Midterms 2018

The Houstonian's Guide to Last-Minute Election Day Details

What you need to know before you hit the polls on Tuesday.

By Dianna Wray November 5, 2018

Election Day is almost upon us, and by all accounts it's going to be a doozy, no matter which side of the aisle you're on. Harris County has already seen a record-setting turnout for early voting, with more than 850,000 people casting their ballots by last Friday when early voting ended, shattering the previous record from the 2014 midterm elections.

However, there are still plenty of registered voters who haven't hit the polls yet in Harris County and across the state. If you're one of those who has opted to wait until Election Day to exercise your Constitutional right, here's an Election Day Eve rundown—ranging from the mundane to the wonky—of some key things to know before heading to the polls on Tuesday:

Where to vote

This may sound a little basic, but it's something we have to google just about every election cycle. While early voting allowed people to stop in at any poll, show an approved form of ID and cast their ballots, on Election Day you'll need to go to your designated polling location at the precinct you're registered in. Luckily, this is an easy one, since all you have to do is look up the location online. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you're disabled and worried about physically getting yourself into the polling station, remember that you can always cast your ballot curbside if you need to.

What you need to bring to the polls

Since the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state voter ID law back in April, the new rules on identification apply to the Midterms. To vote, you'll need a photo ID: either a Texas driver's license, a passport, an election ID certificate, a Texas handgun license, a U.S. military ID or a U.S. citizenship certificate. If you don't have any of these approved forms of ID—and keep in mind that college student ID cards will not work under this new law—you aren't out of luck. It will just take a bit longer to vote since you'll have to sign a sworn affidavit that there is a reason you don't have and could not obtain any of the approved IDs and provide a valid voter registration card, an original birth certificate, a government check or a current utility bill.

What all the fuss is about with Proposition B

The question really being asked in Proposition B, the charter amendment proposal that will require the city to provide pay parity between Houston's firefighters and police officers, isn't quite as simple as all the signs and supporters would have you believe.

Prop B has to do with the city's messy pension plan, the solution that resulted in pension reductions for Houston firefighters as of last year, and the subsequent breakdown of contract negotiations as the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association opted to stop negotiating for raises with Mayor Sylvester Turner and to take the issue to the voters instead, as Houstonia has previously noted. If Prop B passes, as analysts expect it will, paying police officers and firefighters on the same scale will cost the city at least $98 million annually for the next three years, taking a chunk out of the city's budget that the city cannot afford to lose, and that Turner has warned repeatedly will have to be made up via layoffs and budget cuts in other areas. 

Proposition A is a lot more important than you think

There's been so much controversy and general hubbub around Prop B in the lead up to Election Day that Prop A has been a bit overshadowed. So what is it? Well, Proposition A has been described as a "do-over vote" to re-approve using a drainage fee collected through our water bills to create a "pay-as-you-go" system funding ReBuild Houston, the city program that uses that drainage fee to fund drainage infrastructure and repair.

The City Council actually created the drainage fee, and then in 2010 voters approved a ballot measure that stated the drainage fee could strictly and solely be used for street and drainage infrastructure projects. However, in 2015 the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the ballot measure's language failed to clearly describe that the ReBuild Houston program would be funded by voters themselves via that fee, so now the re-worded measure is back on the ballot. 

If approved, the drainage fee will continue to go only to ReBuild Houston. If it is voted down, the drainage fee itself won't go away, since the City Council created it, not the voters. Instead, the lockbox, so to speak, will be sprung open, and the money won't be solely dedicated to ReBuild Houston—which seems like an objectively terrible idea, don't you think? 

The Cruz-O'Rourke race isn't the only one to watch

The Senate race is getting national attention, and for good reason, but there are a ton of local races to keep an eye on: from Harris County District Judge Steve Kirkland's bid for a place on the Texas Supreme Court, to the fact that the bail bond judges who have been seen as the heart of the Harris County bail bond issue are on the ballot, to the tight race between Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson and his Democratic opponent Lizzie Pannill Fletcher that could see District 7 going Democrat for the first time since 1966, as we've noted before. 

While analysts are doubtful that O'Rourke will be able to garner enough statewide support to actually beat Cruz, there is a chance that the remarkable support O'Rourke has drummed up will lead to a Blue Wave on the local level. If that happens, things could get pretty interesting.

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