It’s a tough time to be a first-time voter right now. Campaign billboards, commercials, lawn signs and other people’s political opinions can feel like a wave one must break through to get to the democratic promise land of the voting booth. Even then, what do you do once you get there? It isn’t a frequently heard thing to discuss the interior of the voting booth, leaving young voters out in the cold to fend for themselves once they’ve registered and sat through the voting lines. Fret not, student voter! Here’s some information to help with voter anxiety.

Smith County has 35 voting locations spread across Tyler, Arp, Bullard, Flint, Hideaway, Lindale, Troup, Whitehouse and Winona. A full list of voting locations can be seen in the graphic below.

According to Student Life Director Lauren Tyler, “TJC is currently a polling location for there to be on-campus voting. In addition, Bell Elementary, directly across the street and within walking distance (of TJC Main Campus), is a polling location on election day.”

This graphic shows the election locations in Tyler. Graphic by Molly Swisher.

Before heading to a voting location, 

voters should have their IDs. Acceptable IDs include a Texas driver’s license, Texas election ID certificate, Texas personal ID card, Texas handgun license, U.S. citizenship certificate with photo, U.S. military ID card with photo, or a U.S. passport. Photo IDs for those ages 18 to 69 can be expired for four years at most.

Some might qualify for Reasonable Impediment Declaration by presenting a certified domestic birth certificate or court admissible birth document, current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or a government document with their name and an address to an election official at the voting location. That also includes one’s voter registration certificate, which should already be filled out.

Once handed a ballot there should be three options: a paper ballot where one will select their choices; a paper ballot where one will select their choices by darkening an oval, completing an arrow or marking with the voting machine; or paper with an access code/activator card. 

For the first option, voters will fill out the ballot, turn it into the ballot box, then local election officials will count these ballots by hand. 

The next potential voting option is the optical scan voting systems. On these ballots, a voter will mark their choices on a pre-printed ballot by either connecting arrows on the ballot or filling in bubbles next to candidates’ names. These ballots should then be inserted into an awaiting electronic ballot counter, which will automatically count votes as ballots are entered.

The direct record electronic system is done through a machine. The formats on these machines vary, but they all enable a voter to navigate several ballot pages. These ballot pages provide the candidate and issue choices. Once the voter has made their choices, the system will present a summary screen of the selections where voters can either tweak their ballot or cast it, usually by clicking a “Vote” or “Cast Ballot” button.

For more on Texas’ electronic voting systems, voting instructions and more, go to votetexas.gov/index.html.

COVID-19 does present a problem for voters, but Smith County has issued a list of safety and sanitation protocols. There is a six-foot requirement between voters and machines, disposable swabs and gloves will be given for voters using machines, sanitizing stations are at every polling location, and election workers are required to wear masks. For a list of precautions, voting locations and times, visit smith-county.com/government/departments/elections/current-election-information.

An often forgotten variable of a voting day is one’s attire. Voters will not be admitted if wearing any kind of clothing that indicates who they plan on voting for. Make sure one’s outfit is politic-free.

Other commonly unknown offenses at polling locations include the usage of cell phones, computers, cameras and sound recorders, as well as discussing one’s vote. Keep these in mind on election day and be safe, be smart and get out there to make your voice is heard on a national level.

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