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Texas Politicians, Explained: Voting, titles, duties and more primary info

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Primary Voting Day: March 4
Early primary voting period: Started Tuesday, February 18 and runs through Friday, February 28

Primary Party
Primary elections allow voters to pick the party’s candidates in federal, statewide, city and county races for the upcoming November general election. Candidates need to score more than 50 percent of the vote—if no candidate does so, expect a runoff election between the top two candidates (early voting for run-offs is May 19-23 and the election is May 27). Texas holds a “semi-open” primary, meaning you don’t have to formally register as a Democrat or Republican, but if you vote in one party’s primary you can’t switch over come a runoff election.


However, if you feel a change of political heart between now and November, you can make the jump.

The Right Idea
When you get to the polls, don’t forget your ID. Thanks to Texas’ controversial new voter ID law, only certain forms of identification will be allowed at the voting booth and others—like a student photo ID alone—won’t suffice. Those approved include a Texas driver license, an election ID certificate or personal ID card issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), a Texas concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a U.S. military ID with photograph and a U.S. citizenship certificate with photograph. And if the name on your approved photo ID doesn’t exactly match the name on your voter registration card (attention, recently married women), you will only be able to vote if the names are “substantially similar” and you’ll likely need to submit an affidavit confirming you are, well, you.

Know Their Role
You’ve cleared all the hurdles, you’ve found the right polling place and you’re ready to get your vote on. Now what?

You may be thinking, “I know the Texas governor has power but what does he really do?” Or maybe you’re fuzzy on what the Railroad Commissioner’s actual duties are (spoiler: it’s not all choo-choos and damsels in distress!) or what a County Judge’s responsibilities entail (signing off on beer licenses is part of the mix—really!) So, here’s a brief sampling of some of the powers of the candidates vying for a shot on their Party ticket. (For a full primer visit: The Handbook of Texas Online.)

GovernorThe guv is the head honcho (aka chief executive officer) of the state; he/she can execute laws, call special sessions, offer up emergency legislation, submit the budget to the lege, head the state military forces, appoint state officials (with the Senate’s approval) and sign or veto bills and specific items on a general budget bill. On the judicial side, he/she can revoke a parole or conditional pardon.

Lieutenant GovernorThe lite guv is the presiding officer of the Senate; he/she appoints Senate committees, serves as head of the Legislative Budget Board and the Legislative Council. When the governor is out of state (or unable to fulfill his/her role), the lieutenant steps in. This position holds a lot of power in terms of influencing the legislature and public policy.

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