(Amended to reflect Federal District Court Order of 3/1/2012)
The general eligibility requirements to be a candidate for a public elective office in Texas are that a person must: 1) be a United States citizen; 2) be 18 years of age or older on the first day of the term to be filled at the election; 3) have not been determined totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote by a final judgment of a court exercising probate jurisdiction; 4) have not been finally convicted of a felony from which the person has not been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities; 5) have resided continuously in the state for 12 months and in the territory from which the office is elected for six months immediately preceding a date which varies depending on the office; and 6) satisfy any other eligibility requirements prescribed by law for the office. These requirements do not apply to an office for which the federal or state constitution or a statute outside the Texas Election Code prescribes exclusive eligibility requirements. Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 141.001 (Vernon 2010). Note that, under the federal district court order of March 1, 2012, a candidate for the Texas House of Representatives or the Texas Senate must be a resident of the district the candidate seeks to represent from April 9, 2012 until the date of the 2012 General Election.
Procedures for Establishing a Minor Party
A person wishing to start a political party in Texas must form an organization and elect a chair and other necessary officers. The organization must have a name of three words or less. Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 161.002. The organization must establish temporary rules on electoral procedures. The temporary rules must be filed no later than 30 days before the precinct convention of March 13, 2012 in order to be effective in 2012. The temporary rules must be considered by the membership at the first state convention after their adoption. The requirements for party rules are set forth in Sections 163.002 and 181.033, Texas Election Code. Party rules must be filed with the Secretary of State not later than 30 days after they are adopted. Id. § 163.005 (Vernon 2010). Note that under the federal district court order of 2/28/2012, the deadline under Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 163.005(a) (requiring party rules to be filed with the Secretary of State by the 30th day prior to the convening of precinct conventions) is suspended to allow parties to make emergency changes to their rules to comply with this and future federal district court orders.
A minor party (also referred to as “third party” or a “new political party”) may nominate candidates either by convention or primary election, if the party’s nominee for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election received at least two percent but less than twenty percent of the total number of votes received by all candidates for governor. Id. § 181.002. If the political party chooses to nominate by primary election, the state chair must deliver written notice to the Secretary of State at least one year prior to the general election. Id. § 172.002. Parties whose candidates received twenty percent or more are required to hold a primary election. Id. § 172.001.A political party that intends to make nominations by convention must register with the Secretary of State not later than January 2 of the election year. The form used for registering a minor party is located in the forms section of the Texas Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.state.tx.us. Id. § 181.0041. A party must make nominations of candidates by a convention if the party is not authorized to nominate by primary election. Id. § 181.003. A political party making state nominations under Chapter 181 of the Texas Election Code is required to establish a state executive committee. Id. § 181.004.
Nomination by Convention Method
The procedure for nominating minor party candidates by convention is governed by Chapter 181 of the Texas Election Code. Id. § 181.001. To be considered for nomination by a convention, a candidate, for an office other than president and vice-president of the United States, must make an application for nomination by the deadlines discussed below. Id. § 181.031(a). Candidates seeking nomination for a state or district office must file with the state party chair no later than March 9, 2012. Id. § 181.032(a)(1). Candidates for county or precinct offices must file applications with the county party chair no later than March 9, 2012, except for the office of precinct chair, which has a filing deadline of June 1, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. Id. § 181.032(a)(2). The state and county chairs must file a list of candidates with the Secretary of State not later than 10 days after the filing deadline.
Minimum of Precinct Participants Required
To be entitled to place their nominees on the general election ballot, third parties must first file a list of precinct convention participants with the Secretary of State not later than June 29, 2012. Id. § 181.005(a). The list must include the residence address and voter registration number of each participant. Id. § 181.005(a). The list must indicate that the number of participants equals at least one percent of the total number of votes received by all candidates for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election. Id. The one percent figure for the 2010 gubernatorial election is 49,799.
The list of precinct convention participants may be supplemented by petitions signed by registered voters who have not voted in a primary election or participated in another party’s convention. Id. § 181.006. The petition may not be circulated until after the date of the party's precinct conventions. Id. § 181.006(j).Once a minor party is on the general election ballot, the party is entitled to have the names of its nominees placed on the ballot, without meeting the petition requirements, in each subsequent general election following a general election in which the party’s nominee for statewide office received at least five percent of the vote for that office. Id. § 181.005(b). For the 2012 general election, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party are entitled to have their nominees on the 2012 general election ballot.
Financial Disclosure Requirements
Under Title 15 of the Election Code, candidates must file campaign contribution and expenditure reports. For further information and all questions about such disclosure filings, campaign finance, and political advertising, please contact the Texas Ethics Commission at 201 E. 14th, 10th Floor, Austin, Texas 78701 (or call 512-463-5800 or visit their website at www.ethics.state.tx.us). Candidates filing for federal offices should contact the Federal Elections Commission toll-free at 1-800-424-9530 or visit their website at www.fec.gov.