Thursday, February 28, 2008

You are Registered to Vote, NOT to Party

Texas is now in the midst of the presidential primary media blitz. The press has utterly taken over this election and is using all of their influence to sway voters – it is actually painful to watch.

Anyway, with all of the talk about candidates and voting, one of the common questions at my place of work concerns voting eligibility. People are wondering if they are restricted to voting in only their party’s primary? A typical question goes like this: I am registered in one party, but I like the other party’s candidate and I want to vote for him/her. Can I do that?

Because these types of rules vary from state to state, it is necessary to go hunt for the official answer. I googled the word “vote” and my county’s name to find the county election site. From there, I selected Voter Information FAQs. Fortunately, this was one of the first, most asked questions.

I was pleased by the answer, shown below.

Voting in the Primary Elections
If you are a registered voter in the state of Texas, you will simply choose your party and vote in that party's primary. To explain, we do not register by party in Texas. One becomes "affiliated" with a party by voting in a party's primary and the affiliation lasts for that primary year.

That’s good news, since no further action is required to “change” parties. Any party affiliation that we Texans may have had expired on December 31, 2007. We are now all free to vote in any primary, republican or democrat.

The web site also reminds voters that in the general election in November, a voter may vote for whomever he/she wishes, regardless of how or whether he/she voted in the primary or runoff primary election, since all candidates are on the same ballot.

It's great to have this information and the access to find it, but the fact that the rule varies from state to state just seems wrong. As if voting isn’t confusing enough already, do they have to make the rules different in every state?

I take voting seriously; considering it a civic duty, and an opportunity to exercise a constitutional right. And so I take the time to research these kinds of questions. But, a lot of folks don’t want to be “bothered” to figure out all these rules. They want to vote, but making the time and getting through all the widgets is a distraction that hinders or slows down their momentum to cast a vote.

I plan to take advantage of the early voting opportunities since I will be out of the state on election day. Voting early is also a great way to avoid the crowds and long lines. It makes voting a much more pleasant experience.

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