Home Part of States Newsroom
Here’s how to vote in Texas’ May 4 local elections


Here’s how to vote in Texas’ May 4 local elections

Apr 17, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By María Méndez Yuriko Schumacher
Here’s how to vote in Texas’ May 4 local elections
(The Texas Tribune)

The Texas Tribune wants to help voters navigate local elections. Feel free to tell us what you would find helpful in voter guides for local elections at [email protected].

There’s yet another election for many Texans on May 4. This time voters will be casting ballots for leaders and initiatives that shape their local communities, especially when it comes to property taxes.

Local elections that are held on even-numbered years can be tricky to navigate because they may not always be run by county election officials, who typically run elections. Voters may instead have to get election information, such as ballot language and voting locations, from the local cities, school districts and governing bodies holding the election. Here’s an overview of what you may see on your ballot and how to vote if you registered to vote by the April 4 deadline.

What’s on the ballot?

Bond propositions: Some voters will have a say on local bond propositions , which allow governments to take on debt to fund projects or increase tax revenue. There will be more than 200 bond elections across the state, with the majority from school districts, according to the comptroller’s office. Some cities, such as Dallas, will have bond propositions, as will some water districts and community colleges. Use our address lookup tool below to see if there are any bond elections in your community. (Note: We don’t collect your data, and the information provided is based on an unofficial list compiled by the comptroller’s office.)

Local leaders: Some local governing bodies will also hold elections for elected offices, such as school board members and city council positions. Voters in Texas Senate District 15, which was left vacant after former state Sen. John Whitmire was elected as Houston’s mayor, can also participate in a special election to fill that seat.

Appraisal district board members: Voters in several of Texas’ 50 largest counties will elect three members to their local property appraisal district boards, after voters across the state approved the newly elected positions during the November constitutional amendment election. However, 30 of those 50 counties are canceling their elections after having no candidates file to run for the office or only having unopposed candidates. In counties with no candidates, the positions will be filled by appointment, according to public notices of the election cancellations.

Appraisal district boards don't make decisions about property values, but they appoint members to appraisal review boards, which hear valuation protests from taxpayers and can choose to lower property values. Read more about these new elections here.

To see if there are any local elections in your community, check your county’s election website, which may post notices of local elections. However, you may have to find ballot and voting location information through the governing body holding the election. You can also check the Vote411 lookup tool to read more about elections in areas with a local chapter of the League of Women Voters.

What dates do I need to know?

April 4 was the last day to register to vote and to submit an address change for the midterm election.

How do I check if I’m registered to vote?

You can check to see if you’re registered and verify your information through the Texas Secretary of State’s website.

You’ll need one of the following three combinations to log in:

  • Your Texas driver’s license number and date of birth.
  • Your first and last names, date of birth and county you reside in.
  • Your date of birth and Voter Unique Identifier, which appears on your voter registration certificate.

Generally, if you registered to vote in a previous election, you remain registered, but there are various reasons why you may want to verify your registration status. For example, you will need to update your registration after a name or address change.

What if I moved after the voter registration deadline?

You must reside in a Texas county or political subdivision by the voter registration deadline to vote in the upcoming election unless you qualify for absentee voting. You can read more about absentee and mail-in voting here.

For elections with more than one polling place, you may be able to vote at your previous polling location if you moved within the same county or political subdivision. If there are elections you would qualify to vote in at both polling locations, you may be able to vote at your new location on a limited ballot. But limited ballots are available only during early voting at the “main early voting polling place”, which should be noted on the county or political subdivision’s list of early voting locations.

Is it too late to register for future elections?

In Texas, eligible voters – U.S. citizens in Texas who will be 18 or older by election day – must complete and submit a paper voter registration application usually within 30 days of an election day. Then you can participate in upcoming elections.

During the May 28 Republican and Democratic primary runoffs, voters in state or federal districts where no candidate received more than half of the votes during the March primaries will vote for their party’s final candidates . The winning candidates during the runoffs will then move onto the Nov. 5 general election. During the general election, voters can cast a ballot for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation.

If you want to register to vote in future elections, you can get a voter registration application by:

  • Requesting a postage-paid application through the mail or find one at your local county’s voter registration office and some post offices, government offices, or high schools
  • Printing out an online application, which can be downloaded here
  • Registering to vote through the Texas Department of Public Safety while renewing your driver’s license. You may be able to register to vote online if you’re also allowed to renew your license online. This is the only form of online registration in the state

Applications must be postmarked by the voter registration deadline. The voter registration deadline for the primary runoffs is April 29, and the deadline for the general election is Oct. 7. You can check to see if any runoffs are being held in your state and federal districts by going here.

After you register to vote, you will receive a voter registration certificate within 30 days.

People experiencing homelessness can vote, as long as they provide on their registration an address and description for where they are residing, such as a shelter or a street intersection. If needed, their mailing address can be different, but a P.O. Box address is usually not considered a residence address.

What does it mean if my voter registration is in “suspense”?

If a county receives a non-deliverable notice after sending a voter registration certificate or suspects an address change, a voter is placed on a “suspense list” and asked to confirm their address. Voters on the suspense list can still vote if they update or confirm their address before the voter registration deadline for an election or fill out a “statement of residence” when voting. They may have to vote at their previous polling location or vote on a limited ballot. If no action is taken by a suspended voter, they are removed from the voter rolls after about four years, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

Federal law prevents the state from removing registered voters within 90 days of a federal election unless the voter has died, been convicted of a felony or been declared mentally incapacitated.

If you’re concerned about your voter registration, you can verify it online here.

What do I do if I run into issues with my voter registration?

If you have questions or concerns about your registration, you can find your county’s voter registration contact here.

Inside polling locations, there are typically “resolution desks” where poll workers can address registration issues.

You can also find more information on frequently asked questions from the secretary of state’s office at votetexas.gov.

April 23 is the last day to apply to vote by mail.

This option is limited in Texas. Read more about who qualifies here.

When do I need to drop off or mail an application?

Applications must be received by the early voting clerk in your county — not postmarked — by April 23. Applications can also be submitted by fax or email, but the county must receive a hard copy within four business days. They can also be dropped off in person.

You can download an application here or request an application to be mailed to you here.

If you’re looking to vote by mail, give yourself as much leeway as possible. You’ll need to account for the time it will take your county to get your ballot to you in the mail after you apply.

What is the deadline to mail my ballot?

The deadline for mail-in ballots to be returned to the county is election day, May 4. If a ballot is postmarked by 7 p.m. locally that day, it’ll be counted if the county receives it by 5 p.m. on May 6.

Absentee ballots can also be delivered to the county elections office in person with a valid form of ID while polls are open on election day.

Completed ballots from military or overseas voters are accepted if they’re received by May 9. (Military and overseas voters can go through a different ballot request and return process.)

Read more about vote-by-mail requirements in this section.

Early voting in person runs from April 22-30. If you can’t vote inside of a polling place because of COVID-19 or a disability, curbside voting may be available to you. Read more about what qualifies as a disability and about curbside voting options here.

Election day is May 4.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day.

What dates do I need to know for possible runoffs?

For any May 4 elections where no candidate receives a majority of votes, runoffs will take place on June 15. The last day to register or update your voter registration for the runoffs will be May 16. Applications to vote by mail must be received by the early voting clerk in your county — not postmarked — by June 4. Early voting is scheduled from June 3-11.

What do I need to know about mail-in voting?

How do I know if I’m eligible to vote by mail?

This option is fairly limited in Texas. You’re allowed to vote by mail only if:

  • You will be 65 or older by election day.
  • You will not be in your county for the entire voting period, including early voting.
  • You cite a sickness or disability that prevents you from voting in person without needing personal assistance or without the likelihood of injuring your health.
  • You’re expected to give birth within three weeks before or after election day.
  • You are confined in jail but otherwise eligible (i.e., not convicted of a felony).

College students who are registered at a residence in Texas, such as a parent’s home, but are studying out of state can apply for absentee ballots. Students studying in Texas who are from other states can also choose to register to vote in the state with their dorm or Texas address.

What identification do I need to vote by mail?

Texas law requires people who are voting by mail to provide an ID number on both their application for a ballot and the carrier envelope used to return a completed ballot. This must be one of the following ID numbers:

  • A driver’s license number
  • A state ID number
  • The last four digits of their Social Security number
  • Texas election ID certificate number (issued by DPS and which is different from the number found on your voter registration certificate)

If they don’t have any of these, voters can also check a box indicating they have not yet been issued that identification.

This identification rule was added by the Texas Legislature in 2021, and some voters have had their ballots or applications rejected because they didn’t provide an ID number or the number they provided did not match the one the state had for them.

If you don’t have a license number on file or are unsure about which ID number you provided, the secretary of state has suggested contacting your local voter registrar to ask about how to add one of the required numbers to your voter registration record.

Voting advocates have suggested voters include both their driver’s license or state ID number and the last four digits of their Social Security number, if they have both, to avoid issues.

Does lack of immunity to COVID-19 qualify as a disability during the pandemic?

While a lack of immunity to COVID-19 alone does not allow a voter to request a ballot based on disability, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that it was up to voters to decide if that lack of immunity, combined with their medical history, meets the state’s eligibility criteria.

Note that the Texas election code’s definition of a disability is broader than other federal definitions. A voter is eligible to vote by mail if they have a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents them from voting in person without the likelihood of “needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.” It’s up to the voter to decide this, and election officials don’t have the authority to question a voter’s reasoning.

What kind of postage do I need to return my mail-in ballot?

It depends on where you live. Postage for mail-in ballots will vary by county because the style and size of the ballot could be different from county to county — and some counties may pay the postage for you. Local election offices should have the specifics once ballots are finalized. That said, if you don’t have enough postage, your ballot is not supposed to be returned to you. Instead, the Postal Service is supposed to deliver the ballot and bill the county for the insufficient or missing postage.

What if there’s an issue with my mail-in ballot?

Texas allows voters to correct their mail-in ballots if the ballots are at risk of being rejected for a technical error, including missing information or signatures. This also applies to issues with mail-in ballot applications. County officials are responsible for alerting voters if there is a defect with their application or ballot.

Voters can use a new online ballot tracker to check the status of both their application to vote by mail and their ballot. The tracker can also be used to make corrections. You can access the tracker here. The deadline to correct mail-in ballot applications is April 23. The deadline to correct a mail-in ballot is May 10.

What do I need to know about going to the polls?

Who is eligible to vote early?

Anyone registered to vote may vote early, but it must be done in person unless you qualify to vote by mail.

How do I know where to vote?

Local political subdivisions, such as school districts, are not required to use county election precincts or polling locations for the May 4 election, so voting may be limited to one or a few polling locations run by that governing body, such as in a school district building.

Polling locations for early voting and on election day should be listed on your county’s or governing body’s website, such as on a school district’s website or on a page announcing the bond election.

What form of ID do I need to bring?

You’ll need one of seven types of valid photo IDs to vote in Texas:

  • A state driver’s license (issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety).
  • A Texas election identification certificate (issued by DPS).
  • A Texas personal identification card (issued by DPS).
  • A Texas license to carry a handgun (issued by DPS).
  • A U.S. military ID card with a personal photo.
  • A U.S. citizenship certificate with a personal photo.
  • A U.S. passport.

Check out this story for more details.

What if I don’t have a valid photo ID?

Voters can still cast votes if they sign a form swearing that they have a “reasonable impediment” from obtaining a proper photo ID. However, those voters will also have to present one of the following types of supporting identification documents:

  • A valid voter registration certificate.
  • A certified birth certificate.
  • A document confirming birth admissible in a court of law that establishes your identity (which may include a foreign birth document).
  • A copy of or an original current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other document that shows the voter’s name and address. (Any government document that contains a voter’s photo must be an original.)

If you have a valid photo ID but forgot it, you can cast a provisional ballot but will have to visit your local voter registrar’s office within six days of the election to present an acceptable ID or documentation in order for the ballot to be counted. A registered voter without a valid photo ID or any of the supporting documents can also cast a provisional ballot.

Reporter Jess Huff contributed to this story.

Disclosure: The Texas secretary of state has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.