Saturday, January 23, 2016

Texas Voter Registration and I.D. Requirements For 2016

by Michael Handley

Pursuant to Texas state election law, new Voter Registration Certificates are mailed to all "Active Status" registered voters in December of odd numbered years. “Suspense Status” voters do not receive a new certificate.

New blue color certificates were printed by the election registrar office of each Texas county and mailed between November 15th and December 5th. Voters whose renewal certificates are returned to the registrar as undelivered will be placed in "suspense" by January 2, 2016, following the mailing.

The certificates are valid for two years beginning January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2017.

Certificates must list jurisdictional numbers for seven designated territorial units: Congressional & State Legislative Districts, County Commissioners’, Justice of the Peace precincts and the City and School District precincts, if defined. In addition to the aforementioned, counties may include 3 additional districts for a total of ten jurisdiction.

You MUST be registered to vote in the county in which you currently reside, and have a currently dated government issued photo I.D., to vote in any Texas election. You must be registered, or have mailed your registration application to be postmarked, no later than midnight of the thirtieth day before the election date. And, as of the date of this article, you are still required to present photo I.D. at the polling place to vote in person. The last day to register to vote in any election is the 30th day before Election Day..
NOTE: On August 10, 2016, US District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi issued an order prescribing what Texas voters need to bring to the polls when they vote in person. The new procedures remain in effect until further Court notice.

New Procedures for Voting in Person All citizens wishing to vote must still be on the official list of registered voters. For the November 8th election, the deadline to register is October 11th.
Voters may still use one of seven (7) forms of photo ID, listed below. IDs may be expired up to four years. (Previously IDs could be expired no more than 60 days.)
  • Driver license
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate (EIC)
  • Texas Personal Identification Card issued by DPS
  • Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS
  • US military identification card containing the person's photograph
  • US citizenship certificate containing the person's photograph
  • US passport
ADDITIONALLY, new procedures ordered by Judge Ramos allow registered voters who have not been able to obtain one of the photo ID's listed above to complete and sign a form and present one of the following documents to vote a regular ballot:
  • Valid voter registration certificate (card)
  • Certified birth certificate
  • Current utility bill
  • Bank statement
  • Government check
  • Paycheck
  • Any other government document with the individual's name and address
  • *The one-page form is called the "Voter's Declaration of Reasonable Impediment or Difficulty"
The Judge also ordered:
  • Election officials cannot question a voter about the use of an ID type
  • Poll watchers may never question a voter about Voter ID issues
  • The ID address does not have to match the voter registration address. It was also made clear that the ID address does not have to match the voter registration address.
Judge Ramos' order followed a July 2016 decision by the full US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling the existing Texas Voter ID requirements had a discriminatory effect and directed Judge Ramos to arrive at an interim solution. She will continue to consider the subject of discriminatory intent.
Every registered Texas voter should have received their new 2016-17 blue Voter Registration Card (VRC) by the first part of January 2016, or within thirty days after you submitted your registration application. If you asked to register to vote while updating your driver's license with the Texas DPS, and you never received a VRC, your registration application may not have been processed.

If you have not received a new VRC, you may NOT be properly registered to vote. You should immediately check your registration status and take action to properly register, if you find you are not registered to vote in the county where you reside.

To check your Collin Co. registration status - click here. To check your registration status in another Texas county - click here. If you find you are not registered to vote, you can find the Voter's Registration application for Collin Co. by clicking here or any county by clicking here. For specific information about voting in Texas, click here to find the Secretary of State’s pamphlet on Texas Voting.

Most women may notice something new on their Texas VRC this year. Voters' former names were added to voter registration cards because Texas Election Code (sections 15.001 and 13.002 of the Texas Election Code) says they should have been there for the last twenty years. Many women are concerned this change has something to do with the new voter I.D. law and that their name won't match their photo id I.D. In fact, this this has nothing to do with the new voter I.D. law.  (Texas Secretary of State Election Advisory No. 2013-08)

Check how your name appears in the white mailing address box in the lower right quadrant of your new blue 2016-17 voter registration card. This is the name that appears on the official voter roll - and that will be the name listed on polling place poll books.

The name that appears to the left side of the card - in the area above the X signature line - may have former names jumbled in with your current name. This jumble of names may or may NOT exactly match the name that appears on the official registered voter roll, but some combination of the current and former names printed on the new VRC's probably will match the name listed in the poll book at the polling place.
The listed former names shouldn’t negatively affect your ability to vote, and it probably will not change the number of people required to complete the name affidavit form, because the name on their I.D. doesn't match character for character the name listed in the poll book.
If you’d still like to change how your name appears on your 2016-17 registration card, follow these steps:

If you would like your former name(s) removed from your VRC, submit a name change leaving the “former last name” box blank. That, I think, will update the registration record to reflect that you no longer wish to have former name(s) listed. A new voter registration certificate will be sent within 30 days. The former name will still appear in the county’s history records as required by law. There are three ways to submit a name change:
  1. Complete a name change online.
  2. Correct the information in the space provided on the back of the orange certificate and return mail it to your county election authority;
  3. Submit a corrected voter registration application with the “change” box selected in person at the office or your county election authority, or by mail at County Voter Registrar. Voter registration cards are often available at local public libraries. (Tx SOS Registration Page)
In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 14 (SB 14) creating a new requirement for voters to show a very limited selection of government issued photo identification documents when voting in person, as specified on the back of 2016-17 Voter Registration Cards, as follows:
"A voter must show one of the following forms of photo identification at the polling location before the voter may be accepted for voting: Driver's license, election identification certificate, personal identification card or concealed handgun license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety; United States Military identification card that contains the person's photograph; United States citizenship certificate that contains the person's photograph; or a United States passport.

The above identification must be current and not expired, or if expired, then it must have expired no more than 60 days before it is presented for voter qualification at the polling place. Please contact the Secretary of State or your local voter registrar for information concerning when the above photo identification requirement for certain voters with disabilities, or voters with religious objections to being photographed, and voters affected by certain natural disasters.

Please visit the Secretary of State website at or call toll free at 1-800-252-8683. If any information on this certificate changes or is incorrect, correct the information in the space provided below, sign and return this certificate to the voter registrar."
The above identification information printed on the back of the VRC has been modified by Judge Ramos' August 10, 2016 court order as noted above in this article.

Description of some of the fields on the Collin Co. Voter Registration Card:
  1. VUID – This is your 10-digit statewide Voter Unique Identification Number issued by the Secretary of State’s office. This number remains the same as long as you are a registered voter in the State of Texas regardless of the County in which you reside or if you move from one County in Texas to another.
  2. Prec. No. – Your precinct is based upon your residence address and determines your election ballot style.
  3. Valid from January 1, 2012 thru December 31, 2013. Upon expiration, new certificates are automatically mailed to voters with active registrations.
  4. Name and Permanent Residence Address – Your name and address of residence as provided when you registered to vote. Your election precinct (polling place) is based upon this address.
  5. X signature line. The "fine print" below the signature line says, "VOTER MUST PERSONALLY SIGN HIS/HER NAME IMMEDIATELY UPON RECEIPT, IF ABLE."
  6. Party Affiliation ________ ; Texas is an open primary state, which means, Texas voters do not register with a party when they register to vote. At the time they cast a primary election ballot, they may choose which party primary ballot to cast, and sign a pledge declaring they will not vote in another party's primary, primary runoff or convention for the next two years. The party choice is then be stamped in this space on your registration card. For that two year period, voters may switch arty affiliation by completing and signing an affiliation pledge with another party, at that party's county office.  This also helps ensure you will receive a ballot from the same party should a runoff election be required. If you did not vote in the initial primary, but would like to vote in a subsequent runoff, you will be able to make your party selection at that time. You must vote in a party's primary election to qualify to attend that party's senatorial district / county and state conventions. You will present your stamped registration card when you check in for the precinct convention as proof that you did vote in the primary election.
  7. Various Election Districts
    • CONGRESS - U.S. House of Representative District Number
    • STATE SEN. - Texas Legislature - State Senate District Number
    • STATE REP. - Texas Legislature - State House of Representatives District Number
    • COM - Collin County Commissioners Court Precinct
    • JP - Justice of the Peace District
    • CITY - City
    • CITY DIST. - City District Subdivision
    • ISD - Independent School District
    • ISD DIST. - Independent School District Subdivision
    • SBOE - State Board of Education
  8. Cert No. - This is your Collin County Voter Unique Identification Number.
  9. BARCODE – This is the Collin Co. voter registration number which can be electronically scanned by poll workers at a polling location to check-in voters. Please DO NOT cut the bar code off of the card!!
  10. Mailing Address – Just below the Bar Code is your Mailing Address provided by you indicating where you wish to receive your mail. This address is not used in determining your precincts or in which races you will be eligible to vote.
If you never received a blue 2016-2017 Voter's Registration Card in the mail, you possibly are not registered to vote because:
  • You checked the "Register to Vote" box when you changed or renewed your Texas Driver's License, but never completed the voter application process.
  • You have moved and you have not voted in an election in the County during the past two years, your voter registration record may have been suspended or even canceled. You must contact the Registrar's office and update your registration information every time you move. To find the change of address information click here.
  • You have not moved, but mail sent to your address by the county Election Registrar's Office was for some reason return to the Registrar's office as undeliverable mail, then the Registrar will think you have moved and the Registrar will "suspend" and eventually cancel your voter registration. Why does this happen? The most typical reason is if your mail was being held at the post office while you were on vacation and the Registrar's office sent mail to you (e.g. a new voter registration card or other voting information mailing) during period your mail was held at the post office, then the Registrar's mailing would have been returned to the Registrar's office as undeliverable mail. This returned mail marked as undeliverable causes the Registrar t think you have moved and your registration recorded will be suspended for two years and then canceled.
If your voter registration record has been suspended or canceled, or you have never registered to vote in the county where you live you must take action to be properly registered as an "active voter" 30 days before the next election in order to vote in that election. Voter Registration Applications must be post marked on or before the 30th day before election day in order for you to be properly registered to vote in the election. It is always good practice to check your registration status at least 45 day before every election by going to the Registrar's website. Have you ever registered to vote? In general, you are eligible to vote in county where you reside if you are a United States Citizen, a resident of the county, will be 18 years old before election day, are not a convicted felon and have not been declared mentally incapacitated.

Please remember to take your Voter Registration Card with you to the polling place when you vote.

Texas Sec. of State' Voter I.D. information webpage - click here.

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