Voter Eligibility & Registration

Voter eligibility refers to the members of a population who are eligible to vote.  When it comes to voter eligibility, the federal government has created a general framework and basic requirements.  Recall, however, that conducting elections is considered a reserved power of the state.  As such, states are allowed to incorporate additional requirements, so long as they do not violate federal laws, including (but not limited to) the 15th amendment (guarantees suffrage for African American males), the 19th amendment (guarantees suffrage for females), the 26th amendment (guarantees suffrage for 18-20 year olds), and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Federal Voter Requirements

  • U.S. citizen
  • At least 18 years old
  • Are registered in the state in which you plan to vote, if registration is required (fun fact: North Dakota does not require voter registration)

Texas Voter Requirements

  • Resident of the county in which you plan to vote
  • Not a convicted felon
    • This only applies while serving a sentence; eligibility to vote is legally reinstated once person’s sentence is complete, although barriers often still exist
  • Not declared mentally incapacitated by a court of law
  • Registered to vote
  • Required to present an acceptable for of photo ID (the federal law Help America Vote Act requires voter ID, but its requirements are less strict than those enacted by the state)

Removing Barriers to Registration: Motor Voter Act

In 1993, the U.S. Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act (also known as the Motor Voter Act), which removed barriers in voting registration within the states by requiring states to:

  • allow people to register to vote up to thirty days before a federal primary or general election
  • provide individuals with the opportunity to register to vote when applying for or renewing a driver’s license
  • allow individuals to register to vote by mail to participate in federal elections

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