By Rebecca Fiedler
The last day to vote early in Republican and Democratic primaries for the Texas state and national congressional elections is Friday. The official primary election will be Tuesday.
Positions in the elections include governor, U.S. senators and House representatives, state congressional offices and other local offices. The general election for these positions will be held on Nov. 4.
“The primary election is for the parties to get their nominee on the ballot for the November election, where a person will actually be elected to office,” said Kathy Van Wolfe, elections administrator at the McLennan County elections office.
Primaries are held for the Republican and Democratic parties only, though voters will have the option of selecting independent party candidates in the general election.
Schertz senior Kimani Mitchell, president of Baylor College Democrats, said no matter their party affiliation, students should be informed when voting. She encourages people to vote selectively.
“I would tell everyone to do their research on candidates in order to assure they are voting for the candidate they think is the right person for the job,” Mitchell said.
Scottsdale, Ariz., senior Michael Blair, president of Baylor College Republicans, said he also believes students should vote.
“This is a time that students really should be voting, whether it be here in Waco or wherever they’re registered to vote,” he said. “There are a lot of major issues, and it’s important that students’ voices be heard.”
Voters must be registered with the county they wish to vote in 30 days prior to an election. They must have a form of photo ID accepted by the government with them, such as a Texas driver’s license, military ID or U.S. passport. Voters may choose to vote via mail in absentee voting, but the deadline for that option has passed. Baylor students wishing to vote in McLennan County must already be registered as such.
One other option Baylor students have in Waco is available only during the early voting period, Wolfe said. Voters not registered in McLennan County may come to the main office of the elections office on 214 Fourth St. by Friday and vote for a limited number of higher offices, such as governor.
“Voters who are registered in the state can come in and fill out an application to fill out a limited ballot,” Wolfe said. “That actually registers them here in McLennan County, and then they can vote the top of the ballot.”
With limited voting, a person can’t vote in local races. Limited voting cancels a person’s registration from their previous voting location and registers them in the county the vote is cast.
A person may pick and choose which offices they vote for, but must select one of the two political parties.
“In Texas you don’t register by party,” Wolfe said. “But if you’re voting in a primary election, you have to select which party election you’re going to vote in.”
This means a voter may vote Democrat this year and Republican in two years because in Texas that person is not officially associated with those parties, Wolfe said.
“In some states you have to register by party, but here in Texas you do not,” she said.
Democratic and Republican primaries in McLennan County are held in the same locations, Wolfe said, which is called a joint primary.
Wolfe said she feels many people won’t vote because they think their vote won’t count or are out of the area of registry at the time of an election.
“Especially with these local races, some candidates may win by just a few votes, so every vote counts,” Wolfe said.
Blair said places like McLennan County give stronger leaning to the Republican Party.
“There will be many instances, say here in McLennan County, where the Republican primary will be the election,” he said. “Either there won’t be a Democratic candidate, or there will be a very uncompetitive election.”
Blair also said this year’s elections will be important for the Republican Party.
“Our party is at the crossroads,” Blair said. “I believe this will be a very telling election, at least for the viability of groups like the tea party.”
Mitchell said some Baylor students intend to vote via absentee voting but end up not voting at all.
“I think that the voter turnout for Baylor students is abysmal,” she said. “I encourage students to register in McLennan County, which is where they will be when the time to vote comes almost every single year.”
More information on voting, including accepted forms of identification, can be found at votetexas.gov.