Student Voting Guide | Texas

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Texas. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.

Registration

The Texas voter registration application form is available here. Texas does not accept online voter registration, so all registrations must be either mailed or completed in person. Your mailed application can be filled out by hand or filled out electronically here. You can also request a postage-paid voter registration form online or visit your local post office, library, Texas Department of Public Safety office, or Texas Department of Human Services office to pick up an application. We recommend calling these offices beforehand to make sure they carry voter registration applications.

After you apply, your voter registration certificate (proof of registration) will be sent to you within 30 days. Make sure that all of the information on the card is correct; if there is a mistake, make corrections and return the card to your county election official. This card will list your precinct and polling place. If you applied for and received a permanent exemption from Texas’s photo identification requirement on the basis of a disability, this card will indicate that. In this circumstance, you must present this card when you go vote.[1]

The registration deadline in Texas is ordinarily the 29th day before the election. Technically, the voter registration deadline is 30 days before the election, but if the 30th day before Election Day is a weekend or national holiday, voting registration forms are due on the next business day.[2] Because the 30th day before a Tuesday is always a Sunday, the deadline for all elections held on a Tuesday (including all federal elections) is 29 days before the election. If you register by mail, your registration application must be postmarked by that date.[3] You may also register in person at least 30 days before the election at your local registrar. If the 30th day is a weekend or national holiday, the next business day will be considered timely registration.[4]

If you move within Texas but remain in the same county, you must file your new address in writing with your local registrar or you may submit the in-county change online. You should call your local registrar to find out how far in advance of the election you must make the in-county address change. If you moved within Texas and to a different county, you must re-register to vote following the same procedures outlined above.[5]

In Texas, you can register to vote if you are a United States citizen, a resident of the county, and you are 18[6] or your 18th birthday is less than two months away.[7] If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote. If you think you might be affected, you should contact local election officials.

Residency

At School. Students can establish residency in Texas if they have a present intention to remain at their Texas school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home.[8] Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional. The Texas Attorney General has stressed that students—like all other voters—have the right to determine their residence.[9]  “The intention of the voter registration applicant is crucial to a proper determination of residence, and every person is strongly presumed to have ‘the right and privilege of fixing his residence according to his own desires.’”[10]At times, students in Texas have had difficulty registering in particular counties, but this ruling from the Secretary of State is clear.

At Home. Like all states, Texas allows students to keep their voting residency even if they move out of the district to attend school, and the only way you will lose this residency is by establishing residency in a new state.[11] While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered abandonment of your Texas residency, some judges or officials might view it as such. If you have established residence in another state and are moving back to Texas with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register at home.

Challenges to Residency. The Secretary of State has cautioned election officials not to influence what a voter states on his or her registration form.[12] If your eligibility to vote based on residency is challenged, you must be sent a written notice within two days of the challenge that explains the reasons for the challenge and tells you how to request a hearing to appeal the issue. The same information must be provided to you if you are challenged in person.[13] You then have 10 days to request a hearing on the challenge.[14] Following the receipt of your request, the registrar has two days in which to notify you of the date, time, and location of the hearing, and must actually conduct the hearing within 10 days of your request.[15] At this hearing, you have the right to appear personally and to offer evidence on your behalf.[16] After the hearing, the registrar must make a prompt determination of your eligibility.[17] Your eligibility can also be challenged by another eligible voter of the county before the registrar, following a similar procedure.[18] You are entitled to appeal the registrar’s decision in the local district court within 30 days, but the district court’s decision is final.[19]

Effect on Driver’s License. Voting in Texas may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents. Ordinarily, if you are a new Texas resident, you may operate a vehicle in Texas for 90 days using the driver’s license from your previous state. After this 90 days period, you may only operate a vehicle in Texas if you have a Texas driver’s license.[20] However, if you own a vehicle, you must register and obtain title for the vehicle within 30 days of becoming a Texas resident.[21]

Identification

As of August 2014, Texas’s photo ID requirement is currently subject to ongoing litigation. Please consult with your local election official to verify the requirement’s current status. As of August 2014, the following is in effect:

Texas voters are required to show photo ID at the polls.[22] Student IDs are not accepted in Texas for purposes of identification for voting. The following forms of ID are accepted at the polls: a valid Texas driver’s license, an Election Identification Certificate, a personal identification card, a concealed handgun carry license, a U.S. military identification card containing a photograph, a U.S. citizenship certificate containing a photograph, and a U.S. passport.[23] With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, ID must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented at the polls.[24]

If you do not have an acceptable form of photo ID, you can obtain an Election Identification Certificate from the Department of Public Safety driver license offices at no charge.[25]

First time voters who registered without providing a driver’s license or the last four digits of their social security number may be asked to provide two forms of ID, one of which must be a photo ID. If you cannot show the required photo ID, you may vote a provisional ballot.[26] The ballot will be counted if you provide one of the following within 6 days following the election: an acceptable form of photo ID to the voter registrar; or an affidavit executed in the presence of the voter registrar.[27] The affidavit must attest that you have a religious objection to being photographed or that you lack photo ID as the result of a natural disaster within 45 days of the election.[28]

Absentee/Early Voting

The Texas absentee voting ballot is available online here.

All absentee voting is called “early voting” in Texas, even when you vote by mail.[29] Texas allows the following people to participate in early voting: those who are disabled; in jail (but otherwise eligible); over 65 years old, or out of their county of residence for both Election Day and the in-person early voting period (usually 17 days through four days before Election Day).[30]

Any voter may participate in in-person early voting.[31] You should check with your county elections office for the exact dates, times, and locations for early voting.

Registered students who expect to be away from home during the in-person early voting period and on Election Day may vote early by mail.[32] To participate in early voting by mail, you must submit an early voting application, available by request or download on the web site of the Secretary of State or by calling 1-800-252-VOTE. Your county clerk must receive your application at least 9 days before Election Day, but not more than 60 days before Election Day. If that date is a weekend or national holiday, your application must be received on the first preceding business day.[33] Your early voting ballot must be received by your county clerk by the time polls close on Election Day.[34]

The photo ID requirement for in-person voting does not apply to voting by mail.[35]

Last Updated August 15, 2014.


[1] See Texas Secretary of State, Your Voter Registration Card, http://votetexas.gov/register-to-vote/550-2/ (last visited August 14, 2014).

[2] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.143(a), (e).

[3] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.143(d).

[4] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.143(e).

[5] See Texas Secretary of State, Voter Name and Address Changes, https://txapps.texas.gov/tolapp/sos/SOSACManager?XXtask=105 (last visited August 14, 2014).

[6] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 11.002.

[7] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.001(b).

[8] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[9] Residency Requirements for Voting in an Election in Texas, Op. Att’y Gen. GA-0141(Tex. 2004).

[10] Residency Requirements for Voting in an Election in Texas, Op. Att’y Gen. GA-0141, at 5 (Tex. 2004), citing McBeth v. Streib, 96 S.W.2d 992, 995 (Tex. Civ. App.—San Antonio 1936).

[11] See Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 1.015(d) (“A person does not acquire a residence in a place to which the person has come for temporary purposes only and without the intention of making that place the person’s home.”).

[12] Letter from Geoffrey S. Connor, Texas Secretary of State, to Rick Perry, Governor of Texas at 6–7 (Jan. 22, 2004), available at http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/elo/gsc1.pdf.

[13] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.075.

[14] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.076.

[15] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. §§ 13.077–.078.

[16] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.077(c).

[17] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.079(a).

[18] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 16.091–095

[19] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 17.001–008.

[20] Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 521.029.

[21] Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 502.040.

[22] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. §§ 63.001, 63.0101.

[23] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 63.0101.

[24] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 63.0101.

[25] Election Identification Certificate (EIC), Texas Dep’t of Public Safety, http://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/electionID.htm (last visited August 14, 2014).

[26] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 63.001(g).

[27] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. §§ 65.054(b), 65.0541.

[28] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. §§ 65.054(b)

[29] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 81.001.

[30] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. §§ 82.001 – 82.005, 85.001.

[31] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 82.005.

[32] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 82.001.

[33] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 84.007.

[34] Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 86.007.

[35] FAQ, Texas Sec’y of State, http://votetexas.gov/faq/ (last visited August 14, 2014).