As election day draws near, a few important deadlines loom. With COVID-19 casting a dark cloud over the coming vote, it’s critical to understand your options this cycle. Below you’ll find a list of important dates and information on the coming election, so you’ll be prepared however and for whomever you choose to vote.

When is the election?

The general election will be held across the country on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

How do I register to vote? What is the deadline?

Register on the Secretary of State’s website. The cutoff date for this upcoming election is Oct. 6. Here is a link to the application.

How do I find out who and what is on the ballot?

Go to the Secretary of State’s website and look at the candidate ballot order.

Where do I vote?

Enter your information on the Secretary of State’s website here to find your polling place. Contact your local county election office to find out what time your polling center opens.

What kind of identification should I bring?

Here is a list of acceptable forms of identification. You won't be allowed to vote without one. 

What if my employer doesn't let me off of work to vote?

Your employer is legally required to give you paid time off to vote, unless you’ve had at least two consecutive hours to vote while off the clock. Here is a list of guidelines and penalties for voting during the weekday. To summarize, your employer can get into big-time trouble if she/he doesn’t allow you time to cast your ballot.

When does early voting begin and end?

In Texas, the early voting period runs from Tuesday, Oct. 13 to Friday, Oct. 30, but dates and hours may vary based on where you live. Check out the Secretary of State’s website or contact your county election office for specific details.

How do I request an absentee ballot?

In most states, an absentee ballot requires a reason, such as being disabled or out of the country – fear of COVID-19 doesn’t count. The Secretary of State’s website shows a full list of reasons and houses the application for an absentee ballot. The deadline is Oct. 23, and the U.S. Postal Service suggests you request a ballot as soon as possible. Ballots are mailed out beginning on Sept. 19.

In Texas, mailed-in ballots require your signature, can’t contain any random marks, and must be sent back in the envelope provided. Be sure to follow the instructions that come with your ballot, and call your local election officials if you have questions.

How do I return my ballot?

Return your ballot in person, by mail, or through a third party – though some restrictions apply. Ballots must be dropped off or postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by mail no later than Nov. 4. The U.S. Postal Service recommends turning in your ballot by Oct. 27. You can track your ballot on the Secretary of State’s website.

How is my absentee ballot certified and counted?

There are myriad security measures in place to certify your ballot, such as tracking bar codes and signatures. In most states, the signature you submit with your ballot will be cross-checked against what election officials have on file. Remember, if there is a problem with your ballot, election officials are required to contact you to try and correct the issue.

Absentee ballots may be counted a soon as Oct. 22 and formally tallied on Oct. 30 for counties with populations exceeding 100,000. Smaller counties can start processing on Oct. 30 and formally counted after polls open on election day.

Check the status of your provisional ballot here.

Where can I find election results?

Follow Spectrum News on our newly updated app.

Why is this election important? 

The headline act is the presidential election, but there are dozens of other consequential elections this year. Republican John Cornyn is defending his senate seat against Air Force veteran and Democratic hopeful MJ Hegar. In Texas’ 10th congressional district, incumbent Republican Michael McCaul is facing off against Democrat Mike Siegel, an Austin-based attorney who almost unseated McCaul in 2018. In Texas’ 23rd congressional district, Republican Rep. Will Hurd is retiring, setting the stage for a showdown between Republican Tony Gonzales and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones.

Here is our voting guide that summarizes the candidate’s positions.