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Friday, December 01, 2023 — Houston, TX

This primary season, get out and vote


Photo courtesy Trisha Gupta and Pedro Ribeiro

By Trisha Gupta and Pedro Ribeiro     2/24/22 9:15pm

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.

During this primary election season, we are undoubtedly aware of the high profile candidates running for office. However, there are countless more local and statewide races that are going to appear on our ballots — all of them crucial elected positions that will form the ballot we will vote on in November. Each time we vote, we shape the policies, ideas and experiences that are brought to the table for our city, county and state. These candidates are the people who will directly determine what life looks like for Rice University and the Houstonians surrounding us — in terms of criminal justice, voter suppression and civil rights. Early voting in the primaries has already begun, and will last till Feb. 25 (this Friday), and the closest polling location is located in the first floor of the John P. McGovern building in the Med Center. March 1, this upcoming Tuesday, will be the general election day and polling will be held in the Grand Hall of the RMC — making voting as easy as stopping by the RMC with your driver’s license, personal state-issued ID or passport in hand.

Texas has what is called an open primary; this means that when you get to the voting station, you will have the opportunity to decide which party’s slate of candidates you want to vote for (Democrat or Republican), regardless of how you registered to vote. This means that you have the opportunity to help select the candidates of the party you are not affiliated with, opening up new voting possibilities in the general election. This gives you immense opportunity to research a wide plethora of candidates with ranging views and beliefs, and find the ones who best represent your vision for the future of Harris County and Texas. 

That is why it is of utmost importance to create an informed voting plan and take the time to participate in early voting or general election day voting this primary season, for down-ballot candidates and high-profile races alike. This upcoming election, especially in the field of down-ballot candidates (such as judges, county commissioners and state representatives), the policies that are brought to the table can impact Harris County’s criminal justice, civil rights and environmental future. We should not discount the importance of the primaries on the notion that the results are pre-determined, or based on the supposition that it is only the general election that has material impact. Especially with the low profile races, your vote will have a large material impact on who appears on the general election ballot.

The sheer number of races in play this year, especially in highly specific down-ballot roles such as land commissioner, who manages infrastructure funding and planning; the Texas Railroad Commission, who controls natural gas production and is partially responsible for the energy grid fiasco of last year; or judges, who determine the future of restorative justice initiatives.  This means that there are several candidates who are new to the field but have innovative and interesting ideas that we might hope to see brought to a general election in order to spark new conversations. The only way to have these conversations is if we vote for the candidates whose ideas we believe in during the primaries.

We’ve highly encouraged you to research, but how do you actually learn about the candidates in these positions? To get informed, you can look up sample ballots for your county and use sources like Ballotpedia to see candidates’ platforms and donations. You can check out their campaign website for a list of endorsements, which are often telling of policy priorities. At the very least, you can look at official released recommendations and voter guides from trusted sources, such as the Houston Chronicle. 

If we hope to continue Houston's precedent of innovative policies, we need to take the time to research the candidates running for these positions of power; ignoring down-ballot candidates or electing candidates who are not representative of your best wishes for our county could delay comprehensive political action for years to come. Don’t miss the opportunity to shape the future of your city, your county, your state and your country.

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