As citizens of this state we have many opportunities. One of those is voting. Yet it is sad that many people don’t participate in the voting process. They create all kinds of excuses for not going to their polling place and end up depriving themselves of a basic freedom, the right to choose their political leaders.
Barely half of the people who are eligible to vote actually show up. One of the reasons this may be is that people don’t know what to expect when they go into a voting location. Their fear of doing something wrong or looking foolish prevents them from trying something new or different. This lack of involvement then extends to their children who never get the chance to see their parents participating in elections. Eventually the freedoms we enjoy are removed not by an outsider but by our own inhibition.
This is a guide to those who want to break the cycle of indifference and become a decision maker in their community.
The first step to voting is registration. Voter registration uses your identity and residence to define the issues upon which you should vote. If a city asks it citizens to decide important issues and you live in the city, your registration allows you to vote. Registration also prevents someone outside the city from playing a part in your government. You must register at least 30 days prior to any election. A voter registration card is mailed as proof of registration. Take your card with you when you go to vote.
The second step is gathering information. Voting requires making a selection. To cast your vote you must know what is on the ballot. That is why information about the election is important. You should learn what offices are on the ballot and who the candidates are. If you know something about the office it is easier to decide which candidate has the best qualifications to hold the office. The more you learn about the candidates the easier it is to make up your mind as to which person will most closely reflect your values.
Information is located in many places. Candidates mail postcards and letters letting you know how they stand on the issues. The media write stories about the candidates and report on speeches made during the campaigns. Opposing candidates and political groups release information giving a different view of the people running for office. Campaigns support phone banks who contact the voters with suggestions. Your friends also have opinions on the people running for public office.
Step three requires that you schedule two events. The first thing you should schedule is time to make your decisions regarding the candidates and issues on the ballot. Setting a time gives you an opportunity to take all the information, understand its meanings and select the candidate or measure you will support. You should do this before you go to the polls. The other event to schedule is when you go to the polls.
Here you have a few options. For those 65 or over or for those who have a disability which prevents them from going to the polling place, you may request a ballot by mail. You may also request a ballot by mail if you will be away from the county during early voting and on Election Day. The rest of us will have to vote in person during early voting or on Election Day.
When you enter the polling location (early voting or Election Day) you must bring with you some form of identification. The simplest forms of identity are your voter registration card or your Texas Driver’s License or Texas Identification Card. Other forms of identification are picture ID’s from work or school which contain your residence address, letters from an official government agency with your residence address and blank checks with your residence address.
Your polling place is located within the election precinct where you reside. Voting may be in a school, a church, a volunteer fire station or even a residence. Election personnel will have a table with a list of registered voters. Your name should be on the list. A clerk will check your identification against the list and mark that you are voting. You will be asked to sign-in on the signature roster to prove you came into the polling location to vote. All of this is known as qualifying the voter and once you complete this step you will be directed to the voting machines.
In Victoria County we use electronic touch screen voting. The system is reliable and secure. A clerk will activate the terminal and demonstrate the proper method of voting. Press on the name of your candidate to vote. There may be several pages of offices and candidates and Texas law requires you go through every page. After you have made your selection Texas law requires that the terminal display a summary of your votes. Again there may be several pages of summary and you will be required to look at each page. Once you have completed your review you must press the red “VOTE” button to cast your vote. Up until the time you press the “VOTE” button you may change your mind about any selection made.
If you would like additional information on any topic discussed, please feel free to contact the Victoria County Elections office at 576-0124 during regular office hours.
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