The Common Law

2008 Election Questions

Hopefully the energy and excitement surrounding this historic election will translate into higher voter turnout. But before voters can cast their ballots, they often have last-minute logistical questions about the voting process. Here are a few of the common issues that come up when folks get ready to head to the polls.

I can't find my voter registration card. Can I still vote without it? What other identification will I need?

If you are a registered voter and you have lost or misplaced your voter certificate (the "voter registration" card), you can still vote without your certificate if you provide another form of identification and sign an affidavit at the polls. Acceptable identification documents include:

• driver's license or personal identification card issued by Department of Public Safety,

• U.S. passport or U.S. citizenship papers issued to you,

• birth certificate or other document confirming birth that establishes your identity and is admissible in a court of law,

• official mail addressed to you from a governmental entity, or

• copy of current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows your name and address.

I moved last year and forgot to re-register in my new county. Is there any chance I can still vote?

Maybe. If you moved to a new county and failed to re-register by the Oct. 6 deadline, you could possibly still be eligible to vote a "limited ballot" in your new county. The limited ballot allows you to vote on candidates and issues in common between your old and new counties, which in this election would include offices like the president, senator, and Texas Supreme Court justices. You must vote the limited ballot during early voting as you cannot do so on Election Day.

What should I do if I see a problem at the polls?

Report it! Voting irregularities should be taken seriously. Call the Texas secretary of state's hotline (800/252-8683) to report it immediately, and follow up by sending a formal written complaint. The secretary of state also recommends that you contact your local county clerk's office for a prompt response. You can also report voter irregularities to watchdog groups such as the National Campaign for Fair Elections (www.nationalcampaignforfairelections.org).

Check out the Texas secretary of state's website for more information on these and other voting issues (www.sos.state.tx.us).

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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