TeachtheVote.org is dedicated to spreading the message that your informed vote is a powerful tool. We primarily feature profiles of all candidates running for seats in the Texas Legislature and State Board of Education, along with major statewide campaigns, but we encourage you to become involved in your political party and other national, state and local elections. ATPE is also dedicated to spreading our viewpoints on education policy and our belief that public education is a shared endeavor as important as your right to vote.
Public education and all public enterprises work best when we all participate in the process. As a citizen, you control the amount of time, money and effort you want to contribute to a cause or campaign. ATPE members hope you take the time to form your own views on the intersection of politics and public education. We challenge you to take action and vote your profession during this election cycle and beyond and to encourage your family, friends and neighbors to do the same. The information below will help you get involved this election year.
Visit our Resources page, too, for more information and links to other advocacy-related websites. Plus, don't forget about our blog, where you can find the latest news related to Texas elections, legislative developments, regulatory changes, and much more.
Texas state representatives are elected every two years, whereas state senators and members of the State Board of Education serve staggered four-year terms. Elections for many legislative seats and State Board of Education races will be held in March and November. Officials who are elected this year will begin their terms in January 2017.
Primary elections are scheduled this year for March 1, and Texas is an open primary state. This means that regardless of party preference, anyone, including an independent, may vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary (but not both). Also, you are not required to declare any political party allegiance upon registering to vote. Regardless of which primary you choose in the spring, you can vote for any candidate in the general election, which is set for Nov. 8, 2016. For instance, if you vote in the Republican primary, you are not bound to vote for the Republican candidates in the general election; you can still vote for Democratic, third-party or independent candidates come November. Many of the ballots cast in a general election include votes for candidates from a mixture of parties.
It's worth noting, however, that many elected officials will be determined through the primary election and not the general election. This is largely because district maps are often drawn in a manner that favors the political party in power at the time of redistricting. Some races will only attract candidates from a single political party, meaning that the entire contest will be decided in March. Therefore, to be an informed voter, you should try to ascertain which primary races in your area will determine the ultimate winner even before the November election.
ATPE is a nonpartisan organization with a pro-public education agenda, so we strongly encourage pro-public education voters to look at all candidates in each primary and, if necessary, "cross over" to vote strategically and attempt to send as many pro-public education candidates from both parties into the November general election. This is extremely important this election cycle because many races, especially in the Republican primary, feature at least one candidate with a public school background who makes education a priority versus candidates who prioritize other issues or have a history of voting against the interests of educators and students.
So how can you Teach the Vote?
Support public education with your votes!
Voting is the single most important thing you can do to impact the 2016 elections. Your vote is your voice. Use it to send the message that education matters by voting for candidates who understand the importance of Texas public education. Search the candidate profiles on TeachtheVote.org to learn more about the people running for office in your local area and their views on public education.
Public education issues are among the most prevalent and most important issues that legislators and SBOE members will be acting upon after they take office. As an educator, shouldn't you help decide which candidates are the ones most qualified to make those critical decisions? Your vote is your voice.
To vote in any Texas election, you must first be registered in advance (usually 30 days prior to the election). The voter registration deadline for the March primary election is Feb. 1. For the November general election, the deadline to register is Oct. 11. Learn more about voter registration, how to check your registration status, and how to obtain a voter registration application here.
Early voting in person is an easy and convenient way to avoid the hassles of trying to get to the polls on Election Day. For the March primary, the early voting period runs from Feb. 16-26, 2016. Unlike voting on Election Day, early voters do not have to vote at their precinct location. Simply go to any early voting location in your county to cast your ballot. You must show valid photo identification under state law. To find early voting locations and hours in your area, check your local newspaper or contact your local voter registrar's office.
In certain circumstances, you may also be eligible to vote early by mail. Applications for a mail-in ballot must be received no later than Feb. 19 for the March primary elections, and March 1 is the last day for mail-in ballots to be received.
Donating to a political action committee (PAC) or directly to the campaign of a candidate who supports public education is a great way to make a difference. A PAC is a fund that allows people with a common interest to pool their financial resources in order to make contributions to candidates and officeholders who support their cause.
Political campaigns can't succeed without volunteer help. Volunteering is a great way to build a relationship with the people you elect to represent you. During election season, most candidates spend their weekends and evenings block-walking and conducting phone banks, and they are always looking for volunteers. Use our events calendar to find campaign-related events in your area.
Writing letters to the editor is an effective way to convey your message to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. During election season, a letter from an educator can help emphasize how important it is for educators to participate in both the primary and general elections.
Follow these tips to give your letter a strong chance of being printed:
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