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Elections and Voter Information

Voter Information

Election Advisory No. 2015-06

To: County Chairs, County Clerks/Elections Administrators
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Date: June 26, 2015
RE: Appointment Procedures for County Election Precinct Presiding and Alternate Judges and Election Clerks, Early Voting Ballot Board Members, Signature Verification Committee Members, and Central Counting Station Personnel

If the commissioners court appointed election precinct and central counting station judges in July and August of 2014, as appropriate, for a two-year term, there will be no reason to make election precinct and central counting station judge appointments in July and August of 2015. This Advisory is meant for counties that did not make two-year appointments, and will be making appointments in the July and August 2015 terms.

Remember that counties may be conducting joint elections for the November 3, 2015 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, early voting ballot board presiding judge, and central counting station presiding and alternate judges will be made.

Appointment Process for County Election Precinct Presiding and Alternate Judges, Presiding Judge of the Early Voting Ballot Board, and Central Counting Station Presiding Judge and Alternate Judge

  1. 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 2014 gubernatorial election must submit a list to 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 presiding judge and alternate judge and who are affiliated or aligned with the county chair’s political party. (32.002 & 127.005(e)). The list of the county chair of the political party whose candidate for governor received the highest number of votes in the county in the 2014 gubernatorial election must contain the name of a person eligible for appointment as the early voting ballot board presiding judge.  (87.002(b)).  We recommend that the list contain names for every precinct in the county and for the central counting station.  (32.007).  Lists submitted by mail must be postmarked by June 30, 2015 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 the general election (or the 15th day for a special election) in case an appointed judge becomes unable to serve. After that time, the county judge may make emergency appointments, probably at the request of the county clerk/elections administrator.
  2. 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 2014 gubernatorial election must submit a list to 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 presiding judge and alternate judge and who are affiliated or aligned with the county chair’s political party. (32.002 & 127.005(e)).  The list of the county chair of the political party whose candidate for governor received the highest number of votes in the county in the 2014 gubernatorial election must contain the name of a person eligible for appointment as the early voting ballot board presiding judge.  (87.002(b)). We recommend that the list contain names for every precinct in the county and for the central counting station. (32.007). Lists submitted by mail must be postmarked by July 31, 2015 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 the general election (or the 15th day for a special election) in case an appointed judge becomes unable to serve. After that time, the county judge may make emergency appointments, probably at the request of the county clerk/elections administrator.

As stated above, 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. (32.001, 32.002 & 127.005(e)). 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. 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.

The early voting ballot board presiding judge should also be appointed from the appropriate list at the July or August term, as appropriate. (87.002(b)). However, it should be noted that there is no provision in the Election Code stating that the appointment of the central counting station presiding judge and alternate judge and the early voting ballot board presiding judge is for a fixed term. They will serve in the upcoming November 2015 election.

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. (32.002(c)).

In counties with a population of more than 500,000, the terms of the judges start on August 1, 2015.  In counties with a population of 500,000 or less, the terms of the judges start on September 1, 2015.  (32.002(b)).

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, 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). (32.051 & 127.005).

If the authority making an appointment of a precinct presiding judge or precinct 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. (32.051(b)).

Please familiarize yourselves with the Code provisions in Sections 32.052 through 32.0552 that describe situations in which a person will be ineligible to serve as a precinct presiding or alternate judge, early voting ballot board judge, or presiding judge of the central counting station. (32.052-32.0552, 87.003 & 127.005(b)).

Failure to Submit List

If a county chair does not submit names by June 30, 2015 or July 31, 2015, as applicable, for a particular precinct, the county clerk or elections administrator shall prepare a list for that precinct. (32.002(d)). 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.

Emergency Appointments

An emergency appointment may be made if the inability of the presiding and alternate judges to serve is discovered after the 20th day before the general election (or the 15th day for a special election). (32.007). The authority making the emergency appointment should make a reasonable effort to consult with the party chair from which the judge was originally appointed.

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. (32.031, 32.032 & 32.033). 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. (32.051). Students between the ages of 16 and 18 may also qualify to be election clerks. (32.0511).

NEW LAW: Per Senate Bill 553 (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. (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. (25.087(e)).

Please see our website for further details.

Qualifications of Remaining Central Counting Station Personnel

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. (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. (See below for new law effective September 1, 2015 for qualifications of tabulation supervisor.) Although the assistant tabulation supervisor is appointed by the tabulation supervisor, the assistant must be approved by commissioners court.  (127.004). The assistant tabulation supervisor does not need to be a qualified voter of the political subdivision (i.e., the county). (127.004). Both the presiding judge and central counting station manager may appoint clerks for the counting station in the number authorized by commissioners court. (127.006).

NEW LAW: Effective September 1, 2015, House Bill 1026 (2015), broadened the qualifications for tabulation supervisor under Section 127.003. The tabulation supervisor may serve if he or she is EITHER (1) a qualified voter of the political subdivision (i.e., the county for a county-ordered election)(current law) OR (2) an employee of the political subdivision that adopts or owns the voting system (i.e., the county or whichever entity adopts or owns the equipment). This means if the commissioners court makes the appointment on or after September 1, 2015, they may use the new law. Section 127.003 continues to require that the supervisor otherwise meet the requirements of an election judge to the extent they can be applied (e.g., not be related to a candidate within the prohibited degree).

Appointment Process for Early Voting Election Officers

Pursuant to Section 83.032(a) of the Code, the county clerk or elections administrator may appoint one or more of that officer's permanent deputies as deputy early voting clerks and may also appoint temporary deputies who meet the qualifications set forth in Section 83.032(b) of the Code for the main early voting location, as well as any branch early voting location. However, the county clerk or elections administrator as the early voting clerk has the ultimate responsibility for the overall conduct of early voting. (83.031(c)).

We note that the procedure for appointing early voting officers under Section 85.009 of the Code applies only to the General Election for State and County Officers; it does not apply to the Constitutional Amendment Election in November of odd-numbered years.

Appointment of the Early Voting Ballot Board for November 2015 Constitutional Amendment Election

The presiding judge of the early voting ballot board is appointed by commissioners court as described above. The presiding judge of the early voting ballot board then appoints other members of the board in accordance with the number set by commissioners court. Unlike the November General Election for State and County Officers in even-numbered years, the county election board does not appoint the early voting ballot board in November of odd-numbered years. The procedure for appointing the early voting ballot board for the November 2015 Constitutional Amendment Election is set out in Section 87.002 of the Code. (87.002(a) & (b))

Appointment of Signature Verification Committee for the November 2015 Constitutional Amendment 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. (87.027). If the early voting clerk determines that a signature verification committee is desirable, the clerk shall issue a written order creating the committee. (87.027(a)). A copy of the order must be posted continuously for at least 10 days before the first day the committee meets. (87.027(g)).

The early voting clerk determines the number of members on the committee, providing for a minimum of five (the committee chair and four members).  (87.027(d)). The county election board appoints the members and designates the chair. (87.027(b) & (c)). In order to serve on the committee, a person must be a qualified voter of the county.  (87.027(e)).

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. (87.027(c)). We recommend that the signature verification committee be appointed (if needed) by Wednesday, October 14, 2015 to allow time for all necessary notice requirements.

The committee may not begin operating before the 20th day before election day. (87.027(f)).

Please note that there is no “list procedure” in effect for nominating members to the signature verification committee in elections held on the uniform November election date in odd-numbered years.

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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