Americans have the precious right to vote, but must meet the qualifications

As the political campaigns get revved up for the state’s fast-approaching March 4 primaries, potential voters need to make sure they have everything in order that allows them to participate in this important democratic process.

While the electoral procedure in this country is a fairly simple one, there are requirements that have to be met in order to qualify to vote.

Surely most people know that to cast a ballot, a voter must be registered. And the last day for registration for those wanting to vote in the upcoming primaries is Monday (Feb. 3).

In Tarrant County, postage-free voter registration cards can be obtained at the Tarrant County Elections Center, all county sub-courthouses, post offices, city halls, libraries and public assistance offices. An online version is available at the county website (tcweb.tarrantcounty.com).

To be eligible for voter registration, a person must be 18 years old by election day; a resident of the county where the application is submitted; not a convicted felon (unless the sentence has been completed, including parole or probation); and not declared by a probate court to be totally or partially mentally incapacitated.

The upcoming elections will be the first major test for Texas’ new voter ID law, meaning voters will have to show a valid photo ID in order to cast a ballot at the polling places. The acceptable forms of identification are: a Texas driver’s license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety; Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS; state personal ID card from DPS; Texas concealed handgun license; U.S military identification; U.S. citizenship certificate; and a U.S. passport.

No such ID is required for voting by mail, but in order to cast a mail ballot you must be away from your county on election day, sick or disabled, 65 or older or in jail.

The right to vote is regarded as one of the most precious privileges held by U.S. citizens, and unfortunately too many in the country don’t take the opportunity to use it.

In the coming days voters should study the candidates carefully, educate themselves on the issues and then make informed decisions on election day. Early voting starts Feb. 18.