Texas Voting Etiquette: Modern Manners Q&A for November 2016 Elections

10/26/2016 05:21 pm ET Updated Oct 26, 2016
Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide | Sharon Schweitzer

Our readers asked us for insight on what to wear, what not to bring and what to say when going to the polls for early voting next week and in early November. So we crafted our responses and then reached out to the Texas Secretary of State to be sure we were delivering only the very best wisdom. We hope this Q&A answers your queries, and would like to hear from you if you have more questions about the November 8, 2016 elections:

Q: In Texas, can I register any time before the November 8 elections?

A: Texas law does not allow for registration at the polls. Texas voter registration ended thirty (30) days before the election is scheduled to occur - which was on October 11, 2016.

Q: When does early voting start and end in Texas?

A: Early voting starts October 24 and ends November 4, 2016. Because early voting times will vary across counties, voters will want to check with their county of residence for exact location and times. Polls will reopen again from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., local time on Election Day, November 8th 2016. El Paso, Texas operates in a different time zone, and the polls may open at a different time on Election Day.

Q: How do I know where I am registered to vote?

A: Texas voters are able to vote at any polling place in the county of registered residency during early voting. On Election Day, November 8, voters must go to their designated polling place as directed by the county. Look at your county website for polling place locations, or visit www.VoteTexas.gov/voting/where.

Q: What do I need to take with when going to the polling place?

A: Each state has different requirements and it is best to double check identification requirements before going to vote.

In Texas, voters are required to supply one of the seven (7) following approved forms of identification and their voter registration certificate:

Seven (7) forms of approved photo ID required for voting:

• 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 license to carry a handgun 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

Q: In Texas, are there any exceptions to the 7 approved forms of identification?

A: Yes. If the voter doesn’t have any of the seven (7) approved IDs and can reasonably explain why, for example due to lack of transportation or a disability, they can bring a birth certificate, voter registration card, utility bill, or a government document with them to sign a declaration explaining why they are unable to obtain the approved forms of identification.

The poll worker must take the declaration at face value and cannot question the declaration or prevent the citizen from voting if the proper documentation is presented. For example poll worker cannot ask why the voter noted no transportation on the declaration but was able arrive at the polling place to vote.

Q: What happens when I get to the polling place?

A: At your polling place, the election officials will verify your identification, check for your name, and address on the voter list. It is best to have your identification and voter certificate out and ready to hand to the elections officials to prevent any delays to fellow voters.

The 100 yards mark will be notated at every polling station. All political clothing signs and or logos will need to be turned inside out. Signage left at this point before proceeding to vote. At this 100 yard point, voters are prohibited from recording, videotaping, photographing, and posting to social media sites such as Periscoping, Facebook, InstaGram stories/SnapChat.

Poll watchers are prohibited from asking voters if they are able to vote; they may not prevent voting. If this occurs contact the poll attendants immediately, ask an Election Judge, and contact 1-800-252-VOTE.

Q: What can I wear? What not to wear?

A: Voters are not allowed to wear clothing, pins, or other propaganda that features, supports or opposes any political party or measure. This includes shirts or insignias for/against measures like the Second Amendment and even candidates listed and not listed on the ballot. Candidates are also prohibited from wearing party insignia inside voting stations.

Voters will be asked to remove the items or cover up their shirts with a jacket.

Q: What should I not do at a voting station?

A: At the 100 yard mark voters will need to take the following regulations consideration.

Although Texas is open carry, weapons such as guns and knives are not permitted at polling places.

Talking about different ballot measures and who they are voting for or against at the polling place or while in line is not allow and is illegal. It is also illegal in Texas for wireless devices to be used at polling places.

Taking photographs or recordings of polling places and the election ballots is not allowed. Voters should also not take ballot selfies in the voting booth. It is best to leave your cell phone in the car or tucked away in your pocket or purse while in line and in the polling place. Voters are encouraged to post pictures of “I voted” stickers after voting.

Alcohol sells are not restricted on Election Day in Texas.

Q: When does the newly elected U.S. President take office?

A: The 45th U.S. president is to be sworn into office at noon Friday, January 20, 2017 on the steps of the United States Capitol.

Many thanks to Ms. Alicia Pierce, Communication Director for the Office of the Texas Secretary of State for her insight and contribution to this post. Pierce encourages everyone to vote and share their images (once outside the polling place!) using the hashtag #IVoteEarly.

For more information, please visit http://www.votetexas.gov/

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

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