Tuesday is the last day to sign up to vote in the Nov. 6 election.And officials statewide say they hope millions of Texans who are still not registered to vote will sign up by the deadline."If they want to vote, they've got to be registered," said Steve Raborn, Tarrant County's elections administrator. "The presidential election is always our highest-turnout election, and the deadline for voter registration is a hard and fixed deadline."Statewide, there are more than 13 million registered voters out of 18.2 million Texans who are of voting age. In Tarrant County, around 950,000 residents are registered to vote, according to local and state election records.To register to vote in Texas, voters must be U.S. citizens, at least 17 years and 10 months old (and 18 by Election Day) and not be a convicted felon or declared mentally incapacitated by a court of law. People who have moved or changed their name after they are registered must give election officials their new information."Registering to vote is the first step in the voting process," Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade said. "Voting is our responsibility and opportunity as Texans to make our mark on this great state."Texans who register in time to vote in the general election will find that, come Nov. 6, not much will have changed at the polls.The state's voter ID bill, which would require voters to show photo identification to vote, will not be activated. And a list of potentially dead Texas voters -- which has drawn national attention as some very alive Texas voters have complained that they ended up on the list -- will not have to be purged before the election."It is critical that eligible Texans register to vote before the fast-approaching Oct. 9 deadline," said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. "Every vote will make a difference in the important local, state and federal elections that will be decided in November."A look at some stalled election issues:No photo ID requiredThe Republican-led Texas Legislature last year passed a voter ID law requiring voters to produce certain types of photo identification in order to vote. Republicans who approved the measure said it was needed to guard against voter fraud, although Democrats argued that there were few cases that existed to prove fraud is a significant problem.A three-judge federal panel in late August weighed in, saying Texas' law may not go into effect because it illegally suppresses Latino and African-American votes."Chalk up another victory for fraud," Gov. Rick Perry said after the ruling.Texas is among more than two dozen states that have sought to put in place laws to require voters to show photo identification -- ranging from a driver's license to a military ID to a passport -- and other states have found their laws halted as well.Most recently, a Pennsylvania judge stopped that state's voter ID law after the state's Supreme Court ordered him to rehear arguments about whether state officials were doing enough to make sure voters there had "liberal access" to gain picture ID cards they would need to cast a ballot. A hearing there isn't scheduled until December, after the general election.Texas officials have said they will appeal the ruling here.Anyone may present their voter registration card to vote. If that is not available, voters may show alternate identification, such as a driver's license, personal ID card, birth certificate, citizenship papers, passport or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, governmetn check, payment -- or any other government document that shows the voter's name and address.Dead votersElection offices in Texas constantly update voter lists and send updates to the state. But last year, the Legislature passed a bill requiring the Texas secretary of state to remove deceased Texans from voter rolls quarterly using information provided by a different source -- the Social Security Administration's master list -- rather than data provided by the Bureau of Vital Statistics, which many county election offices traditionally use.The secretary of state's office sent lists in late August to county election offices identifying nearly 77,000 possibly deceased voters out of 13.1 million registered voters. The list included "strong matches" -- registered voters whose name, date of birth and full Social Security number match those of a deceased Texan -- and "weak matches" -- where voters have the same date of birth and last four Social Security digits as a dead person. Each election office was responsible for double-checking lists and determining which residents should receive "verification of voter status" letters, which name a potentially deceased voter and ask for a response within 30 days if the information is incorrect.Four Texans sued the state, saying the purge of voter lists violates election laws and could impact Texans who want to vote in November. A Travis County judge last week signed off on an agreement requiring election officials not to purge voters if they didn't respond within the 30-day time period. But they could remove from voter rolls the names of Texans whom they confirmed have passed away."It's a good thing," Raborn said. "We are running out of time between now and Election Day."Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610Twitter: @annatinsley
The Tarrant County Elections Office is extending office hours to give local residents more time to register to vote, holding voter registration at the following places from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Tuesday:
Tarrant County Elections Center, 2700 Premier St., Fort Worth
Tarrant County Administration Building, 100 E. Weatherford St., Fort Worth
Northwest Subcourthouse, 6713 Telephone Road, Lake Worth
Northeast Subcourthouse, 645 Grapevine Highway, Hurst
Arlington Subcourthouse, 700 E. Abram St.
Southwest Subcourthouse, 6551 Granbury Road, Fort Worth
Charles F. Griffin Subcourthouse, 3212 Miller Ave., Fort Worth
Mansfield Subcourthouse, 1100 E. Broad St.
Southlake Town Hall, 1400 Main St.
Voter registration applications are available at subcourthouses, city halls, libraries and post offices. They also are on the county's website (www.tarrantcounty.com/elections) and through the mail by calling 817-831-8683.
Source: Tarrant County Elections Office
Are you registered?
To check if you are registered, go online at VOTEXAS.org or call the Tarrant County Elections Office at 817-831-8683.
Sources: Texas secretary of state, Tarrant County elections office