What I Wish I Knew Before Voting

First of all, yes, go vote! 

But please, before you do, educate and prepare yourself, so when you get there you know exactly what to expect on the ballot and exactly how you’re going to vote. 

This was my first time voting in Texas and I think I definitely got swept away by the “Go vote!” call to action. Which is awesome, but voting also doesn’t need to be rushed. Especially because here in Texas the only way to vote is in person (unfortunately). The last time I voted, which was in Utah, I voted easily via mail (the ballot was sent in the mail and then we just had to mail it back or drop it off) so this Tuesday was my first time physically going to the polls. Here are some tips, and things I wish I knew before I went in to vote! 

1. Remember to bring a photo ID (like your driver’s license) and your voter registration card or receipt. 

2. Block off maybe an hour and a half to two hours for this registration process (just in case), although it depends what time you go in and where. I went to the Student Union on the Edinburg campus around 4:20 pm and there was quite a line. I think many people left because the line was so long. And by the time I had finished voting, the line had gotten even longer. I suspect the lines are shorter in the earlier hours (voting is from 7 am to 7 pm). 

3. There are two lines. First you have to get into the “sign in” line and present your ID and card. The voting officials will print out a sticker with your name and barcode information which they will use later when you’re first and ready to vote in the second line. You’ll also have to sign your name on a sheet that they will point to. After this, you can get into the second line, the line that actually leads to the voting booths. I wasn’t told about the “sign in” line until I had been standing in the second line for quite some time! 

4. By the time you get to the voting booth, you’re probably already tired. After a long day of classes and a heavy backpack, I sure was. But don’t rush through the process! Take your time voting! Don’t think about all the other people waiting in line to vote, just focus on voting for the people and propositions you want to support. 

5. In case you miss the signs (I didn’t see them at all, but then again I wasn’t particularly paying attention), you can’t use your phone while you’re voting. Another reason why you need to look up candidates and what they stand for prior to getting into the booth! 

6. Know what’s on the ballot. This was my critical mistake. I really had no idea exactly who and what was going to be on there. For Texas statewide candidates, I wish I had used this site: https://webservices.sos.state.tx.us/ballot-cert/report.aspx. It does not provide information on the candidates, just a list of who is on there. At least now you’ll have something to Google. For candidates and propositions in your city in the Valley specifically, you can use the information in this news article: http://www.krgv.com/category/312408/elections-2018. 

7. For city and county voting, they do not list party affiliation, just names. I think this excludes the country judges though. If you’ve voted before, you might say this point is obvious. But just in case you think you can vote solely based on party affiliation, you can’t. So looking up who is on the ballot and their qualifications and history becomes even more important. Personally, because I had no knowledge of the city and county candidates, I did not feel comfortable choosing one over the other and so I didn’t. 

8. Specifically, try to figure out what the city propositions actually mean, before going in to vote. Because they are not meant to be clear (and dare I say transparent). You can read it, but it is difficult to understand the actual effects of the propositions if you have no prior background regarding them. 

And remember to remind your friends and family to vote! Even if you think your one vote won’t matter or even if you feel impartial to all the candidates, exercising this right is extremely important. When you don’t exercise this right, it can be taken away. 

I hope these tips are helpful for those who are voting at the booths in Texas for the first time. Now go and exercise your freedom to vote!