When and Where Do I Vote?
What do students already know about the election process in Texas? Each student identifies truths and lies by writing true or false as the instructor reads the questions to the class. (Questions adapted from FAQs at http://www.votetexas.gov/faq/index.html
- High school students 16 years of age or older can participate in the election process. (True. High school students who are 16 years of age or older may participate in the electoral process by serving as election clerks at the polling place during Early Voting and/or on Election Day. See requirements at https://www.votetexas.gov/faq/student-election-clerks.html)
- College students who pay out-of-state tuition cannot vote in local elections in their college community. (False. Students living away from their parents’ home need to decide which place they call “home.” If they consider their parents’ address to be their permanent residence, they may use that address as the voter registration address. If they wish to register to vote at their college address, they may do so, but cannot be registered in both places. If they choose to register and vote in their home state rather than their college community, they may need to vote by absentee ballot.)
- Registered voters in Texas have the right to ask a polling place official for instructions on how to cast a ballot. (True. Polling place officials can give instructions on how to cast a ballot to voters who ask, but they cannot give suggestions on who or what to vote for.).
- Voters are allowed to take a “selfie” with a blank ballot in the voting booth in Texas. (False. In 21 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., it is perfectly legal to take a photo with a ballot. But in 16 other states, it is explicitly illegal — and can earn you a fine or even jail time. Any device that may communicate wirelessly or used to record sound or images is prohibited in Texas polling places. Exceptions may be made for voters with disabilities.)
- Campaign tee shirts, hats, and pins are prohibited in the polling place. (True. These items are considered “electioneering” and they are not permitted within 100 feet of the polling place on election day.)
- Voters may take written materials into the voting booth. (True. Voters are allowed to bring written materials into voting stations to assist them in casting their ballot as long as the materials are not used for electioneering.)
- Since open-carry is legal in Texas, voters may take hand guns into the polling place. (False. No one other than peace officers are allowed to take firearms into the polling place.)
- By law, all Texas counties must have bilingual ballots. (False. Bilingual ballots are only required when more than 5% of voting age citizens, or 10,000 citizens, do not speak or understand English well enough to participate in the electoral process.)
Video Outline: When and Where Do I Vote?
- Students react to the question, “Do you know the physical address of where you vote?”
- Guide shows student how to locate his polling place.
- How do I vote?
- Early voting
- Visit votetexas.gov for locations near you about two weeks before any election.
- Polling places at public libraries, churches, and schools. Anywhere convenient in the county.
- Can vote on Saturdays, Sundays and evenings during the week.
- Bring ID.
- Voting on election day
- Bring ID
- Vote at your assigned polling location.
- 3 types of voting machines
- Voting by mail
- Students living away from home
- Enlisted military
- Early voting
Activity – Video Followup Activity
Students work independently on one or more of the following tasks:
- Students use SmartPhones or other mobile devices to check their voter registration status at:
- Students access step-by-step instructions for using different types of ballots at:
After reading the instructions, students choose their county of residence and complete the interactives based on the machine used in their precinct.
- View Sample Ballots. If your county Elections Department provides the information, view sample ballots online for an upcoming election if the start of voting is imminent, or for a recent past election.
- Students use SmartPhones or other mobile devices to find polling locations and times for early voting and election day voting at their county elections department website. Since polling locations sometimes change from election to election, listings will only be available shortly before the start of early voting. County election department websites can be found by googling or from the Secretary of State’s website:
- Students use SmartPhones or other mobile devices to view a site on which they can sign-up to receive alerts, either by email or text messages, reminding them when it’s time to vote.
Reading assignments to be determined by the discussion option(s) selected by the instructor.
Activity – Small Group Discussions
Instructor assigns topics to small groups to research and report conclusions to the class in a short presentation.
Research current laws and policies that impact elections.
- What changes in laws and policies would increase voter participation? (examples: online voter registration, automatic voter registration when people get drivers licenses or state IDs, universal option to vote by mail, universal option to vote online, mandatory voting, allowing convicted felons to vote, lowering the voting age)
- Should voting be mandatory?
- Should convicted felons be allowed to vote?
- Should the voting age be lowered?
- Should voting be mandatory?
- How does Texas compare to other states in terms of laws and policies that impact voting rights? What changes are under consideration?
- What cases are currently taking place in Texas that impact the election process? A number of legal battles covering issues like voting rights and political maps are currently underway in Texas. The following site looks into some of the most significant cases and updates the page as new developments happen.”Taking Texas to Trial: the latest on the state’s court battles”
The Texas Tribune
Research the pros and cons of making voting easier by adopting one or more of the following. Which changes would you recommend and why? Does making voting easier to increase participation?
- Move general elections to a weekend day.
- Keep polls open longer on election day.
- Make voting by mail a permanent option for all voters. (Currently available only by annual application for people who are at least 65 years old, disabled, or out of the county during the entire period of voting.).
- Adopt vote centers in more counties.* (Currently in Texas, vote centers are universal during early voting and in certain counties, for example, Dallas County, Collin County and Lubbock County, on election day. Other counties are in the process of transitioning to election day vote centers. Vote centers enable voters to vote near where they work or go to school if that is more convenient. More technology is necessary to network the centers in order to avoid double voting. See http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/states-and-election-reform-the-canvass-november-december-2014.aspx#Vote Centers
- Incentivize voting.** What are the pros and cons of incentives or penalties? In reality, it’s a violation of election law to offer incentives, but interesting to consider options, such as tax breaks. For information, read:
- Cumulative (as used in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD)
- Approval (similar to plurality)
- Proportional representation
- Ranked choice voting – this is not currently legal in Texas. Should the Texas constitution be amended to allow ranked choice voting?
- Why the alternative system would/would not encourage voter participation.
- What legislation is under consideration regarding alternative voting methods? (Exclude what has already failed in order to limit the scope of this assignment.)
- What are the considerations in changing voting methods (equipment cost, cost of implementation, time to gain approval and implement change, accessibility)?
- force politicians to focus on all Americans, not just middle and upper class
- inspire people to pay more attention to campaigns
- allow candidates to spend less time and money on getting voters to the polls and more time on explaining where they stand on issues
- lead to higher levels of trust in government
- flood the polls with uninformed voters, which could lead to bad decisions about economic policies, education, political leadership in general
- Become involved in the local community projects, e.g., volunteer to help organize a voter registration event, sign a petition, volunteer for community service to become better informed voters about local issues.
- Community Service in Dallas
- Community Service in Houston
- Community Service in Dallas
- Research running for local office***
- What positions are open in the next election for local offices in your political subdivision? (municipality, school district, water district, etc.)
- Who are the incumbents in these positions?
- What is the current deadline for candidates to file an application for a place on the ballot?
- How do you determine the type city you live in: Type A, B, C, home rule, none (unincorporated)? (note to instructor: The only way to determine which type a city is, is to obtain a copy of the records of the incorporation election from the county clerk or the city secretary.)
- Which type city do you live in: Type A, B, C, home rule, none (unincorporated).
- What is the difference between a home rule city and a Type C (general law) city?
- What is the minimum age and residency requirement for the type city you live in?
- Where do I file an application for a place on the ballot? (note: answer depends on what you are running for)
- Running for Local Office, Texas Secretary of State
***Blake Margolis: High School Senior Turned Councilman-Elect in Rowlett
Blake Margolis has a big vision for Rowlett City Council. The newly elected member says he’s been preparing for this most of his life – and he just turned 18. (Published Monday, Sept. 4, 2017)
- Choose and follow through on one or more of the options at Rock the Vote, “Take Action.” This website features tools that support civic engagement and encourage involvement in the democratic process: Message Your Reps, Volunteer, Engage on the Issues, Host Your Own Event, Contact Your Elected Officials.
- Follow a blog on current issues, e.g., National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)
- Research internship opportunities. The Texas Politics Project https://texaspolitics.utexas.edu/find-internship lists internships that are currently open. What are the requirements for becoming an intern? What duties does an intern perform? How does one apply for an internship?
- Become more knowledgeable about cybersecurity – read an article and summarize issues and solutions presented in the article. Contingency plans often address what to do in the case of floods and fires—but a cyberattack may be an even more likely emergency. Do your election officials have existing contingency plans?
- Cybersecurity For Elections: Everyone’s Responsibility
*A vote center is a limited number of polling places in very high traffic areas with lots of parking (see Colorado example in Resources) that accommodate voters from any precinct, not just the one where a voter lives.
**The debate as to what constitutes payments for voting is ongoing. Are campaigns allowed to offer voters a ride to the polling station? Can a candidate offer to pay the postage on absentee ballots? Can candidates offer free food? (Accusations of illegally using free food to promote voter turnout were made against Harry Reid, Mitt Romney, and Obama supporters.)
Using the results of the 2016 presidential election, discuss the implications of voter turnout, and more specifically, differences in vote choices, for the future of U.S. democracy. What do the divisions among youthful voters say about their concerns? Do these concerns motivate individuals to get involved?
2016 Election: Millennials After 2016: Post-Election Poll Analysis (see Full Circle excerpt pdf)
Brookings: FIXGOV blog
“How Millennials voted this election”
November 21, 2016
The Decline of Party Identification
Suggests young voters identify more with an ideological leaning rather than a political party
NOTE: Instructor should choose to assign reading the summaries or the full analysis based on student aptitudes. Also, consider whether students identify as millennials or part of Gen Z, the generation after millennials.
“Gen Z and Politics”
July 17, 2017
A blog in which the author speculates on the influence of Gen Z votes in the 2016 election and projects how their votes may affect upcoming elections.
Alternative Voting Systems
Nearly every state uses a similar system for casting and counting votes—voters select one candidate per race on a ballot and the candidate that receives the most votes wins. This is known as plurality voting or winner-take-all. Plurality voting, however, isn’t the only option. Ranked choice voting, approval voting, and proportional representation are discussed on this website along with questions to consider in choosing an alternate system.
Explain the following alternative systems and discuss the pros and cons of each one.
Possible discussion points
Activity – Debate
Should voting be mandatory?
Instructor divides students into two groups to research “For” and “Against.” Students elect one person from each group to present the argument.
Points may include:
For: Compulsory voting would:
Against: Compulsory voting would:
Activity – What Can I Do?
Students write and submit to the instructor a resolution of at least one action they will take to ensure their involvement in the voting process, for example:
For this most recent election , what’s memorable—besides who won and lost—was the unprecedented level of skullduggery. Emails stolen. False stories planted. Foreign interference. Yet for all the issues, the core of our election system held strong.
Could far worse happen? That’s what experts are asking—and trying to prevent. The 2016 election provided a wake-up call for all states, all counties, all candidates, and all parties that election systems can be—indeed probably will be—targets for attacks.