We Dig Into Your Questions On The Candidate Debates, Party Registration And Voter ID

Sep 27, 2018

A couple weeks back, KUT and other NPR member stations in Texas started asking for your questions about the 2018 elections. Some people wanted to know where different candidates stand on various topics. Others just asked about the nuts and bolts of how to vote in Texas.

A lot of these questions seemed to be from people who’ve never voted in Texas before. Maybe they’ve lived here, but this is their first time heading to the polls. But tens of thousands of people from across the country are moving to Texas every year – and they’re bringing the knowledge of how to vote in their old states with them.

Things are a little different here in Texas. 

Let’s empty the mailbag and answer as many of these questions as we can.

First up, here’s a question from Reuben Leslie:

What are schedules for broadcast and streaming for debates for Texas governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. Senate, attorney general, comptroller, agriculture commissioner, railroad commissioner and land commissioner?

The one and only debate between Gov. Greg Abbott and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is Friday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. You can watch it on 11 local stations that are part of the Nexstar Media Group. The debate will also be on KXAS-TV in Dallas, KPRC-TV in Houston and KSAT-TV in San Antonio.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke debated last Friday. They’ll have a second debate Sunday, Sept. 30, in Houston and a final one on Oct. 16 in San Antonio.

KTRK-TV and KXLN-TV will offer an audio and video feed of the Houston debate to all stations, so you can catch it several places. Alternatively, you could just listen to it on KUT Sunday at 6 p.m.

Details for the San Antonio debate haven't been released yet.

There are no debates for the other races.

Next up, Peggy Harding wondered about party registration:

I am a registered Republican voter, but have been voting the Democratic ticket for several years. I want to vote Democratic ticket in the November elections.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Many states require party registration for residents to vote in the primaries. Once registered, people can’t just vote in the other party’s primary; they have to rescind their current affiliation and register with the other party.

But we don’t do that in Texas.

Texas has open primaries. That means you decide which primary you want to vote in the day you head to the polls. You can switch back and forth between parties in separate primary years if you want, no questions asked.

As far as voting a party ticket in November, when you go to the polls, you'll have the option to pick candidates from a single party; this is called “straight-ticket” voting. It will be the first choice you see at the top of the ballot.

You can pick either Republican or Democrat and the ballot will automatically register a vote for all the candidates in that party.

That does not mean you’ve voted for nonpartisan races on the ballot, like city council, mayor or any propositions. If you decide to vote straight party, check down the ballot to make sure you don’t miss a race.

This is the last election with straight-ticket voting. A few years ago, Texas lawmakers passed a law to get rid of it.

Here’s one about voter registration from Teresa Yzaguirre Tijerina:

Am I registered? I signed up when I changed my address on my driver license, but didn’t get voter ID.

Always check to see if you’re registered to vote. You may have done everything right. You may have sent in all the paperwork on time. You may have dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s – and guess what, you still may not be registered.

Here’s how to check: Go to votetexas.gov and click on the "find out if you are already registered" link.

It will show if you’re registered and what address the registration is under.

That brings us to a question by Aurolyn Luykx:

If I use my driver license as my ID when I vote, does my driver license have to show the same address as my voter's card?

If the address on your registration does not match the address on whatever ID you bring to the polls, you can sign an affidavit swearing that the address on your registration is your current address. Again, you can change your address online at votetexas.gov.

And one more thing: voter ID. Remember that’s different from your voter registration card, which is mailed out after the voter registration deadline. Residents should get an actual voter ID only if they can’t afford a driver license and can show they don’t have access to any of the other forms of photo ID that are allowed to vote.

Here’s a final one on voter registration from Jacqui Woolley:

Can we send voter registration to Secretary of State elections division in Austin?

No. Send it to your county voter registrar. Here’s an address list for all the county registrar offices in Texas.

And finally, here’s a question from Bri Landry, who isn’t asking about how to vote, but instead wants to know how other people are voting.

I am trying to find more numbers about voter turnout. I can only find out-of-date articles and nothing about any studies.

The best place to find historical data on voter turnout is at the Texas Secretary of State’s website. There you can find county-by-county information on voter turnout going back to 1988.

OK, the mailbag is empty. That means we need more questions! Remember, we not only want to help you on the mechanics of voting, but also what you want to know about the candidates. Send in your questions below.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated residents would not be able to vote on a regular ballot if the address on their registration did not match the ID they brought to the polls.  

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