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Chapter 7. Elections: Texas Style. Voting Registration and Voter Qualifications. State governments responsible for voter registration; therefore 50 different sets of voter registration procedures.

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Chapter 7

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Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Elections: Texas Style

Voting registration and voter qualifications

Voting Registration and Voter Qualifications

  • State governments responsible for voter registration; therefore 50 different sets of voter registration procedures.

  • Texas has a 30-day residency policy and citizens must register to vote at least 30 days before an election in order to participate in that election.

  • Motor Voter Act – requires states allow registration when obtaining driver’s license

  • TX: To register, mail in or submit in person completed form (accessible online)

  • Maintenance of the voter registration list = responsibility of county govt, and in most counties the responsibility falls on the county tax assessor or county clerk. Some counties separate registration from election administration duties (setting up polling places, maintaining equipment, sample ballots printed and placed, etc)_

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  • Online form


  • Answer questions on line and print out. Then mail as directed!

Texas voter

Texas Voter


  • US citizen

  • 18 and over

  • Resident of county and Texas for 30 days


  • Mental incapacity

  • Convicted felon who has not finished his sentence and requested reinstatement of rights from Court

Voting rights in texas

Voting Rights in Texas

Legal Barriers to Voting in Post-Reconstruction Texas:

  • Grandfather Clause

  • Literacy Test (rarely used in Texas)

  • Poll Tax -$1.50 (st) + .25 (county); hit blacks and poor whites; diluted strength of Populist Party

  • White Primary -

Eliminating voting barriers

Eliminating Voting Barriers

  • Grandfather clause

  • Literacy test

  • Poll tax

  • White Primary

-- Guinn v. US (1919) violated 14thEQ

-- Voting Rights Act of 1965, applied to all elections conducted by the states

-- 24th Amend (1964), Harper v. Va. Bd of Election (1966) – held st and local elections could not charge poll tax under 14thEQ clause

-- Nixon v. Herndon (1924) unconstl if st required; Dem Party created “priv org”, challenged and struck down in Smith v. Allwright (1944) as primary vital part of nominating and party engaged in public function

Voting rights in texas1

Voting Rights in Texas

Hispanics and Voting Rights:

  • Primary tactics against Hispanics were economic harassment and political intimidation

    • Also poll tax and white primary

  • Voting Rights Act [VRA] renewal of 1975 required bilingual ballot for elections in areas >5% minority group

  • Current challenge to Texas redistricting plan in fed ct [required under VRA], resulted in changes in district lines (2012)

Voting rights for women military younger voters

Voting Rights for Women, Military, Younger Voters

  • Texas has been slightly more progressive in the extension of voting to (Anglo) women and in lowering voting age to 18.

  • Not until federal government forced the issue did Texas allow non-Texan military personnel to vote while stationed in Texas.

  • College students – must choose home or college residence and register

  • Art 6, sec 5 – voters exempt from misdemeanor arrest while going to or returning from voting

Getting on the texas ballot

Getting on the Texas Ballot

  • Either through a political party or sufficient signatures of registered voters if running as an independent/3rd party.

    • Signatures obtained after primary elections, cannot have voted in primary, eligible voters

    • Reapply each year

Electronic voting in texas

Electronic Voting in Texas

  • Underfunded mandate of Help America Vote Act (HAVA)

  • Financially costly but perceived as necessary following 2000 presidential election with paper ballot confusion.

  • Harris Co. = e-slate

Texas pioneers early voting

Texas Pioneers: Early Voting

  • Began in 1998 in Texas

  • Allows voting before the specific election day without giving a specific reason

  • Increased voter turnout from absentee voting

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Types of elections in texas primary v general

Types of Elections in Texas: Primary v. General

Democrats and Republicans each hold March primaries to elect candidates to run under the party label in the November general election.

Three types of primaries:

1. Closed primary—an election contest restricted to party loyalists, excluding supporters of other political parties and independent voters. [members only]

2. Open primary—an electoral contest in which voters do not have to declare party affiliation to participate, but must request a specific party’s ballot at the primary, and are then barred from participating in the other party’s primary. In Texas’s open primary system, voters do not have to declare party affiliation when registering to vote.

3. Blanket or wide-open primary—a primary in which voters do not register party affiliation and receive ballots containing the names of all candidates from all political parties running for office. Voters may choose only one candidate per political party. Only Louisiana has a blanket primary for state & local races.



  • Uses semi-open primary

    • No party affiliation required on registration

    • Select ballot when enter

  • Cannot change party affiliation for 1 year

  • Primary winner must win by majority, not plurality

    • Run-off election w/in few weeks betw 1st and 2nd place

      *Electoral fusion – parties nominate same candidate

      *Cross-over voting – Dem voting in Rep primary and vice versa

Types of elections in texas direct democracy

Types of Elections in Texas: Direct Democracy

  • Referendum – legislature lets people vote to keep bill or veto; Tx advisory only

    • Part of amendment process, ratify amendment with majority of voters

  • Initiative – people place matter on ballot and vote on law

  • Recall – defective official, “people’s impeachment”; vote to remove official before end of his term

Too much democracy

Too Much Democracy?

  • “Voter Fatigue” from feeling overwhelmed by the long number of offices on a ballot and/or number of elections

  • Resulting in “roll off” [ballot fatigue] and “straight-ticket” [party line] voting

    • ones you think important or recognizes

    • One party only

Voter registration and turnout

Voter Registration and Turnout

  • Registration has increased following 1993 Motor Voter Act and online registration

  • Turnout is generally 40–50 % for presidential elections and 20–30 % for mid-term elections [1-2% for local bonds and TX amendments]

Who votes

Who Votes?

Voter registration and turnout who votes

Voter Registration and Turnout: Who Votes?

  • Texas is usually toward the bottom of U.S. states in turnout

  • Voters between 18–24 worse turnout rate, far less than other age groups

    • Best = Older group votes, gets more attention from Cong, young turned off, older still votes, etc – spiral effect

Electoral competition

Electoral Competition

  • Historically, Texas has had little electoral competition

    • Democrats dominated for many decades

    • Republicans dominate today

      • Libertarians increasing

  • Ranney Index – measures party competition

    • Patterns of compet, % st legis seats won, length of time gov and legis control by party, proportion of time divided govt

Incumbency advantage

Incumbency Advantage

Incumbent – person in office

  • Name recognition (media coverage, community events, etc)

  • Position taking – record on issues

  • Credit claiming – accomplishments

  • Constituency casework – solving problems for individuals in district

Campaign finance in texas

Campaign Finance in Texas

  • “The issue of campaign finance … raises the issue of whether organized interests ‘buy’ favorable legislation, court rulings, and executive decisions.” (p. 220)

  • Individual citizens, interest groups, corporations, and labor unions make contributions to candidates and political campaigns.

  • State and local elections are governed by state campaign finance laws; FECA no impact.

  • All Tx campaigns privately financed

Campaign finance in texas1

Campaign Finance in Texas

  • Money is essential to political campaigns.

  • Disclosure—the reporting of who contributed money to the campaign and how much is contributed by each individual or corporation; record for transparency.

    • The Texas Ethics Commission is responsible for collecting campaign contributions and expenditures and providing the information to the public.

    • Cases: Buckley v. Valeo (1976); Citizens v. FEC (2010) – 1st Amend Free Speech vital to democracy, struck down campaign financing restrictions

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