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How to Vote in Texas' 2020 Election: What You Need to Know

En español | Texas lawmakers haven't changed much about how the state will conduct its general election amid the coronavirus pandemic:

  • As usual, Texas will allow absentee voting for those 65 and older, people with disabilities, and those away from their home county during the voting period, allowing them to safely cast ballots from home.
  • Texas voters will be able to cast their ballots early and in person beginning Oct. 13. In July, Gov. Greg Abbott extended the early voting window, which had been scheduled to open a week later, helping voters avoid long Election Day lines.
  • Despite considerable discussion among state lawmakers and a few court challenges over the issue of expanded mail-in voting, the rules for voting from home have not changed this year.
A man walks out of an absentee voting station after voting
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Here's what else you need to know:

How do I register to vote?

Texans can register to vote by mail or in person. The secretary of state's website has an online voter registration portal that lets you fill out, print out and mail in your application. You can also pick up an application from your county's voter registrar or request that the registrar send you a postage-paid registration package in the mail. Libraries, high schools and government offices in Texas should also have registration forms available to mail in.

Or you can register in person at your county's voter registrar's office. Applications must be mailed to or dropped at your county's voter registrar's office. For all of these options, the deadline to register for the November general election is Oct. 5. You can use the secretary of state's website to check if you're already registered.

How can I get an absentee ballot? Are there important deadlines?

Absentee ballots are only available to voters who meet certain criteria: Those who are 65 or older, are disabled or will be out of their home county on Election Day and during the early voting period. Incarcerated Texans who are otherwise eligible to vote also qualify.

Request an application for an absentee ballot by printing and filling out a form from the secretary of state's website. It must be sent to your county's early voting clerk, who is either the county clerk or the elections administrator in your area, depending on where you live. Contact information for those officials are on the secretary of state's website. You can also request that an absentee ballot application be mailed to you through the secretary of state's website.

Note that a witness signature is only required on your absentee ballot application only if you have a physical disability that prevents you from signing your name.

To obtain a ballot for the November general election, your early voting clerk must receive your application by Oct. 23. Once you receive your ballot, it must be returned to your early voting clerk by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. If your ballot is postmarked by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3, it can arrive on Nov. 4 and still be counted.

How do I know my absentee ballot is secure?

State officials say each county employs its own security measures. These include absentee ballot envelopes with bar codes linked to the postal service that enable voters and election officials to track them from drop-off to processing at the local administrator’s office.

When is Election Day? When are polls open?

Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Rules for where voters can cast their ballots vary by county; use the state's voter portal to see where you can vote in person. The portal will have poll location information starting two days before Election Day. In some counties, you can vote at any polling location within the county. In other counties, you can vote only at the precinct to which you are assigned.

Can I vote before Election Day?

Yes, early voting runs from Oct. 13 to Oct. 30. Registered voters can cast their ballot at any early voting location in their county. Check the state's online voter portal on or after Oct. 11 to find out where you can cast your ballot.

What form of identification do I need to vote?

Voters will need to present one of seven acceptable forms of identification to cast their ballot: a Texas driver's license, an election identification certificate, a Texas personal identification card, a state handgun license, a U.S. military identification card, a U.S. citizenship certificate or a U.S. passport book or card.

If you don't have any of these forms of identification, you can fill out a declaration at the polls explaining your situation. You'll be required to present a voter registration certificate, bank statement or paycheck to identify yourself. Voters with disabilities can apply for a permanent exemption from presenting identification.

What is being done to make polling places safe from the coronavirus?

The secretary of state has issued an extensive list of health protocols for polling stations and is encouraging Texans to make use of the early voting period. The secretary of state's office has distributed a safety checklist for voters and election officials. In July, Gov. Abbott signed an order requiring people in counties with 20 or more active coronavirus cases to wear face coverings in public.

Will I be able to vote in the same place as I always have?

Not necessarily. Some polling locations may be combined to evenly distribute election officials. Check the state's online voter portal before you head to the polls.

What are the key races in my state?

  • U.S. President
  • U.S. Senate: Incumbent John Cornyn (R) vs. MJ Hegar (D)
  • U.S. House: All 36 seats
  • State Supreme Court: Three seats
  • State Senate: 16 seats
  • State House: All 150 seats

Voting rules and procedures may change before Election Day. We’ll update this story if they do, so bookmark this page and check back.

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AARP is urging older Americans to ask the candidates 5 key questions:

  • Just over half of all older Social Security beneficiaries rely on the program for at least 50 percent of their income. If elected, how will you ensure that current and future Social Security benefits are not cut as part of deficit reduction?
  • Half of the people with traditional Medicare spend at least a sixth of their income on health care. If elected, how will you protect Medicare from benefit cuts, as well as lower health care costs and ensure that older adults continue receiving the affordable health care they have earned?
  • COVID-19 has caused death and suffering for too many older Americans who require long-term care. If elected, how will you make sure these citizens can access safe and affordable long-term care at home, as well as in facilities like nursing homes and assisted living?

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