Election day guide: Everything you need to know before heading to the polls for the state’s primary runoff election

HOUSTON – Primary Runoff Election Day in Texas is July 14, but you may have some questions before you head to the polls.

The Harris County Clerk has set up a “frequently asked questions” section on the website where you can get the answers on anything from the early voting to voting by mail.

Here is what you should know about election day, according to the clerk’s office:

What is straight-party voting?

This is the practice of casting a vote for all candidates of the same political party by selecting the “straight party” option on a ballot. This option will not be available for the primary election.

When will polling locations be open?

On election day, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Click here for a list of polling locations.

Am I eligible to vote in the November election?

According to the Harris County Clerk, anyone who is registered to vote in Harris County can vote in the general election. If you have never registered to vote, you must register 30 days before Election Day.

Can I vote in November even if I did not vote in the Primary election?

Yes. A voter does not have to vote in the primary or primary runoff to vote in the general election.

What contests will I see on the November ballot?

According to the Harris County Clerk, “federal, state and county contests appear on the county ballot in even-numbered years. Other municipalities within Harris County may also join the ballot, including independent school districts, utility and emergency services districts and community colleges.”

Some of the notable races that will be on the July 14 ballot include, U.S. Senator, Railroad Commissioner, Harris County Sheriff and several state and U.S. representatives. Click here to see who is running.

Do I have to vote for the same political party I voted for in the primary election?

Yes if you are voting in the runoff. No, if you are voting in the general election.

Are there things I can do to protect myself at the polls, i.e. coronavirus?

According to the CDC, the best way to protect yourself at the poll is to practice social distancing, maintaining good hand hygiene, avoid touching your face and wear a face covering. The CDC also recommends you not wipe down voting equipment yourself as some cleaners and disinfectants can damage the electronics.

Click here for more detailed information on staying safe at the polls.

What steps will the polling sites be taking with coronavirus?

Harris County started an initiative to help people feel confident and safe when going out to vote in the July and November elections. The “S.A.F.E” initiative is the county’s “commitment to voters that you can exercise your right to vote without putting your health at risk.”

Some of the steps taken include:

  • Providing PPE to poll workers.
  • Promoting and maximizing mail-in voting “within the bounds of the law.”
  • Increase the number of polling locations and polling machines.
  • Accurately report wait times.
  • Optimize the ballot layout to allow voters to cast their votes more quickly.

You can find the complete initiative and list of steps at Harrisvotes.com/SAFE.

If there are issues at the poll, who do I call?

If you experience an issue while in the voting booth, you should press the “help” button on the eSlate machine or notify the election staff. People can also reach out to the Election Help Line at (713) 755-6965 or the Elections Department at (713) 755-5792 with other questions or concerns.

For any other questions about the election, you can visit Harrisvotes.com or Votetexas.gov.

How many people voted in early voting?

More than 154,000 Harris County residents voted early in the primary runoff elections, according to the Harris County Clerk. The early voting period was June 29 to July 10.

For the Democrats, 65,929 residents completed in-person voting. While 45,176 residents sent mail-in ballots. In total, 111,105 people submitted ballots for the Democratic primary runoff election.

For the Republicans, 17,783 residents attended in-person voting. While 25,425 residents submitted mail-in ballots. In total, 43,208 people completed ballots for the Republican primary runoff election.

Who is on the ballot and what are the notable races?

Here’s a look at the candidates that will be on the Democrat and Republican ballots Tuesday. There are a few races of note to pay attention to Tuesday.

Sheriff Troy Nehls vs. Kathaleen Wall

Troy Nehls (left) and Kathaleen Wall
Troy Nehls (left) and Kathaleen Wall (KPRC)

The race for Congressional District 22 in Fort Bend County has become one of the hottest races in the country as Democrats hope to flip the Republican stronghold in November when Rep. Pete Olson steps down from his seat.

Tuesday, Republican voters will get a chance to decide who will represent their party in November against Democrat challenger Sri Preston Kulkarni. On the GOP ballot are Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls and conservative activist Kathaleen Wall. Read more about their race here.

MJ Hegar vs. Royce West

Royce West and Mary "MJ" Hegar, candidates for U.S. Senator (Democrat) in July runoff election.
Royce West and Mary "MJ" Hegar, candidates for U.S. Senator (Democrat) in July runoff election. (KSAT)

Air Force veteran MJ Hegar and Texas State Sen. Royce West, both Democrats, are squaring off for their party’s ticket in November against incumbent U.S. Senator John Cornyn. The two differ greatly on views and have sparred bitterly in the past during debates.

To see where they stand on various issues, click here.

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