Houston Matters

Some of the Lone Star State’s Little-Known Election Laws

On election day in 2014, Mallika Das, a U.S. citizen born in India but who did not speak English well, brought her son along to interpret her Williamson County, Texas ballot so she could vote. Texas law allows for this. Except her son lived across the county line in neighboring Travis county. And a little-known […]

TXDecides Election BannerOn election day in 2014, Mallika Das, a U.S. citizen born in India but who did not speak English well, brought her son along to interpret her Williamson County, Texas ballot so she could vote. Texas law allows for this. Except her son lived across the county line in neighboring Travis county. And a little-known law requires interpreters to hail from the same county as the voter.

So, complications — and an eventual court battle — ensued. (Ahead of the November election, a federal district judge blocked Texas from enforcing that provision, ruling it violates the federal Voting Rights Act. Texas is appealing that ruling to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals).

While a lot of attention has rightly been given in recent years to the back-and-forth legal wrangling over the Lone Star State’s voter ID law, that’s far from the only law in Texas related to elections or their results that can come into play on Election Day — or even after it.

From candidates in close elections letting a coin flip or the roll of dice decide the outcome, to a ban on selfies at the ballot box, to the role high schools (and in particular, principals) play in registering students, to the aforementioned rules that limit where interpreters used to assist voters can hail from, there is an entertaining panoply of obscure election laws in Texas.

Houston Matters producer Maggie Martin turns to University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus to learn more.

Obscure Election Laws Discussed:
Rolling dice to decide an election in Texas
Selfies not allowed in Texas voting booths
Texas high schools’ role in registering students
Rules guiding use of interpreters to assist voters

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