The Mechanics of Voting
What happens when I go to vote?
Am I Registered?
You can find out if you are already registered to vote by checking your county's online database.
- Go to the Dallas County Elections Department's website, and under the heading "Voter Information," click on "Voter Lookup" and fill out the online form to find out if you are registered.
- If you are already registered, you will see a page with your precinct number and list of all the districts (for example, Congressional district, County Commissioner's district, etc.) in which you will vote.
- Go to the Collin County Elections Department's website and fill out the online form to find out if you are registered.
- If you are already registered, you will see a copy of your Voter Registration Certificate with a list of all the districts in which you will vote.
Voting by Mail
According to the Texas Secretary of State's website, "Only specific reasons entitle a registered voter to vote early by mail (no longer called absentee voting). You may request a ballot by mail if you:
- will be away from your county on Election Day and during the hours that early voting is conducted;
- are sick or disabled;
- are 65 years of age or older on Election Day; or
- are confined in jail."
If one of these four reasons applies to you:
"First, request an Application for Ballot by Mail (ABBM) from the Early Voting Clerk in the political subdivision conducting your election, or from our office. You may also print an ABBM directly from our website (PDF), (Spanish version (PDF). Once received, read the instructions carefully, complete the ABBM form and return it to the Early Voting Clerk. For the November 8, 2016 Election date, the last day to apply for an ABBM to the early voting clerk is October 28, 2016; in order for you to receive a ballot by mail; the last day (or deadline) to submit an ABBM (not a postmark date) must be received in the office of the early voting clerk by November 8, Election Day."
To request an Application for Ballot by Mail, go to the Texas Secretary of State's website.
REMEMBER: Mail your ballot in early enough to arrive in the office of the early voting clerk by Election Day, or your vote will not be counted.
When you arrive at your voting place, you will normally find at least two poll workers waiting for you. They will look at your identification, confirm your address, and determine whether you are registered to vote.
If the poll workers determine that you are registered and are voting in the right location, they will have you sign a page in a list of eligible voters to indicate that you have voted. They will also add your name to a list of people who have voted at that location.
Click here for more information on services available to voters with special needs.
Paper Ballots or Electronic Machines?
Each county in Texas decides whether it will use paper ballots or electronic machines for voting.
Dallas County uses electronic machines for Early Voting, and uses paper ballots on Election Day.
To read a description of how to use Dallas County's electronic voting machines, click here.
For an interactive tutorial on using Dallas County's electronic voting machines, click here.
If you choose to vote on Election Day in Dallas County, you will pick up a paper ballot from the table where you sign in to vote. Take your paper ballot to one of the voting booths, then use the marker provided to fill in the "bubble" next to the name of each candidate you wish to vote for. When you have finished voting, take your ballot to the optical scanner (a large metal box with a slot on top) and slowly slide your ballot into the slot.
Collin County uses electronic voting machines for both Early Voting and for Election Day voting.
To read a description of how to use Collin County's electronic voting machines, click here.
For an interactive tutorial on using Collin County's electronic voting machines, click here.
Straight Party Voting or Not?
NOTE: In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that will eliminate straight party voting in Texas beginning in 2020.
At the beginning of your ballot, you will see an option to vote Straight Party, meaning that you automatically cast your vote for every single candidate on the ballot who is affiliated with that party.
Things to know about Straight Party voting:
- You do not have to vote Straight Party. Instead, you may leave the Straight Party section blank and vote for individual candidates on your ballot.
- If you do not want to cast a vote for any candidate for a particular office (in other words, vote for "none of the above"), do not vote Straight Party. If you do, you will be automatically voting for that party's candidate for every office.
- If you do vote Straight Party, you can still vote for individual candidates from other parties for one or more offices. A vote for an individual candidate will override the Straight Party vote for that office.
- If you do not vote Straight Party, you do not have to cast a vote in every race on the ballot. You may vote in as many individual races as you want to and leave others blank.