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Appointment Procedures for County Election Precinct Presiding and Alternate Judges, Election Clerks, Early Voting Ballot Board Members, Signature Verification Committee Members, and Central Counting Station Personnel

To: County Chairs, County Clerks/Elections Administrators/Tax Assessors Collectors, and County Judges
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Date: June 23, 2014
RE: Appointment Procedures for County Election Precinct Presiding and Alternate Judges, Election Clerks, Early Voting Ballot Board Members, Signature Verification Committee Members, and Central Counting Station Personnel

Introduction

We begin by noting the following:

  1. With the approach of the July and August periods for the county commissioners court to appoint election precinct, early voting ballot board, and central counting station presiding and alternate judges, we have prepared this memorandum to remind you of the appointment procedures as set out in Sections 32.002, 87.002, 87.027, and 127.002-127.005 of the Texas Election Code (“Code”). If the court appointed election precinct and central counting station judges in July of 2013 for a two-year term, there will be no reason to make election precinct and central counting station judge appointments in July or August of 2014. Assuming the court will make appointments in July or August of 2014, below are some procedures to follow.
  2. There are special procedures for appointing early voting officers, members of the early voting ballot board, and election clerks who will serve in the November General Election for state and county officers. Therefore, please review carefully the appointment procedures in this advisory because they are different from those used in May elections and November elections in odd-numbered years.
  3. Remember that counties may be conducting joint elections for the November 4, 2014 uniform election date with other political subdivisions, such as cities, school districts, water districts, or hospital districts. Keep in mind that the joint election agreement must address how the appointments of election precinct and central counting station presiding and alternate judges will be made.

Appointment Process for County Election Precinct Presiding and Alternate Judges and for the Central Counting Station Election Judge and Alternate Judge

In counties with a population of over 500,000, before July of each year, the county chairs of the political parties whose candidate for governor received the highest and second highest number of votes in the county in the 2010 gubernatorial election must submit a list to the commissioners court naming persons in order of preference who are eligible for appointment as a presiding or alternate judge in each county election precinct and as a central counting station election judge and alternate judge and who are affiliated or aligned with the county chair’s political party. Id. §§ 32.002 & 127.005(e). We recommend that the list contain names for every precinct in the county and for the central counting station. Id. § 32.007. Lists submitted by mail must be postmarked by June 30, 2014 in order for them to be considered timely-filed. A county chair may supplement the list of names for election judges until the 20th day before general election (or the 15th day for a special election) in case an appointed judge becomes unable to serve. After that time, an emergency appointment may be made. See below for additional information on emergency appointments.

In counties with a population of 500,000 or less, before August of each year, the county chairs of the political parties whose candidate for governor received the highest and second highest number of votes in the county in the 2010 gubernatorial election must submit a list to the commissioners court naming persons in order of preference who are eligible for appointment as a presiding or alternate judge in each county election precinct and as a central counting station election judge and alternate judge and who are affiliated or aligned with the county chair’s political party. Id. §§ 32.002 & 127.005(e). We recommend that the list contain names for every precinct in the county and for the central counting station. Id. § 32.007. Lists submitted by mail must be postmarked by July 31, 2014 in order for them to be considered timely-filed. A county chair may supplement the list of names for election judges until the 20th day before general election (or the 15th day for a special election) in case an appointed judge becomes unable to serve. After that time, an emergency appointment may be made. See below for additional information on emergency appointments.

A person affiliates with a particular political party during a given primary election year by either voting in a party’s primary or by taking the oath of affiliation (i.e., swearing that one has not voted in another party’s primary or participated in another party’s convention during that primary year). Id. §§ 162.003 & 162.006.

As stated above, the commissioners court is required to appoint the presiding and alternate election judges for each county election precinct and the central counting station from the lists submitted by the county chairs at its July or August term, as applicable. Id. §§ 32.001, 32.002 & 127.005(e). The commissioners court MUST appoint the first eligible person as presiding judge from the list of the party whose candidate for governor received the highest number of votes in that precinct. Id. The alternate judge MUST be the first eligible person from the list submitted by the party whose candidate for governor received the second highest number of votes in that precinct. Id. If both parties received the same number of gubernatorial votes in a specific precinct (i.e., tie vote), the first person meeting the applicable eligibility requirements from the list submitted by the party whose candidate for governor received the highest number of votes in the county shall be appointed as the presiding judge and the first person meeting the applicable eligibility requirements from the list submitted by the party whose candidate for governor received the second highest number of votes in the county shall be appointed as the alternate presiding judge. Id. § 32.002(c).

In counties with a population of more than 500,000, the terms of the judges start on August 1, 2014. In counties with a population of 500,000 or less, the terms of the judges start on September 1, 2014.

Both the presiding and alternate judge appointed to serve on election day at the county election precinct must be qualified voters of the election precinct from which they are serving. However, if the authority making an appointment of a presiding judge or alternate presiding judge cannot find an eligible qualified voter of the precinct who is willing to accept the appointment, then a presiding judge or alternate presiding judge may be appointed if he or she is an eligible qualified voter of the county. Id. § 32.051(b).

To be eligible to serve as the presiding or alternate judge of the central counting station, one must meet the general eligibility requirements of a precinct presiding judge, except that he or she is required only to be a qualified voter of the county (not for any particular precinct). Id. §§ 32.051 & 127.005.

Failure to Submit List

If a county chair does not submit names by the June 30, 2014 or July 31, 2014 deadline, as applicable, for a particular precinct, the county clerk or elections administrator shall prepare a list for that precinct. Id. § 32.002(d). The commissioners court shall select and appoint an eligible person from the county clerk’s/elections administrator’s list who is affiliated or aligned with the appropriate party, if available. Id.

Emergency Appointments

If the appointed election judge is unable to serve for a given election, the alternate judge shall serve in the election judge’s place. If neither the election judge nor the alternate judge is able to serve, an emergency appointment may be made if the inability of the presiding and alternate judges to serve is discovered after the 20th day before general election (or the 15th day for a special election). Id. § 32.007.

The county judge may make emergency appointments for the November General Election for state and county officers, usually at the request of the county clerk/elections administrator. If the county judge is unavailable, the county clerk or elections administrator shall appoint the replacement judge. The authority making the emergency appointment should make a reasonable effort to consult with the party chair from which the judge was originally appointed. Id.

Qualifications of Election Clerks

The presiding judge for each election precinct appoints the election clerks, one of which must be the alternate judge, in the number prescribed by commissioners court. Id. §§ 32.031, 32.032 & 32.033. In the November General Election for state and county officers, the clerks must be selected from different political parties, if possible. Id. § 32.034. Not later than October 10, 2014 for the general election, the county chair of a political party whose candidate for governor received the highest or second highest number of votes in the county in the 2010 gubernatorial election may submit to a presiding judge a list containing the names of at least two persons who are eligible for appointment as a clerk. Id. § 32.034(b). If a timely list is submitted (and the list is timely if postmarked by October 10, 2014), the presiding judge must appoint at least one clerk from the list, unless there will be only one other election clerk in addition to the alternate judge serving as clerk. Id. § 32.034(c). In such case, the additional clerk must be appointed from the list of a political party with which neither the presiding judge nor alternate judge is affiliated or aligned, if such a list is submitted. Id. To be eligible to serve as an election clerk in a precinct, a person must be a qualified voter of the county in a countywide election ordered by the governor or a county authority. Id. § 32.051.

Student Election Clerks

A student who is at least 16 years of age and who is enrolled in a public or private high school or home school and has the consent of the principal (or parent/legal guardian in charge of education in home school) may serve as an election clerk. Id. § 32.0511. The elections officials must receive written authorization from the student's parent or guardian for the student to serve in the election for which he or she is appointed. Id.

NEW LAW: Per Senate Bill 553 (83rd legislative Session, RS, 2013), students may now serve during early voting as well as on election day. Up to four student election clerks may serve at any one at an early voting site, and up to two student election clerks may serve at any one time at an election day polling place. (See Id. § 83.012, and Texas Education Code § 25.087, as amended). NOTE: A school district may excuse a student for the purpose of serving as an early voting and/or election day clerk for a maximum of two days in a school year. (Texas Education Code 25.087(e)).

Please review further details on student election clerks.

Qualifications of Remaining Central Counting Station Personnel for November General Election

The commissioners court also names the central counting station manager and tabulation supervisor, but these appointments are not subject to the Section 32.002 list procedure. Id. §§ 32.002, 127.002, & 127.003. To serve in the capacity as central counting station manager or tabulation supervisor, the individual must be a qualified voter of the county and must meet the requirements set out in Sections 127.002 and 127.003 of the Code. Id. Although the assistant tabulation supervisor is appointed by the tabulation supervisor, the assistant must be approved by the commissioners court. Id. § 127.004. The assistant tabulation supervisor does not need to be a qualified voter of the political subdivision (i.e., the county). Id. § 127.004. Both the presiding judge and central counting station manager may appoint clerks for the counting station in the number authorized by the commissioners court. Id. § 127.006.

Appointment Process for Early Voting Election Officers

Pursuant to Section 85.009 of the Code, the county clerk or elections administrator shall select election officers for the main early voting location, as well as any branch early voting location, from a list provided by the party chairs to ensure equal representation for each political party holding a primary election in the county. Id. § 85.009. However, the county clerk or elections administrator is still the early voting clerk and has the ultimate responsibility for the overall conduct of early voting. Id. § 83.031(c).

Before July of each year, the county chair of each political party holding a primary election must submit in writing to the county clerk or elections administrator a list of names of persons, in order of preference, to serve at each early voting polling place. Id. § 85.009(b). The list must contain the names of individuals who are eligible to serve under the requirements set forth in the Code for presiding election judges, with the following exceptions:

Id. §§ 83.032(b) & 85.009. The county chair may supplement the list of names until the 30th day before early voting begins in the event an appointed officer becomes ineligible to serve. Id. § 85.009(b). County clerks or elections administrators: if you wish the county chairs to include your regular early voting workers, including office staff, on their lists, you should communicate with your county chairs.

The county clerk or elections administrator MUST appoint the first person who meets the eligibility requirements from the list submitted by the party that obtained the highest number of votes in the county from the 2010 gubernatorial election as the early voting presiding officer of that early voting polling place and the first person meeting the eligibility requirements from the list submitted by the party that obtained the second highest number of votes to serve as the early voting alternate presiding officer of that early voting polling place. Additional early voting election officers for each early voting polling place will be appointed from the lists submitted by the county chairs to the county clerk or elections administrator for each early voting polling place. If a county chair fails to submit a list to the county clerk or elections administrator, the county clerk or elections administrator must make reasonable attempts to consult with the party. If such attempts do not prove successful, the county clerk or elections administrator will select early voting election officers for the early voting polling place(s) in a manner that attempts to ensure equal representation for the parties to the extent possible. Id. § 85.009(b), (c).

County chairs: your list of names for early voting officers must be submitted to the county clerk/elections administrators not later than June 30, 2014. If submitting by mail, the letter must be postmarked by June 30, 2014 to ensure timeliness. We recommend that you communicate with the county elections office to obtain an estimated number of early voting polling places and number of potential early voting officers needed for early voting so that you will have some idea of the number of names to submit by the June 30th deadline.

We note this procedure for appointing early voting officers applies only during a General Election for State and County Officers. In addition, it is recommended that county chairs contact the persons they wish to use for early voting to verify their eligibility and willingness to serve as an election official prior to submitting their names.

Appointment of the Early Voting Ballot Board for November 2014 General Election

The procedure for appointing the early voting ballot board for the November General Election is set out in Section 87.002 of the Code. Id. § 87.002(c). The board is appointed by the county election board, a group that consists of the county clerk, who serves as the chair, the voter registrar, the two major political party county chairs, the sheriff, and the county judge.* Id. §§ 51.002 & 87.002. The county election board first determines the number of early voting ballot board members to be appointed. Id. § 87.002. The minimum number is three, which would consist of a presiding judge and two clerks. Id. § 87.002(a).

*NOTE: if the county has an elections administrator, or if commissioners court has transferred the election duties of the county clerk to the county tax assessor collector, he/she will serve as the county election board chair in place of the county clerk. Id. §§ 31.043, 31.072 & 31.073.

The party chairs, including the county chairs of the Libertarian Party of Texas, the Green Party of Texas, and the other parties that are on the ballot, submit lists of eligible persons for appointment to the board. Id. § 87.002. The eligibility requirements to serve on the board are the same as those for presiding election judges, except a member of the early voting ballot board has only to be a qualified voter of the county.

Section 87.002(c) of the Code does not provide a deadline for the county chairs to submit names to the county election board. Id. We suggest that the party chairs submit the names to the county clerk, elections administrator, or tax assessor collector (the chair of the county election board) within the same time frame that they are preparing names for precinct election judges for submission to commissioners court. That is, in counties with a population of over 500,000, we recommend that the chairs should submit names of persons to serve on the early voting ballot board by June 30, 2014, and in counties with a population of 500,000 or less, we recommend that the chairs should submit names of persons to serve on the early voting ballot board by July 31, 2014.

We recommend that the county election board appoint the members of the early voting ballot board no later than October 1, 2014, to allow time for notice requirements.

The presiding judge of the early voting ballot board is appointed from the list of the political party whose candidate for governor received the highest vote in the 2010 gubernatorial election countywide. Id. § 87.002(b). For the remaining members, the county election board must select at least one from each party chair’s list. Id. §§ 51.002 & 87.002. If more than three members are ordered, an equal number of members must be chosen from each list. Id.

Appointment of Signature Verification Committee for the November 2014 General Election

The signature verification committee is a group that meets prior to election day to compare the signatures on the applications for ballot by mail to the corresponding carrier envelopes. Id. § 87.027. If the early voting clerk determines that a signature verification committee is desirable or if the clerk receives a petition signed by 15 registered voters, the clerk shall issue a written order creating the committee. Id. The deadline to submit a petition requesting creation of a signature verification committee is October 1, 2014. Id. A request submitted by mail is considered submitted at the time of its receipt by the early voting clerk. Id. The early voting clerk determines the number of members on the committee, providing for a minimum of five (the committee chair and four members). Id. The county election board appoints the members. Id. The party chairs, including the county chairs of the Libertarian Party of Texas and the Green Party of Texas, submit lists of eligible persons for appointment to the committee. Id. In order to serve on the committee, a person must be a qualified voter of the county. Id.

The county chairs’ lists for the appointment of the signature verification committee members are not subject to the June 30th or the July 30th deadline. The county elections board shall appoint the members of the signature verification committee not later than the 5th day after the date the early voting clerk issues the order calling for the creation of the committee OR not later than October 15, 2014, if the committee is created after a valid petition was submitted requesting its creation. Id. We recommend that the signature verification committee be appointed (if needed) by October 10, 2014, to allow time for all necessary notice requirements. Therefore, we recommend that the parties submit the lists to the chair of the county elections board (county clerk or elections administrator) by August 25, 2014, to allow for appointment during the month of September or no later than the October 10, 2014 recommended date.

The presiding judge of the signature verification committee is appointed from the list of the party whose candidate for governor received the highest vote in the 2010 gubernatorial election countywide. Id. For the remaining members, the county election board must select at least two qualified individuals from each chair’s list. Id. If clerks beyond the minimum requirement are ordered, an equal number must be chosen from each list. Id.

If you have any questions or situations that are not covered by this memo, please do not hesitate to contact the Elections Division toll-free at 1-800-252-2216.

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