Primary Day Comes with Some Wrinkles

Polls are open this morning as Democrats and Republicans hold simultaneous primary elections here in the Houston area and across the state. As Jack Williams reports, there are some things voters need to remember.

Because the elections are separate, put on by local Republicans and Democrats, ballots look different and in many cases, precincts for the parties are in different locations. In Harris County, about half the precincts share polling locations. Hector DeLeon is with the Harris County Clerk’s Office.

“On the Democratic side they have 400 polling locations and on the Republican party side, they have 395 and only in 201 instances will the same location be shared. So you can possibly reside in  the same precinct as your neighbor but if you have different party loyalties you’re going to have to go to two different places to go vote.”   

Early voting for the primaries ended last week, with more than 100-thousand ballots cast either in person or absentee. Compared to the primaries in 2006, twice as many early ballots were cast in the Democratic primary and almost triple the number in the Republican primary. The Harris County Clerk’s office estimates that about half the total vote turn-out came during the early voting period. DeLeon says there a some basic rules for the primary elections.

“You can only vote in either the Democratic primary election or the Republican primary election, not both. You have to choose one or the other. This is important because once you vote in one and if the other has a run-off election, you cannot cross-over and vote in the run-off.” 

Because Texas voters don’t register based on political party, they can vote in whichever primary they like, regardless of how they’ve voted in the past. DeLeon says Texas makes it pretty easy to cast a ballot in the primary, with a variety of identifications accepted at the polls.

“They can use their American passport, U.S. naturalization certificate, ID or license, a letter addressed to you from a government agency, a letter addressed to you from a bank or a bill that’s addressed to you, water, light, gas, so there’s various ways people can identify themselves to actually cast their vote.” 

There are about 80 contests in the Democratic Primary and 90 or so on the Republican ballot. In Harris County, about 80-percent of those contests are for judicial positions. To check where you need to vote or to take a look at the two sample ballots, there are several websites to help out, including HarrisVotes.com and hcvoter.net.