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Register by tomorrow; bye to straight-ticket

October 7, 2018

Two final opportunities await Texas voters: Tomorrow is the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 6 election if you haven’t already, and that election will be the last one in Texas to offer straight-ticket voting. Both of those are positive.

Call or visit your county clerk’s office today if you’re still not registered to vote, and find out how to get that done. For Harvey survivors who relocated, permanently or temporarily, or lost some of their identification, additional help can be found at www.VoteTexas.gov/harvey

If you’ve been over 18 for some time, we’re tempted to admonish you and ask why you rode out previous elections. But we won’t do that, because this is truly a case of better-late-than-never. Once you are registered, make sure you actually see the inside of a voting booth in every county, state and federal election.

Like the one on Nov. 6, which has contests in all three of those levels of government. Not enough of us will do that, and it’s a shame.

Texas also has one of the best early-voting arrangements in the country. In this case and many others, we’re talking two full weeks, from Monday, Oct. 22 to Friday, Nov. 2. The early-voting locations are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. That’s 12 hours a day for 10 days.

In most counties, you can go to any early-voting site, not just the neighborhood place you are restricted to on Election Day. There will be few lines in early voting, unlike Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, which may see some traffic. In fact, in some counties, two-thirds of all votes are cast early or by mail.

When you vote, you may be tempted to use the straight-ticket option, choosing all Democrats or all Republicans. This is one time when a shortcut isn’t the best approach.

The Texas Legislature deserves praise for finally phasing out straight-ticket voting. It ends after this election, and we bid it good riddance. For a long time, it was viewed like gerrymandering:

When Democrats held all the power in Texas, they drew the district lines in their favor. When control shifted to Republicans, they did the same thing to help their party. And when Democrats called the shots, they liked straight-ticket voting to keep it that way. For a long time Republicans did too after they took over. But finally, in the 2017 session of the Legislature, lawmakers pulled the plug on the practice.

Both parties invariably have some good candidates on the ballot. Even if you go all-in for one party, go through the contests one-by-one and make your choices. That will help you remember which person is running for which office. Outside of senators and governors, many voters don’t know who represents them in other important offices. That’s information you need to know, to hold them accountable and to know where to direct any questions.

You’ll have to do that in 2020 anyway, so you might as well get started this year.

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