Voting Rights: Dispelling the Myths

Boy, is there a lot of misinformation on voting out there! I probably won’t be able to hit them all, but let me try to clear up a few of the pervasive myths that surround voting in the United States. Please keep in mind that my “expertise” is Texas specific, and that each state runs their own elections systems. However, those are largely differences in degree, not differences in kind.

The Myth: “I don’t want to register to vote because I don’t want to end up on the jury duty rolls!”

The Reality: If you have a State-issued drivers’ license or ID card, guess what? You are already on the jury duty rolls. Sorry folks. But like death and taxes (with apologies to my libertarian friends), getting on the jury duty rolls is inevitable. As the Travis County Registrar of Voters office told me, certainly, the State “can” pull your name from the voter registration rolls. The State can pull your name from any government listing that you are on. Fear of jury duty should NEVER stop you from exercising your right to vote.

The Myth: “I have a green card, so it’s my right to vote, but only in local or state elections, not Presidential.”

The Reality: Simply put, voting in US Elections is a right and privilege of US citizens ONLY. Qualifications to vote in the US are as follows:

  • You must be a US Citizen.
  • You must meet your state’s residency requirements. (However, if you are a homeless US Citizen, you are STILL eligible to vote!)
  • You must be at least 18 years of age on Election Day. Registration requirements vary by states. For example, in Texas, you may register to vote when you reach age 17 years and 10 months, but you can only vote when you turn 18.
  • You must register to vote by your State’s voter registration deadline. For example, in Texas, you must be a registered voter 30 days prior to the next Election Day.

The Myth: “I can’t vote because I have a felony conviction on my record.”

The Reality: Although each state sets their own rules, which you can find here, in the majority of states, you can absolutely vote if you are off paper! That is, once you have served your time and finished parole, you are eligible to vote. So get registered!

If you still have questions about voting or getting registered, check out the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Division, Travis County Elections, or for other states, start here. The most important thing is that you get registered and vote. Every election. Every time!

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