Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos stopped in Tyler on Wednesday to help educate voters on the state’s Voter ID laws.
A recent ruling expanded the list of valid forms of identification voters can present at the polls.
Early voting for the Nov. 8 general election begins Oct. 24.
“If you’ve been voting using your driver’s license, as I have, then nothing will change for you,” he said during a brief appearance at the Smith County Elections Office. “If you don’t have a form of ID, however, you can still vote, but you’ll need to sign a declaration.”
That document, called a declaration of reasonable impediment, outlines the reasons why a voter was unable to get the right form of identification - a lack of transportation, for example, or health reasons.
“The election judges do not have the authority to challenge that declaration,” Cascos noted.
Voters who sign that declaration will still need to bring something with their name and address on it - a bank statement, for example, or a utility bill.
“The goal is to make sure everyone has the ability to vote,” Cascos said. “Nothing should impede them.”
Voter registration for the Nov. 8 election ended on Tuesday, and Smith County Elections Administrator Karen Nelson said more residents are registered than ever before.
“We’re still getting registrations in the mail and from the state, but when everything is counted, I feel sure we’ll hit 135,000 registered voters,” she said.
That’s a 32 percent increase over the 102,626 registered voters in the 2012 General Election and a 67 percent increase the 80,774 registered voters in the 2008 election.
People seem excited about the election, Ms. Nelson said.
“Yesterday alone - the last day to register - we had 560 people walk in,” she said. “One lady told us she’s 82 and has never voted before. But she’s going to vote in this election.”
Cascos said he’s seen record numbers of people registering at the state level – but that means little if people don’t go to the polls.
“As of last week, we’re at 14.9 million registered voters in Texas,” he said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if we hit 15 million. But if our turnout percentages don’t improve, it means a lot of people aren’t participating.”
He cited the 2015 constitutional amendment election, when only about 12 percent of the registered voters in Texas cast ballots.
“If you’re a homeowner, you had a dog in that fight - you’re going to be affected by those amendments,” he said. “But people didn’t turn out.”
Cascos said he’s heard from voters who are discouraged by the presidential candidates.
“Look, I understand if you’re not very happy with the top of the ticket,” he said. “But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are local races that are important, as well.”
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