AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Secretary of State John B. Scott shared details about a campaign aimed at educating voters before the November elections on Tuesday in east Austin.
This comes the same day as National Voter Registration Day, a holiday that’s been recognized for at least a decade now. According to the National Voter Registration Day website, nearly 4.7 million voters have registered to vote on the holiday to date.
Scott discussed the “VoteReady” statewide campaign. Its goal is to inform voters about the seven approved forms of photo identification that can be presented at polls to vote:
- Texas Driver License issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
- Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
- Texas Personal Identification Card issued by DPS
- Texas Handgun License issued by DPS
- United States Military Identification Card containing the person’s photograph
- United States Citizenship Certificate containing the person’s photograph
- United States Passport (book or card)
The campaign will also explain what voters should do if they can’t get one of these IDs.
VoteReady will also cover who’s eligible for mail-in voting.
What is different since the last major election?
The campaign comes about a year after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a controversial elections bill into law. Senate Bill 1 includes a ban on 24-hour polling places, increased ID requirements, restrictions on drive-thru voting and limits voting by mail.
Republicans have said it’s a way to ensure Texas elections are secure, but Democrats said the law makes it harder for certain Texans to vote, including people of color.
Challenges to the law were filed, and in May, the Supreme Court of Texas heard oral arguments related to a provision of the law that prohibits public election officials from promoting mail-in voting.
Changes with poll watchers
When you go to vote, there may be more oversight this time around. Under SB 1, Texas’ new election law passed in 2021, poll watchers will have more flexibility to keep their eyes on voters.
“The changes really stemmed from the COVID protocols that were in place in 2020, where a lot of poll workers were asking poll watchers to keep a respectful distance for you know, six-feet social distance, and that became a bit of an issue for some watchers,” Rose Clouston, voter protection director for the Texas Democratic Party, said.
Now, poll watchers are allowed to be close enough to see and hear what’s going on.
“The reason we have poll watchers is to build that public confidence to have multiple eyes on the process,” William Lutz, chairman of the Election Integrity Operations Committee for the Travis County Republican Party, said.
Both the Republican and Democratic parties are holding trainings for folks interested in becoming a poll watcher, but those workers must get a Certificate of Completion from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office through the program.
Gates McGavick, the director of strategic communications for the RNC, said the GOP has recruited and trained around 5,000 poll watchers and workers in Texas so far.
“The goal of a poll watcher is really just to observe and report,” he said. “The idea behind it is just having people in the room — both Republican poll watchers, Democrat poll watchers — just making sure everything’s running smoothly. And if there’s an issue… they’re able to tabulate it and report it to the relevant authorities to make sure that the issue is taken care of.”
For Republicans, McGavick said he hopes getting citizens involved in the election will help bolster confidence in election security.
“We want more access for voting, but we want common sense safeguards,” he said. “This is just another function of people getting involved in the civic process, and it’s very much taking part in your community, taking part in elections, making sure that there’s faith in elections across the board for both parties.”
The last day for Texans to register to vote or change their address before this election is Oct. 11. The in-person early voting period in Texas starts Oct. 24 and lasts until Nov. 4. Election Day will happen the following Tuesday, Nov. 8.
If someone would like to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot, the final day to do so is Oct. 28.