Chances are good that the legislators who will represent you in the 86th Texas Legislature will not be chosen next November. Thanks to a combination of gerrymandering and some natural geographic divides, Texas, with rare exception, does NOT have a competitive general election—not for House, Senate, or statewide races.
If that’s true, you might ask, why do candidates spend hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars on races? The answer is that they don’t—not in November anyway. The majority of candidates spend their time and money in January and February, in the race they know will get them elected—the primary! On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, elections for governor, lieutenant governor, and members of the 86th legislature will largely be decided. This is why it is vital that educators vote in the primary.
Before you take to the polls, you should pick your primary, learn about the candidates’ stances on education issues, and ensure that your voter registration is complete and up to date.
Pick Your Primary
To make your vote truly count, it’s important to vote in the primary of your district’s dominant party, regardless of your personal politics. You can then vote for the party of your preference in November, when the general election rolls around. There is simply far too much at stake to use your primary vote on a candidate who is unopposed in March or doomed to lose in November because their district is stacked in their opponent’s favor.
Learn about the Candidates
ATPE has made learning about candidates’ stances on public education easy with TeachtheVote.org. On the home page, click on “Search for Candidates.” This will take you to a page where you can find your Senate, House, and State Board of Education candidates. Enter your address, and each candidate running for a seat in your district will populate at the bottom of the page. Click on a candidate’s name to access his or her profile. Profiles include candidates’ voting records, answers to the ATPE candidate survey, education-related endorsements, and when possible, additional notes about the candidate. On this page, you will also find links to the candidate’s website and Facebook pages as well as any contact information we have been able to collect.
Check Your Voter Registration
Thankfully, checking your voter registration is easy, too. Just go to the Texas Secretary of State’s “Am I Registered?” web page, enter one of three simple sets of information, and hit submit. The site will pull up your voter registration data and confirm your voter status and your name and address information. If you have moved within the same county, you can update your address by simply clicking the “change your address” link. If you have moved to a new county, or if your voter status is not listed as active, then you will need to complete and submit a voter registration form. You can complete your voter registration on the Secretary of State’s “Voter Registration” web page. After you fill out the web form, you will need to print it and drop it in the mail. Feb. 5 is the last day to register before the March election.
Now that you are registered to vote, are educated about the candidates, and understand the importance of voting in the primary, you are ready to join hundreds of thousands of your fellow educators in exercising your right to vote. It is up to you to determine who will be making decisions about your profession and the resources you will have to educate the kids in your classrooms next session.
Early voting runs from Feb. 20 to March 2, and Election Day is March 6. Vote smart. Vote early. Vote education. The success of 5.2 million Texas schoolchildren depends on you.
For more details on how ATPE supports Texas educators at the legislature, see our blog at TeachTheVote.org. For real-time updates from our lobby team, follow @teachthevote on Twitter.