Everything You Need to Know About Your First Austin Election

How and where to vote

A "Vote Here/Aquí" sign outside a vote center during the March primary (Photo by John Anderson)

If you're new to voting in Texas, it can be daunting to figure out. The state has continued to pass legislation that makes voting more difficult, including a recent law that led to mail-in ballots being rejected en masse. But really, once you're in the swing of voting in Austin, we promise it's easy-peasy. This FAQ should answer all of the questions that make you go, "Huh, wonder if <blank> is gonna be a huge pain. Maybe I'll just vote next election cycle." No need to wait.

If You're Not Yet Registered to Vote

You'll need to register by October 11 to cast your vote on November 8. If you're worried that getting a Texas driver's license is a complicated pain in the ass, that is true! The great news is that you don't need a Texas driver's license to register or vote in Texas. You will need to bring a valid ID when you vote, but there are lots of options and an out-of-state license will work.

Unfortunately, to register to vote, you do need to use the ancient technology of physical paper. If this freaks you out because you don't have a printer or have hardly sent physical mail in your life – we once again have great news. You can request a printed application with a paid-postage envelope (no stamp needed), which will be sent to your address. To do that, go here: bit.ly/3zNzm4w. Once you've filled it out and signed it, you can mail it to the Travis County Voter Registrar (Travis County Voter Registration, PO Box 149327, Austin, TX 78714-9327) or drop it off at the Travis County Tax Office (5501 Airport Blvd.). If you don't want to wait to receive the form in the mail, you can complete the same application online at bit.ly/3QpZtpi and print it up yourself. You can also register to vote in person at any Travis County Tax Office. Locations here: bit.ly/3BWnHmw.

If You're Already Registered to Vote in Texas

If you've registered to vote in Texas but recently moved to Austin, all you need to do is update your address online at this link: bit.ly/3doMs0y. If you think you might be registered but can't quite remember, you can find out in a few seconds by searching yourself here: bit.ly/3Ag0SZF.

Which Races You'll Get to Vote In

You can get a list of your representatives by searching your address at wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home. If you're a UT-Austin student living on campus or in West Campus, you live in Austin City Council District 9, currently represented by Kathie Tovo, who is retiring – there are at least five viable candidates to succeed her (more on this race next week). You can find your council district by searching your address here: austintexas.gov/government.

Where to Learn About Candidates

Here! We write about political issues every week and we'll publish a progressive voting guide before every election. The League of Women Voters of the Austin Area provides nonpartisan information on elections in their voters guides. The next edition of their guide will be published at vote411.org by the start of early voting, October 24. Once they're posted, you can also check out sample ballots to get started on your own independent voting research here: bit.ly/3QcmqMp.

Where to Cast Your Ballot

Travis County voters may vote at any "vote center" (where you see a "Vote Here/Aquí" sign). How do you find those? The county will list them online at bit.ly/3PgOj4D. Many vote centers will be the same as last election (check out that list of addresses at bit.ly/3SF8FYp) and we'll also update you in these pages later.

What You'll Need to Bring on Election Day

Texas law requires registered voters to show one of seven forms of photo ID (current or expired within four years) issued by the state or U.S. government. But other options work, too – including an out-of-state license or the voter registration card you'll receive in the mail after registering – so long as you sign a form that explains why you don't have another form of ID. You'll get that form (a Reasonable Impediment Declaration) at the vote center and it will give you multiple choices to explain your less-than-ideal identification. Don't fret, options include vague stuff like "lack of transportation" and "work schedule." For a list of ID options, check out bit.ly/3JVdlVV

Important Dates

Last day to register to vote: Tuesday, Oct. 11

In-person early voting: Monday, Oct. 24, through Friday, Nov. 4

Last day to to request a ballot by mail: Friday, Oct. 28 (received, not postmarked)

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