Kid-Friendly Overview of Houston Elections, Political Offices and Voting Procedures
When it comes to politics, I generally have no interest in the politics. However, when it comes to the political process and exercising the right to vote, I am very interested. More than this, I want my kids to understand what is happening in the City of Houston.
We have voted and we have discussed the process, but the more questions the kids asked, the more unclear the process seemed. So I set out to create a kid-friendly overview of Houston politics as well as meet the people involved.
For the 2015 Candidates list, go HERE!
City of Houston Elections:
Every 2 years, Houston holds elections for the office of Mayor, Controller and City Council. The City Council has 16 members. Eleven of these positions are elected from districts (districts A through K) and each represents a specific area of Houston. Five of the city council positions are elected “at large” and represent the entire city.
When you go to vote, you will be able to vote for the mayor, controller, all at-large city council members, and the one city council member that represents your district. So, if you live in district D, you will vote for the mayor, controller, city council at-large 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and city council district D. (You may also vote for other positions, but we’ll get to that later.)
Once elected, each person serves for two years. After two years, the person must run for re-election. If they are elected again after two years, they can repeat this one more time. After serving for three terms in the same office, the person can no longer run for that office. They may run for another office. For example, after serving three two-year terms, a city council member could run for mayor.
The mayor, controller and city council are all on the same election schedule. During odd years, all members must run for re-election.
HCC & HISD Elections:
In addition to mayor, controller and city council members, you may have a few other elected positions on your ballot. To get a preview of your ballot, go HERE.
On your ballot you may see positions such as Houston Independent School District (HISD) Trustee and Houston Community College (HCC) Trustee. These positions are elected from different districts, and for different terms, than the City of Houston elected positions.
For HCC, there are 9 trustees that serve staggered 6 year terms (similar to how U.S. Senate elections work). This means that not all of them are re-elected in any given year. Each trustee is elected from the district they represent. To find the district maps, go HERE. There is no limit to the number of terms an HCC Trustee can serve. If a person is re-elected every 6 years, they can be a trustee indefinitely if that person so chooses.
For HISD, there are 9 trustees that serve staggered 4 year terms. Each trustee is elected from the district they represent. To find the district that you live in, go HERE. Note that if your children do not attend their zoned school (i.e., if your children are in a magnet program), the trustee in charge of the school may be different than the trustee you find on your ballot. You ballot will list your trustee based on where you live. There is no limit to the number of terms an HISD Trustee can serve.
Voting is easy in Houston. You can Early Vote or you can vote on Election Day. You can also vote by mail. A photo ID is required and children are allowed to accompany the parent.
Election Day for 2015 is November 3, 2015. If you vote on Election Day, you need to go to your designated voting location, which is usually in the precinct in which you are registered to vote. To find this location, go HERE.
Early voting for 2015 is October 19 through October 30, 2015. You can vote on any day and at any early voting location, usually from 7am to 7pm (and times are listed HERE). Most of the time, there is no line to vote during early voting. You can walk straight up, give the poll worker your ID, and vote. For early voting locations, go HERE.
In order to vote, you must be registered. If you are not, you must do this at least 30 days before the election date. Go HERE for information on registering to vote.
If you are looking for a nonpartisan overview of each candidate on the ballot, look for the League of Women Voters Voter’s Guide at your local library or go HERE.