Student Voting Guide | Texas
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, a report that we issued last year documents a number of these changes and 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 in February 2012.
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 card (proof of residency) will be sent to you within 30 days. Make sure that all of the information on the card is correct and do not misplace the card. You need this as your proof of identification at the polls. If you attempt to vote without your registration card, you may vote by signing an affidavit and presenting one of the approved forms of identification (see the “Identification” section below for more details).
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. 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. The last day to register for the 2012 general election is October 9, 2012. If you register by mail, your registration application must be postmarked by that date. 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. The last day to register in person for the 2012 general election is October 9, 2012.
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.
In Texas, you can register to vote if you are a United States citizen, a resident of the county, and you are 18 or your 18th birthday is less than two months away. 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.
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. 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. “The presumption is not in favor of the parents’ home or the college home; rather, the presumption is in favor of the voter’s own assessment of the facts and his or her intent.”At times, students in Texas have had difficulty registering in particular counties, but this ruling from the Secretary of State is clear, and any registrar who holds you to a different standard is violating the law.
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. 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. 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. You then have 10 days to request a hearing on the challenge. 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. At this hearing, you have the right to appear personally and to offer evidence on your behalf. After the hearing, the registrar must make a prompt determination of your eligibility. Your eligibility can also be challenged by another eligible voter of the county before the registrar, following a similar procedure. 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.
If your registration is for any reason challenged at the polls, you may submit a provisional ballot (see the “Absentee/Early Voting” section below for more information on provisional ballots).
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. However, if you own a vehicle, you must register and obtain title for the vehicle within 30 days of becoming a Texas resident.
Texas recently passed Senate Bill 14, a new law that makes significant changes to Texas’s photo identification (“ID”) requirement to vote. However, that law is not currently in effect, because it is subject to a form of approval by the Department of Justice or a federal court called preclearance. The Department of Justice rejected the law and Texas filed a lawsuit to try to obtain preclearance for the new law at the end of January 2012. On August 30, 2012, the federal court denied preclearance of the law. Thus, our description below concerns the laws that are currently in effect and not the new law, which may or may not be in effect before the election. For more information on what the new law would require, including a list of acceptable IDs under that new law, please review the Brennan Center summary of passed and pending restrictive laws here. You can continue to check back on the Brennan Center website for updates on the status of this law.
The following rules currently remain in effect in Texas with respect to identification:
At the polls, every Texas voter must show their voter registration certificate. If you are unable to show your certificate, you will have to sign an affidavit and show ID. The following forms of ID are accepted at the polls: (1) a valid driver's license or personal identification card from any state, regardless of whether the license or card has expired; (2) any photo ID with the voter’s name, including student IDs; (3) a birth certificate; (4) U.S. citizenship papers; (5) a U.S. passport; (6) official mail from a governmental entity and addressed to you; (7) a copy of a current utility bill (including cell phone bills), bank statement, government check, paycheck, housing bill from a public college or university, or other government document that shows the voter’s name and address; and (8) any other form of documentation authored by the Secretary of State.
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 ID, you will have to vote a provisional ballot. The ballot will be counted if it can be determined from your ballot and registration records that you are an eligible voter.
The Texas absentee voting ballot is available online here.
All absentee voting is called “early voting” in Texas, even when you vote by mail. 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). The same restrictions apply for in-person early voting, which takes place at the main voting polling place. 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. To participate in early voting, you must submit an early voting application, available on the web site of the Secretary of State at the above link or by calling 1-800-252-VOTE. Your county clerk must receive your application at least 7 days before Election Day, but not more than 60 days before Election Day. If that date is a weekend or national holiday, your application may be received on the next business day. Your early voting ballot must be received by your county clerk by the time polls close on Election Day.
Last Updated in February 2012
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 63.001 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.143(a), (e) (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.143(d) (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.143 (e) (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 11.002 (West 2011).
 See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).
 Residency Requirements for Voting in an Election in Texas, Op. Att’y Gen. GA-0141, 12 (Tex. 2004).
 Residency Requirements for Voting in an Election in Texas, Op. Att’y Gen. GA-0141, 12 (Tex. 2004). at 6–7.
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 1.015 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.075 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.076 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. §§ 13.077–.078 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.077(c) (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 13.079(a) (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 16.091–095 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 17.001–008 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 63.011 (West 2011).
 Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 521.029 (West 2011).
 Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 502.040 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. §§ 63.001, 63.006, 63.008 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 63.0101 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 65.054 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 81.001 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 85.001 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 85.002 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 85.001 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 84.007 (West 2011).
 Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 86.007 (West 2011).