Ever sit around with friends and the topic of elections comes up and you really do not want to admit that you do not know what a primary is? Or understand what the 2010 Census has to do with elections? This series is designed to answer those questions that you were afraid to ask.

How does one get elected? It is different for each state and for each position. For a partisan race, that is a race where a candidate is supported by a political party, the candidate must get the nomination from their party. In Texas, presently there are only four parties that are recognized by the State of Texas, the Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and the Republican Party. The Green Party and Libertarian Party select their candidates by convention. In other words, they meet and everyone votes at the meeting to select their candidate. The Democratic and the Republican Parties select their candidates by primary. In other words, they hold a primary election. In the primary election, Democratic candidates will run against Democratic candidates and Republican candidates will run against Republican candidates.

The successful candidates of the primaries and conventions will go on to be candidates in the general election in November. The voting public may only vote in one of the primaries as long as they did not participate or plan to participate in the conventions for the Green Party or the Libertarian Party. If a voter votes in a primary or participates in a convention, they are now considered a member of the party’s primary that they voted in during the primary or the party’s convention that they attended. For example if a voter votes in the Democratic primary, there is a record of their appearance to vote and now they are considered a Democrat.

In order to be on the ballot for the primary, a candidate must sign up to be on the ballot by a certain date. This date is set by statute and is usually 90 days or so before the primary election. In Texas, the sign up date was in mid-December. However, as a result of the redistricting that took place in the spring of 2011, litigation sprang up and delayed the election.

So how do you know which party represents your thoughts on the world? There are a number of ways to investigate. Typically each party will have a platform that lists issues and the party’s stance on the issues. A voter can go online and find these platforms readily. Another means is to attend a meeting. In Texas, a voter can look up the political party offices in a county online and can usually find a list of meeting places and times. In Harris County Texas, the meetings are all over the county and quite easily found.

The Democratic Party and the Republican Party hold a state convention every year that there is a primary, which is every even-numbered year. Representatives to this convention are selected at precinct conventions which are typically held after the polls close on election night. In Texas, this year, the precinct conventions were held prior to the elections because the state conventions were to be held 10 days after Election Day which is not enough time to get organized. In Harris County, the conventions were held on April 21.

This is all great information, but it does not answer what offices are up for election in the primary and the general elections. Stay tuned for more in the Are Elections Confusing series.

By Sonya Aston – Attorney with the Office of Stan Stanart, County Clerk and Republican Candidate for Judge for the 127th State District Court for Harris County. Sonya’s mission is to instill responsibility in others for self, family, business, community and government and promises that all who enter her court room will be greeted with respect and their time honored, when they leave they will feel that they received expeditious, fair treatment and that the law was followed. Please learn more by visiting her website at www.sonyaaston.com.

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