Kris Seago
Political Science
Material Type:
Full Course
Community College / Lower Division
Creative Commons Attribution
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Types of Elections


Types of Elections

Learning Objective

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Dierentiate between primary, general, runo, and special elections


The Texas Secretary of State serves as Chief Election Officer for Texas, assisting county election officials and ensuring the uniform application and interpretation of election laws throughout Texas. This section explores the various types of elections used in Texas.

Types Of Elections In Texas

Texas uses four types of elections:

  1. Primary Elections
  2. Runoff Elections
  3. General Elections
  4. Special Elections
Campaign signs at a Houston early voting location
Figure 8.1 This early voting location in Houston attracted many candidate signs for the March 2018 primary election. Image Credit: Andrew Teas License: CC BY

Primary Elections

Primary elections are the first elections held in an electoral cycle. A primary election is an election used either to narrow the field of candidates for a given elective office or to determine the nominees for political parties in advance of a general election. Each state decides how it will run primary elections. State law, not federal, regulates most aspects of primary (as well as general) elections, and local election officials (county, city, and township) are predominantly responsible for administering them. In Texas, primary elections are held on the second Tuesday in March on even-numbered years.

Winning the primary election requires an absolute majority, meaning that the party's nominees must have more votes than all opponents combined. If no candidate receives an absolute majority, there is a runo primary between the two candidates receiving the most votes.

Runoff Elections

A runoff election is held when no candidate gets 50 percent plus one vote in the primary election. Primary elections often have multiple candidats vying to represent a party in the general election and it’s not uncommon that a single candidate fails to win 50 percent plus one vote. In such a case there is a runoff election between the top two vote-getters.

General Elections

A general election is an election in which voters cast ballots to select public officials at any level, including city, county, congressional district, or state. Major state officials, such as the attorney general, governor, lieutenant governor, and comptroller of public accounts, are elected in nonpresidential election years.

General elections determine the final winner – the candidate to take office. The candidate obtaining the most votes (even if not necessarily a majority of votes) wins.

Texas holds its general elections on the same day that we elect members to the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and that we select electors for the Electoral College to select the President in Presidential-election years.

This date was set by a national law passed in 1845  as "the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November" or "the first Tuesday after November 1” in even numbered years. 

The earliest possible date is November 2, and the latest possible date is November 8 on even-numbered years (2020, 2022, and so on).

Texas holds its statewide elections (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and so on) in “nonpresidential” or “midterm” years—the general elections when we are not electing a President.

One of the more puzzling questions is “Why Do We Vote on Tuesday?” A group advocating moving the general election to another day may be found here:

Special Elections

Special elections are used to ratify or reject Texas constitutional amendments, fill elected offices that have become vacant between general elections, or provide approval to borrow money.

In most cases, special elections occur after the incumbent dies or resigns, but they also occur when the incumbent becomes ineligible to continue in office. For example, if a Texas state senator resigns, the governor will call a special election to fill the vacancy.

Special elections are called by the Texas Legislature.

Licensing and Attribution


Revision and Adaptation. Authored by: Daniel M. Regalado. License: CC BY: Attribution

Types of Elections in Texas. Authored by: Daniel M. Regalado. License: CC BY: Attribution