If you watch or read the news at all, you are probably aware of how we have officially entered the presidential election primary season. This is when each party chooses its presidential candidates, who will then run against each other in the general election. A calendar of primary election dates and results for all states can be found on this New York Times page. The Iowa and New Hampshire primaries have already happened, Nevada and South Carolina are next, and then Super Tuesday- when twelve states including Texas have their primaries- occurs on Tuesday, March 1st. The last state primaries occur in June, and then the Republican National Convention will be in Cleveland, Ohio during the week of July 18th, and the Democratic National Convention will be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the week of July 25th. The parties’ national conventions are when the state delegates- who are supposed to represent the voters of their state*- officially vote on the candidate, although usually the results are already known by the time of the convention. In effect, the conventions are an official announcement of each party’s official presidential candidate.
States have different voting laws regarding how you can register to vote and how you can actually cast your vote, and the laws for Texas are more cumbersome than in some other states. In some states you can register to vote on election day, but in Texas you must register to vote at least thirty days before you cast your vote. That means that the deadline to register to vote in the Texas primary on March 1st has already passed, but it is not too late to register to vote in the general election on November 8th. The deadline to register to vote in the general election is October 11th.
We can actually help you register to vote at the McAllen Public Library by providing you with a voter registration card in either English or Spanish. All you need to do is fill out the card and put it in the mail- the postage is pre-paid. We have a limited number of cards, so you should call ahead to (956) 681-3000 to make sure we have not run out. On the card, you will need to provide either your Texas driver’s license number, Texas state ID number, or last four digits of your social security number. If you do not have any of these, you will need to state that on the card.
When you arrive at your polling place to vote, you do not have to have your voter registration card, but you do have to have an approved form of photo identification. A list of identification forms that have been approved by the state is available here. If you would like to learn more about the controversy surrounding the Texas Voter ID law, check out this New York Times article.
For the primary on March 1st and the general election on November 8th, you must vote at your assigned precinct. However, for about a week before each election, you can go to early voting at your convenience anywhere in the county in which you are registered. A list of all the Hidalgo County early voting locations is in the photo. The McAllen Public Library is actually an early voting location, and you will be able to vote here from Tuesday, February 17th through Friday, February 26th from 7:00am to 7:00pm in Meeting Room B in the Lobby. Early voting for the general election will be from October 24th through November 4th.
A list of all the important dates for the entire election cycle can be found on this page from the Secretary of State.
*Delegates at the party conventions are supposed to vote for whichever candidate their state’s citizens voted for, and they usually do. However, for the Democratic party, a twist to this are the “superdelegates.” Superdelegates are Democratic party officials, and unlike regular delegates, they are not obligated to vote for whichever candidate their state’s citizens vote for. They can vote for whichever candidate they prefer, and many of them (including the ones in Texas) have already pledged for a certain candidate. You can read more about superdelegates in this Vox article and find a list of all superdelegates for the 2016 election here (the list can be sorted by state). If you are a Democrat in Hidalgo County and would like to encourage our local Democratic superdelegate (U.S. Representative Ruben Hinojosa) to vote for a particular candidate, you can always contact his office and encourage him to do so.