Voting Regulations to Know Before Heading to Polls

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BROWNSVILLE – Before voters head out for Election Day, there’s a few things to know concerning regulations at the polling place.

Whether it's a question about dress code, cell phone use, or voter rights – we got the answers to these frequently asked questions from the Cameron County Elections Administrator Remi Garza.

You've probably noticed traffic cones surrounding polling sites; they delineate 100-foot perimeter.

That's sacred ground protected by state law and those entrusted to enforce it.

"The State of Texas empowers the presiding judges with the authorities of a district judge meaning that they have the right to protect that 100-foot perimeter within the polling place for the voters," says Garza.

Election workers will be vigilant to protect against electioneering.

For the voter, that can mean fashion choice.

"That can range from a t-shirt, that can range from a hat, that can range from slogans that are easily recognizable for one party or the other.

It's up to the presiding judge to make that determination if they're violating the statutes, because that is a criminal offense," explains Garza.  

This is not limited to current candidates, stated Communication Director for the Secretary of State Sam Taylor.

You can't wear apparel advocating for or against a previous candidate.

If you wear, this you'll be asked to conceal it or go home and change.

Breaking this law could mean you face a Class C misdemeanor. 

Cell phones are considered a wireless communication device. State law prohibits you use them within the 100-foot perimeter.

There are some exceptions listed on the Texas Secretary of State's website.  

The main reason they're prohibited is because they're recording devices.

Recording at the polling site is against the law; but when this law was crafted, cell phones were not as ubiquitous as they are today.

So, this is what can happen if you take a phone to the site.

"I think it's more difficult to ask people to actually leave the voting place and discourage the voter turnout, where if you actually ask them to please put it away or turn it off, it would actually solve the issue," said Garza.

Breaking this law would not result in a criminal penalty.

According to Taylor, if you refuse to turn off the phone, the presiding judge has the authority to ask you to leave.

They want to allow voters the chance to vote.

Some preparation will be required like having the appropriate identification, making sure your voter registration is up-to-date and looking over the sample ballot before you head out.

The voter also has protected rights. 

Workers can legally take time to vote, according to Election Code 276.004.

It's a Class C misdemeanor if an employer prevents an employee from leaving work to vote or threatens to withhold wages or benefits if an employee leaves work to vote. 

However, this does not apply if the polls are open for two consecutive hours before your work schedule.

The law also protects your right to vote if you have a warrant out for your arrest, according to Election Code 276.005.

This keeps law enforcement from arresting you outside a polling site – felonies, treason and breach of the peace is excluded.

 As long as a voter is in line by 7 p.m., they can still vote.

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