returned in the official envelope provided to you. Ballots mailed from within the United States will be accepted if received by 5 p.m. the day after the election.
Need to track your mail-in ballot? You can do so here.
Do I have to put a copy of an ID with my absentee ballot application? -anonymous
No. When voting absentee, write the number from your driver’s license or other state ID on the application for your ballot. You can see all the ID requirements on the Secretary of State’s website.
Is it legal for me to drive other, non-family people to the polls during early voting and/or on Election Day? And where would I find out who needs this help? -Anne
Good question! Yes, it is legal in Texas to drive relatives and non-relatives to the polls. In 2021, there were some concerns that Senate Bill 7 would include provisions limiting who you could, and could not, drive to the polls. As Dallas' WFAA found, an earlier version of the bill did seek to limit and track carpooling, but that language did not make it into the final draft.
If you're interested in giving people a ride to go vote, you can check with local voter advocacy groups to see if they need volunteer drivers. You can also check in with these groups if you need a ride. Also, some rideshare companies like Lyft are offering free and discounted rides to the polls. You can check their sites to see if you qualify.
Can poll watchers, not workers, approach voters or engage with voters in any way? -Susan Marie
Poll watchers are not new in Texas, but where they can be and what they can do have been recently expanded. According to the Secretary of State's website, poll watchers are allowed to observe and report on irregularities in the conduct of any election, but can't interfere in the orderly conduct of an election. They can observe without obstructing the conduct of an election and call to the attention of an election officer any observed or suspected irregularity or violation of law in the conduct of the election.
But they are not allowed to bring any recording devices to the polling place. Poll watchers are not allowed to see how someone votes, talk with voters, or communicate with a voter in any way about the election. And while they can move freely about the area, poll watchers are not allowed at a voting station while a voter is preparing a ballot either independently or with assistance. If found violating these rules, an election judge can dismiss a poll watcher.
How do I make sure my vote counts? -Donald
The first step is to go vote! You can start by visiting votetexas.gov to print a voter registration form or look up your voter registration. You can also find your polling place and hours of voting. If you're mailing in an absentee ballot, you can track it here. You can also check with your county election officials to make sure your in-person vote was counted.
If you can, try to vote in runoff and special elections. In general Texas has low voter turnout: only about 18% of voters cast ballots in the 2022 primaries, and the state ranked near the bottom for voter turnout in the 2020 presidential elections. That means a small group of voters are making decisions for a large group of people! But you can make your voice heard by casting your ballot whenever you can!
How is a winner determined in the Austin mayoral election? -anonymous
There are two ways to win a mayoral or city council election in Austin. The first is to win outright, by getting more than 50% of the vote. However, in races that have a large number of candidates, that can be tough to get. In those cases, where there are votes cast for many candidates, the top two candidates that have two highest vote tallies move on to a separate runoff election.
When would the voting day be if there is a runoff election? -anonymous
This year, the runoff election will be held on Tuesday, December 13.
According to the state election code, runoff elections are set within five days of the final count of election results. In general, for Austin local elections, the runoff is held between 20 and 45 days following the final canvass of the election.
During the runoff election, voters get a second chance to choose who they would like as a representative, regardless of who they voted for in the November election. The winner of the runoff gets a seat on city council.
If there is a runoff election, Austin PBS will host a forum with the candidates. You can check back here for updates on that conversation.