|TO:||All Election Officials|
|FROM:||Ann McGeehan, Director of Elections|
|DATE:||September 10, 2009|
|RE:||New Law Regarding FPCA and Proposed FPCA Rules|
As we described in Advisory 2009-08 concerning the 2009 Legislative Summary, House Bills 536 and 551 enacted by the 81st Legislature make changes to the Federal Post Card Application (“FPCA”) process. In summary, the two changes are:
- Effective September 1, 2009, an FPCA serves as an application for permanent registration. When an early voting clerk receives an FPCA (and the voter is not “indefinitely away” from the U.S.), the document does not stop at the clerk’s office – the original FPCA must be forwarded promptly to the voter registrar, after copying for the clerk’s uses. The voter registrar then processes the FPCA as an application for voter registration. Texas Election Code Sections 13.002, 101.006, as amended by House Bill 536, 81st Legislature, 2009.
- Effective September 1, 2009, an electronic transmission of an image may be used to submit an FPCA. This means that an FPCA completed and signed by the voter can now be scanned and e-mailed to the early voting clerk’s office. Texas Election Code Section 101.004, as amended by House Bill 551, 81st Legislature, 2009.
Our office is authorized to adopt administrative rules to implement these changes. We welcome your comments and suggestions on the proposed rules. Our proposed rules may be accessed, and they will appear in the September 18, 2009 edition of the Texas Register. The rules must be proposed for a 30-day period, and the closing date for written comments is October 16, 2009.
Here are the key points to remember:
Permanent Voter Registration Using FPCA:
- The new permanent voter registration law does not affect an FPCA received before September 1, 2009. For example, an FPCA received in 2008 is not affected by this new law.
- Voters who mark the FPCA form to indicate they are “indefinitely” away (newer form) or permanently away (older forms), are not eligible for permanent registration.
- FPCA voters will still receive temporary registration status as usual, until the permanent registration (if any) is effective.
- The original FPCA goes first to the early voting clerk; then (unless the voter says on the form that he or she is indefinitely away), the clerk makes a copy for mail ballot purposes, and forwards the originals to the voter registrar within five days. The rules provide more details for what to do in the event of errors.
- The FPCA voters will not be on the jury list. (This parallels how “suspense list” voters are currently considered under Texas law.) The voter may be on the jury list based on something else (e.g., Texas driver’s license).
- FPCA voters will not be part of the calculation of the total number of registered voters for purposes of petitions requiring such a calculation. (This parallels how “suspense list” voters are currently considered under Texas law.) FPCA voters may sign a petition based on their permanent registration status (like any other voter).
Electronic Transmission of an Image of an FPCA
- The new law about “electronic transmission of an image” applies to an FPCA form only – not to a regular application for ballot by mail, and not to a regular application for voter registration.
- The phrase “electronic transmission of an image” means, for example, a signed hardcopy of the FPCA form which is scanned and e-mailed to the early voting clerk’s e-mail address is acceptable. In contrast, a plain text un-signed e-mail will not meet the requirements. Our office is not using the phrase to mean faxing (telephonic facsimile).
- An FPCA can be faxed (i.e., current law for an application for ballot by mail sent from outside the county). A regular voter registration application cannot be faxed; this is current law and has not changed.
- This is about how the FPCA goes from the voter to the clerk. Rules about what methods the voter can use to send the marked ballot back to the clerk are stricter, and are covered in detail in our other advisories.
We expect there to be many questions as we apply these new laws. The important thing to remember is: (1) an early voting clerk must copy and then forward an FPCA to the registrar (if the voter is not indefinitely away); and (2) a signed FPCA can now be scanned and e-mailed to the early voting clerk’s office. Please contact us at 1-800-252-VOTE(8683) if you have questions.