VOTE BY MAIL -- THE BETTER WAY!
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has highlighted the ugliness of voter suppression in America and especially in Texas.
Texas seniors can overcome the "voter suppression" attack against our rights by learning how to vote from home. Texas redistricting and the "Voter ID" bill passed in the last legislative session show clearly that Texas politicians are trying to reverse our democratic processes -- instead of the voters picking the politicians, the politicians are trying to pick the voters! As this is written, the courts and the Justice Department are trying to determine whether or not they will get away with it, but those of us who are disabled or over 65 years old don't have to wait to figure out what to do. The "Voter ID" law does not change the rules for voting from home.
Vote from home was better to begin with
Seniors disabled or over 65 have the right to request a ballot directly from their county elections office or from the Secretary of State. Just click on http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/pol-sub/5-15f.pdf. The application is easy to fill out and mail to the county elections office. All anyone needs is contact information for their county, and the Secretary of State lists all the county addresses. Just click on http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/county.shtml
It may be also possible to make the request with a free telephone call to 1-800-252-VOTE (8683). Unfortunately, they changed to robot/recordings which are difficult to navigate. On 10/7/13, I found it impossible to get an application to vote by mail this way; consequently the best advice I can give is to find someone with a computer and get an application on-line.
When can we apply?
In 2013, the Texas Legislature made it possible for eligible voters to apply for vote-by-mail status once a year. Right after New Yeras' day, get your application blank from your county election office or just download one from the Secretary of State's website as explained above. It will cover all elections that year. You shouldn't have to apply again until the following January!
Of course, the earlier one's vote is turned in, the better, but senior voters will find that they have a lot of time to study the election after they receive their official ballot. Then they vote and stick it in the mail. The actual ballot is even postage-free!
Don't be confused by early voting rules
Texas has very good early voting laws, but they have nothing to do with voting by mail. Many seniors will have already cast their ballots by mail before the first early voting day begins.
Students and others may lose their voting rights
Another important category who can vote from home is students living on campus. Their photo ID is likely to show their parents' address, and the malicious "Voter ID" law will not let them continue to use their student ID to prove their residence. Thus they are faced with a lot of unnecessary travel in order to vote, unless they exercise their right to vote by mail. Any Texan who is not going to be near their home precinct during the election period has the right to vote by mail. Students really need to know this!
Another category of voters whose rights are threatened is anybody whose drivers' license or photo ID does not have exactly the spelling for their name and address that is on their voter registration certificate. Those are the people who must take action before their rights are lost. They will have to get a new voter registration certificate by re-registering. In the November 5, 2013, election, top candidates for governor, both Democrat and Republican, had to fill out affidavits in order to be able to vote!
Be sure to be registered
The people doing voter suppression in Texas would like nothing better than for us to fail to keep our registration up to date. Every few years, county offices purge their lists of people who haven't voted. If one cannot find their registration certificate, they can check their status by clicking on http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/reqvr.shtml/. Fortunately, registering to vote can now be done on-line through the Secretary of State web site. Just click on https://webservices.sos.state.tx.us/vrapp/index.asp. One can also call 1-800-252-VOTE (8683) to get a voter registration card mailed to their home.
Rather have Spanish?
The Texas Secretary of State offers forms in Spanish. For the application for a ballot to vote by mail, click on http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/pol-sub/5-15fs.pdfcheck
Let's fight voter suppression together!
Once you are familiar with the forms and procedures, you can become an advocate for voting by mail. Spread the word to seniors over 65, disabled brothers and sisters, students living away from home, and everybody who may have a discrepancy between their drivers' license and their voter registration certificate. Let's speak out, hold public events, and organize rallies on behalf of this battle. Americans have shed a lot of sweat and blood to win our democratic rights. Keep up the fight!
--Gene Lantz, President, Texas Alliance for Retired Americans