TEXAS VIEW: Start planning to vote in primary elections

By The Brownsville Herald

Believe it or not, it’s political season again.

People have one week — until Feb. 5 — to register to vote in the March 6 Texas primary elections. Any U.S. citizen who is or will be 18 years or older on March 6 and who has not registered to vote, or who has moved since obtaining a previous voter registration card, should apply for one within the next week. Registration forms are available at most government buildings including public libraries and Department of Public Safety offices.

This vote is for party primaries. Democrats and Republicans will hold separate elections to determine who will be their respective candidates on the November General Election ballot.

In heavily partisan areas like the Rio Grande Valley, which is predominantly Democrat, the primaries are crucial. A local candidate who wins the party primary might face no opposition in November, and claim the elected position by default.

Many people are still reeling from the effects of the 2016 presidential election. Many attribute the unexpected results to low voter turnout, suspecting that many people were so assured of the results that they didn’t bother to go to the polls. About 58 percent of eligible American voters cast ballots in November 2016, which is one of the lowest levels of voter participation among the world’s democratic countries.

This year is considered a midterm election; the president is not on the ballot. However, the slate of positions and candidates will be large. All House of Representative seats in both the U.S. Congress and state Legislature are up for a vote. In addition, one of Texas’ two U.S. Senate seats is on the ballot; Texans will decide whether to retain or replace controversial U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

State Senate seats currently held by Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, both will be up for election in 2020.

Gov. Greg Abbott and several other top state officials also are on this year’s ballot, as well as key positions on state courts, the State Board of Education and other boards and commissions.

Many local positions also are up from grabs across the region.

For those who believe a higher voter turnout in 2016 might have brought different results, the lesson should have been learned. Let us all pledge to do our part to participate in the election process by learning all we can about the candidates and the major issues, and casting our ballots for the candidate we believe is the best qualified.

People who are in the minority might still not like the results of the election, but at least they know that they did their part to ensure that our democratic process is as fair as possible.