AUSTIN (KXAN) -- Early voting is underway for this year's constitutional amendment election. The ballot also includes bond measures for many school districts statewide.
Texas operates in a constitutional legislation, with bills that include amendments that are approved by voters in order for the law to take effect.
There are seven propositions on the ballot. Early voting runs from Oct. 23 through Nov. 3. Election day is Nov. 7.
- Proposition 1 (HJR 21) "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead and harmonizing certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution."
- Proposition 2 (SJR 60) "The constitutional amendment to establish a lower amount for expenses that can be charged to a borrower and removing certain financing expense limitations for a home equity loan, establishing certain authorized lenders to make a home equity loan, changing certain options for the refinancing of home equity loans, changing the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, and allowing home equity loans on agricultural homesteads."
- Proposition 3 (SJR 34) "The constitutional amendment limiting the service of certain officeholders appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate after the expiration of the person's term of office."
- Proposition 4 (SJR 6) "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to require a court to provide notice to the attorney general of a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute and authorizing the legislature to prescribe a waiting period before the court may enter a judgment holding the statute unconstitutional."
- Proposition 5 (HJR 100) "The constitutional amendment on professional sports team charitable foundations conducting charitable raffles."
- Proposition 6 (SJR 1) "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty."
- Proposition 7 (HJR 37) "The constitutional amendment relating to legislative authority to permit credit unions and other financial institutions to award prizes by lot to promote savings."
These seven constitutional amendments are important, former Texas State Representative Sherri Greenberg argues.
"Even though there's not a lot of controversy around [this year's] constitutional amendments, you may not agree with all of them," said Greenberg, who is now a clinical professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. "Or, you may feel very strongly about some of them. And your vote counts. We can see that in elections of all kinds -- it can be just a few votes that makes a difference."
Law enforcement rights advocate Charley Wilkison, executive director of Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), has worked for decades to help families of first-responders killed in the line of duty.
"When that mother or father is killed in the line of duty, the bills don't stop coming in," Wilkison said. He argued that tax reductions for those families of first-responders, which Proposition 6 addresses, would be welcome with open arms, and any minor burden on taxpayers would be worth it because these spouses, family members, and other law enforcement officials, carry other burdens too."
"It's just another way for the state of Texas to do what it should've been doing all along and that is assisting the families that have given so much," Wilkison said.
Cynthia Vetter agrees. Her husband, Department of Public Safety Trooper Randy Vetter was shot while conducting a traffic stop in 2000. He died from his injuries a few days later. Vetter said there is no long-term system designed to help her and her family in the wake of her husband's death.
"Anything helps," Vetter said. "[But] those benefits don't support you forever, and they're not designed that way."
She said the only piece of Proposition 6 she does not like is the portion that states the tax break only applies "if the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder."
Greenberg says being an educated voter helps Texans weed through the politics and understand what changes they are enacting.
"I encourage everyone to do that, to educate yourself, and then when you go in, you have knowledge that you can make up your mind on each of these seven [propositions]," Greenberg said.
The Voting Age Population (VAP) in the State of Texas is 19,502,633 for this 2017 November election, according to the Texas Secretary of State's office. With 15,099,137 registered voters, that means the percentage of the VAP who registered in Texas is 77.4 percent.
Compare that to 2015, when 73.2 percent of the 19,110,272 VAP registered. That year, just over 1.5 million people actually voted. The Texas Secretary of State's office said 11.34 percent of registered Texans voted, and 8.3 percent of the total VAP went to the polls.
"Historically, Constitutional Amendment elections have lower turnout figures than midterm or presidential election years, and we do not have any indication or metrics to predict what turnout figures will look like this November," a spokesperson for Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos said. "However, the percentage of the voting age population who are registered is at least four percent higher this year than it was in 2015, so that is worth noting."
To cast a ballot in person in Texas, you'll need to present one of the following approved forms of photo ID:
- Texas Driver License issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
- Texas Election Identification Certificate (EIC) issued by DPS
- Texas Personal Identification Card issued by DPS
- Texas License to Carry a Handgun (LTC) issued by DPS
- U.S. Military ID Card containing the person's photograph
- U.S. Citizenship Certificate containing the person's photograph
- U.S. Passport
With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than four years before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.
If you don't have any of the listed IDs, you can (1) sign a sworn statement at the polls that there is a reason why you don't have any of the IDs listed above, and (2) bring one of the following:
- Valid voter registration certificate
- Certified birth certificate
- Current utility bill
- Government check
- Paystub or bank statement that includes your name and address
- Copy of or original government document with your name and an address (original required if it contains a photograph).
Polling places may be found by clicking here.
Voters affected by Hurricane Harvey, may click here for additional details.
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