Voting

It’s National Voter Registration Day. Here’s what you need to know about voter ID requirements.

To register to vote, you need a Texas driver license or Texas Personal Identification Number issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety. If you don’t have either of those, you can register using the last four digits of your social security number.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT
Texans have until Oct. 11 to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election.

Today is National Voter Registration Day, a coordinated effort by thousands of organizations around the country to help ensure people have the opportunity to vote. Since it started in 2012, 4.7 million people have registered to vote on the day.

In Texas, Oct. 11 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election.

Some Austin nonprofits like the League of Women Voters Austin Area will register people today at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, the Paramount Theatre on Congress Avenue and at the Austin ISD Bond community meeting at Travis Early College High School.

Jolt Initiative, a nonprofit trying to get more young Latinos in Texas engaged in the voting process, will register voters at Austin Community College's Eastview, Hays and Rio Grande campuses.

To register to vote, you need a Texas driver license or Texas Personal Identification Number issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety. If you don't have either of those, you can register using the last four digits of your social security number.

When you actually want to vote, however, you will be asked for one of seven acceptable forms of photo identification, like a Texas driver license, Texas handgun license, U.S. citizenship certificate or passport. Voters younger than 70 years of age can use IDs that expired within the last four years. For voters over 70, IDs expired for any length of time can still be used.

If you don't already have a valid photo ID, long waits for appointments at DPS could make getting one in time for the election difficult. DPS switched to an appointment-based system in 2020 enabling people to not have to wait in long lines for services. Demand for those appointments, though, are very high in some areas.

DPS Press Secretary Ericka Miller said while some offices in the state have appointments available in a few weeks, others require waiting more than a couple of months. A limited number of same-day appointments and standby appointments are available. Miller said about 30% of people, instead of cancelling their appointments, just don't show up. That impacts the department's ability to offer those appointments to other customers.

If you don't have one of the seven acceptable forms of photo ID, you can still cast a regular ballot using a supportive form of identification like a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck. You will have to fill out a form declaring you don't have one of the acceptable forms of photo ID and that you had a reasonable impediment to acquiring one. The list of impediments to choose from include: lack of transportation, lack of certain documents like a birth certificate, lost identifications, work schedule, disability or illness, family responsibilities, or that you applied for one of the photo IDs but had not received it.

Assistant Secretary of State for Communications Sam Taylor told KUT fewer than 1% of voters statewide had used the form in 2016, 2018 and 2020.

He said there are many reasons why a person would not be able to reasonably obtain one of the photo IDs.

"If the person cannot leave work to wait at a DPS office for a standby/walk-in appointment, the person can check ‘work schedule,'" Taylor said. "If the person cannot leave their family to wait for a walk-in appointment, then the person can check ‘family responsibilities.'"

He emphasized "the reasonableness of the person's impediment cannot be questioned." That's also stated on the form.

The top of the form does state that a person is subject to prosecution for perjury under the Texas Election Code if they provide a false statement or false information.

"The venue in which it would be challenged would be through an Election Contest in a Texas District Court," Taylor said. "But ... we're not aware of any instances of a voter's reasonable impediment being challenged in court."

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