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THE TEXAS SECRETARY OF STATE WILL BE CLOSED MONDAY, JULY 4TH IN OBSERVANCE OF INDEPENDENCE DAY. CLOSURE DETAILS.

Frequently Asked Questions on Candidacy and Party Affiliation

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all references are to the Texas Election Code (PDF).

Candidate Application Questions

  1. Can a candidate submit an application via email or fax?

    It depends on the materials being submitted. Although Section 1.007 of the Code (as amended by HB 3107 in 2021) expressly authorizes email as a delivery method, the law still requires that a candidate’s application and all of its components (including a petition or filing fee) be delivered at the same time, not separately. Therefore, if a candidate submits a filing fee along with an application, it MAY NOT be submitted via email or fax. However, if a candidate submits a petition in lieu of a filing fee along with an application, those may be submitted together via email or fax. Please be advised that an application must be notarized (or otherwise sworn to before someone authorized to administer an oath under Texas law) prior to filing via fax or email. [Secs. 1.007, 143.004, 144.003].

    Note: An application filed by mail is considered to be filed at the time of its receipt by the appropriate authority. [Sec. 172.021(c)].
  1. May another person deliver the application, filing fee, or petition in lieu of a filing fee to the filing authority on the candidate’s behalf?

    Yes. As long as the application is completed, signed, and notarized, and accompanied by either a filing fee or petition in lieu of a filing fee, another person may deliver the application on the candidate’s behalf.
  1. If someone was a candidate in the primary election and lost the race, can they run as an independent candidate in November?

    No. A person who was a candidate for nomination in a primary election is not eligible for a place on the ballot for the next general election for state and county officers as an independent candidate for any office in which a candidate was nominated in the primary. [Sec. 162.015(a)].
  1. If someone was a candidate in the primary election and lost the race, can they run as a write-in candidate in November?

    It depends on the office for which the candidate seeks to run. A person who was a candidate for nomination for the primary election cannot run as a write-in candidate for the same office in the general election in November. However, the candidate could run as a write-in candidate for a different office in the general election in November. [Sec. 162.015(b)].

  2. Is a candidate required to be a registered voter? If so, by what deadline?

    The general rule under Election Code Section 141.001 states that a candidate must be a registered voter of the territory from which the office is elected by the time of the regular candidate filing deadline. This rule is explained in more detail in this FAQ:  Voter Registration for Candidates

    However, the requirement in Section 141.001 does not apply to an office where the law conflicts with the U.S. Constitution or the Texas Constitution or when a statute outside the Election Code prescribes exclusive eligibility requirements. For the general election for state and county officers, this distinction is reflected in the Qualifications section of the Candidate’s Guide.

  3. May a candidate announce that they are running for an office prior to filing an application? Also, what is considered an announcement of candidacy?

    Candidates will need to check with the Texas Ethics Commission, which administers and enforces Title 15 of the Texas Election Code, concerning political contributions and expenditures, and political advertising. Additionally, candidates should be aware of Article 16, Section 65 of the Texas Constitution (PDF) (often called the “resign-to-run” provision). For some public offices, an announcement of candidacy could constitute an automatic resignation of the office then held, if the official has more than a year and 30 days remaining on their term.

    The Texas Attorney General has issued several opinions regarding the question of what is considered an announcement of candidacy. Our office recommends that candidates review the following AG opinions:

  4. Can a candidate file an application for more than one office in the same election?

    No. A candidate cannot file applications for two or more offices that will be voted on at one or more elections held on the same day. For example, a candidate could not file an application for city council and school board if those elections will be held on the same day. If a candidate files more than one application for a place on the ballot, each application filed subsequent to the first application is invalid. [Secs. 52.034, 141.033].

  5. Can a candidate use a nickname, title, or maiden name on the ballot?

    Nickname: A candidate may use one unhyphenated word of not more than 10 letters by which the candidate has been commonly known for at least three years preceding the election. A nickname that constitutes a slogan or otherwise indicates a political, economic, social, or religious view or affiliation may not be used. [Sec. 52.031].

    Title: A title or designation of office, status, or position MAY NOT be used in conjunction with a candidate’s name on the ballot. Some examples of prohibited titles include Doctor, Pastor, and Coach. [Sec. 52.033].

    Surname: A person may use any surname acquired by law or marriage. A married person may also use a maiden name. [Sec. 52.031].
    Candidate name questions are often fact-specific. Please contact our office if you have additional questions.

  6. Can a candidate amend their application after it has been filed?

    No. A candidate may not amend an application after it has been filed. If the candidate needs to correct a defective candidate application, the candidate may submit a Certificate of Withdrawal (PDF) or a written, signed, and notarized letter to the filing authority and then submit a new candidate application before the filing deadline. [Secs. 141.032, 145.001].

  7. Can a state employee run for public office?

    It depends on the employee’s position. Texas statutes do not prohibit a state employee from becoming a candidate for elected public office. The federal Hatch Act, however, prohibits a state employee from becoming a candidate for elective office if the salary of the employee is paid completely by federal funds. [Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. GA-1026 (2013) (PDF)]. For questions about the Hatch Act, please consult the United States Office of Special Counsel.

Candidate Filing Fee Questions

  1. May a candidate submit both a petition in lieu of a filing fee and a filing fee along with an application for a place on the ballot?

    Yes. If a political party’s chair has the opportunity to do so before the candidate files, we suggest that the chair advise the candidate that the check will be used first and cannot be refunded. If the candidate files with a check, the chair will cash the check.
    If the check is returned for insufficient funds, and there is time remaining in the filing period, the candidate has the opportunity to present a new check from a different account. [Sec. 172.021]. If there is no time left in the filing period, or the candidate does not wish to provide a new check, the filing authority should allow the candidate to rely on the petition in lieu of a filing fee. [In re Stalder, 540 S.W.3d 215 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2018)]. The filing authority should first advise the candidate (if there is time) that if both a filing fee and a petition are submitted, the filing authority will start by depositing the check.

  2. If a filing fee is rejected due to insufficient funds, does the chair physically return the original application to the candidate (presuming it is otherwise valid)?

    No. The filing authority should keep the original candidate application. Once the application has been filed with the filing authority, the application becomes an official record subject to disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act. [Sec. 141.035].

  3. Can a candidate pay the filing fee with a credit card?

    No. Paying a filing fee with a credit card is not authorized under current law.

  4. Can a filing fee be refunded to the candidate?

    It depends on the grounds on which a refund sought. A filing fee paid in connection with a candidate’s application for a place on the ballot must be refunded to the candidate, or to the candidate’s estate, if the candidate dies, the candidate is declared ineligible, or the candidate’s application is determined not to comply with the required form, content, and procedure before the date of the election for which the application was made. A claim for a refund of a filing fee must be submitted to the same filing authority with whom the application was filed. A filing fee may not be refunded for reasons other than those authorized by law. [Sec. 141.038].

Candidate Petition Questions

  1. When may a party candidate (Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Green) begin collecting signatures for a petition in lieu of a filing fee?

    There is no statutory “first day” that a party candidate may begin collecting signatures for a petition in lieu of a filing fee. However, if a candidate circulates a petition in lieu of the filing fee, a petition for judicial office, or a statewide judicial office primary ballot petition (for candidates running for Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals), the voters who sign the petition must be registered voters of the territory from which the candidate’s office sought is elected or must have been issued a registration certificate which will become effective in that territory on or before the applicable election.  This means that if the boundary of the territory from which the office is sought subsequently changes as a result of redistricting, and the voter is no longer a registered voter of the territory due to redistricting, the voter’s signature on the petition will no longer be valid and cannot be considered by the filing authority. This is due to the fact that the voter was not a registered voter of the new territory from which the office is sought. [Sec. 141.063].
  1. A.  When may an independent candidate begin collecting signatures for a petition for a place on the ballot?

    An independent candidate who filed a declaration of intent to run as an independent candidate may begin collecting signatures from registered voters after the primary election (or after the primary runoff election, if the office the independent candidate is seeking is involved in a primary runoff election). [Sec. 142.009].

    B.  Who may sign an independent candidate petition?

    The signers must be registered voters who have not voted in the general primary election or the runoff primary election of a political party that has nominated, at either election, a candidate for the office the independent candidate seeks. [Sec. 142.009].  In other words, for purposes of the signers, what matters is whether that party has a nominee from the primary process, even if that office is not on the runoff ballot.

Example No. 1:  A voter signed an independent candidate’s petition for county judge. The Voter did not vote in Party A or Party B’s general primary.  However, the voter votes in Party B’s primary runoff election.  Party B’s primary produced a nominee for county judge.  The voter’s signature for an independent petition for county judge is disqualified because the voter voted in Party B’s runoff election and Party B produced a nominee for county judge, even if that office was not on the runoff ballot.

Example No. 2:  A voter signed an independent candidate’s petition for county commissioner. The Voter did not vote in Party A or Party B’s general primary.  However, the voter votes in Party B’s primary runoff election.  Party B did not produce a nominee for county commissioner at the primary or primary runoff.  The voter’s signature for an independent petition for county commissioner is not disqualified because Party B did not produce a nominee for county commissioner in the primary election process.

  1. When may a declared write-in candidate begin collecting signatures for a petition in lieu of a filing fee?

    There is no statutory “first day” that a declared write-in candidate may begin collecting signatures for a petition in lieu of a filing fee. However, if a candidate circulates a petition in lieu of the filing fee, a petition for judicial office, or a statewide judicial office primary ballot petition (for candidates running for Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals), the voters who sign the petition must be registered voters of the territory from which the candidate’s office sought is elected or must have been issued a registration certificate which will become effective in that territory on or before the applicable election. This means that if the boundary of the territory from which the office is sought subsequently changes as a result of redistricting, and the voter is no longer a registered voter of the territory due to redistricting, the voter’s signature on the petition will no longer be valid and cannot be considered by the filing authority. This is due to the fact that the voter was not a registered voter of the new territory from which the office is sought. [Sec. 141.063].
  1. Should a candidate’s legal name or the name as the candidate wishes it to appear on the ballot be on the candidate’s petition?

    A candidate may use a legal name or a nickname on the petition to collect signatures. As long as signers can determine who the candidate is, and that the petition acknowledged this, the nickname or preferred name would be allowed. The candidate’s application should also reflect the nickname or preferred name. The person does not have to use their given name as it appears on the voter registration rolls when collecting signatures.
  1. Who can circulate a petition for a candidate?

    The Election Code does not define any eligibility requirements for service as a circulator. For example, a person may circulate a petition even if the circulator is not a registered voter of the area. However, in that situation, the circulator would not be eligible to sign the petition unless they are a registered voter of the territory from which the office sought is elected or has been issued a registration certificate for a registration that will become effective in that territory on or before the date of the applicable election. Additionally, there is no age requirement for a circulator. However, if the circulator is below 18 years of age, the circulator must be mentally capable of understanding the affidavit of circulator and the petition requirements they are swearing to before a person authorized to administer oaths in this state. [Secs. 141.063, 141.065].
  1. Does each page of the candidate’s petition need to be notarized?

    No. The candidate’s petition may consist of several parts and each part may consist of several pages. A single notarized affidavit by any person who obtained signatures is valid for all signatures gathered by the person if the date of notarization is on or after the date of the last signature obtained by the person. A circulator may complete a single affidavit that applies to all petition signatures gathered on all the pages circulated by that circulator before the date the affidavit is notarized. [Sec. 141.065].
  1. Do the signatures need to be from people in a specific area when circulating a candidate petition?

    Yes. Section 141.063(a)(1) of the Election Code provides that a signature on a petition is valid if, except as otherwise provided by the Code, the signer, at the time of signing, is a registered voter of the territory from which the office sought is elected or has been issued a registration certificate for a registration that will become effective in that territory on or before the date of the applicable election.

    Please note that if a candidate circulates a petition in lieu of the filing fee, a petition for judicial office, or a statewide judicial office primary ballot petition (for candidates running for Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals), the voters who sign the petition must be registered voters of the territory from which the candidate’s office sought is elected or must have been issued a registration certificate which will become effective in that territory on or before the applicable election. This means that if the boundary of the territory from which the office is sought subsequently changes as a result of redistricting, and the voter is no longer a registered voter of the territory due to redistricting, the voter’s signature on the petition will no longer be valid and cannot be considered by the filing authority. This is due to the fact that the voter was not a registered voter of the new territory from which the office is sought.

    NEW LAW: HB 3107 (2021) - The signer’s residence address and registration address are not required to be the same if the signer would otherwise be able to vote for that office under Section 11.004 or 112.002. [Sec. 141.063(e)].
  1. May a candidate sign their own petition?

    Yes. As long as the candidate, at the time of signing, is a registered voter of the territory from which the office sought is elected. [Sec. 141.063]
  1. If a voter signed a petition for a candidate for a place on the primary ballot, can the voter vote in another party’s primary election?

    If a voter signed a candidate’s petition for a place on the primary ballot, that voter is only able to vote in the primary, or participate in the convention, of that candidate’s party during the voting year in which the primary election is held. For example, if a voter signed a Democratic candidate’s petition, that voter is not eligible to vote in the Republican primary or participate in a minor party convention. [Sec. 172.026].
  1. If the voter signed a petition for a candidate for nomination in the Libertarian Party or Green Party, can the voter still vote in a primary election?

    No.  If a voter signed a candidate’s petition for nomination for the Libertarian Party or Green Party, that voter is not eligible to vote in a primary election or participate in the convention of a different party during the same voting year in which the primary election is held. [Secs. 172.026, 141.041].

  2. Can a voter sign multiple candidate petitions for people running for the same office?

    No. Section 141.066 prohibits a voter from signing the petition of more than one candidate running for the same office in the same election.  Therefore, a voter could not sign the petitions of multiple candidates running for the same office in a primary election.  However, they could sign the petitions of different individuals running for different offices if they are all running in the same primary election. If a voter signs petitions for candidates running in different party primaries, the voter would not be eligible to vote in either party’s primary election. For example, if a voter signed a Democratic candidate’s petition and a Republican candidate’s petition, that voter is not eligible to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary or participate in a minor party convention. [Sec. 172.026].

  3. Can a voter who voted in the primary or primary runoff election sign the candidate petition of an independent candidate?

    No. A person who voted in the primary election or in a primary runoff election is not eligible to sign an independent candidate’s petition if either primary had a candidate for nomination to the same office. The voter has affiliated with the party whose primary election they voted in. [Sec. 142.008]. The independent candidate petition contains the following statement as required under Section 142.008:

    “I have not voted in the general primary election or runoff primary election of any political party that has nominated, at either election, a candidate for the office of (insert office title) for which (insert candidate’s name) is a candidate.”
  4. Does signing a candidate petition for a candidate in the primary election affiliate a person with that party?

    No. Signing a candidate petition doesn’t affiliate a voter with a particular party.  However, a person who signs a petition in lieu of filing fee for a candidate in the primary election is acknowledging that they cannot vote in a primary or participate in a convention of another party under Section 172.027 of the Texas Election Code:

    “I understand that by signing this petition I become ineligible to vote in a primary election or participate in a convention of another party, including a party not holding a primary election, during the voting year in which this primary election is held.”
    The circulator of the petition must read the above statement to each person before that person signs the petition.

  5. Can a voter withdraw their signature from a candidate’s petition?

    Yes. A signature may be withdrawn by a signer if the signer files a sworn written request to withdraw their signature with the filing authority no later than the date the petition is received by the filing authority or the seventh day before the petition filing deadline, whichever is earlier.  The signer must also deliver a copy of the withdrawal request to the candidate when the request is filed.  [Sec. 141.067].

    If the withdrawal of signatures would result in the petition falling below the required number of signatures, the filing authority must notify the candidate immediately by telephone (or an equally expeditious method) about the number of withdrawn signatures.  In this situation, a candidate may supplement their petition with an equal number of signatures to the number withdrawn before the third day after the date the candidate receives the notice.  [Sec. 141.067].

    If a voter’s signature on a candidate petition is timely withdrawn under the procedures outlined here, that voter is considered to have never signed the petition and therefore that voter would no longer be restricted from voting in another party’s primary or attending a convention. [Secs. 141.067, 172.026].

  6. Are there consequences if a candidate who is running in a primary election for one party signs the petition of a candidate running in a different primary election?

    If a candidate signs the petition of a candidate running in a different party’s primary election, the signer has not yet taken steps to affiliate with the other party.  However, the candidate has signed a petition acknowledging that they are now not eligible to vote in another party’s primary election.  Therefore, by signing, the person cannot vote in their own party’s primary or participate in their own party’s convention.  If they do, it could constitute illegal voting. [Secs. 64.012, 172.027]. Additionally, if the candidate votes in the other party’s primary, they have made themselves ineligible to be their party’s nominee for the general election in November. [Sec. 162.015].

General Affiliation Questions

  1. How does party affiliation work in Texas?

    Party affiliation is not required in order to register to vote in Texas. In Texas, there are several ways for a voter to affiliate with a party: by being accepted to vote in a party’s primary election, by taking the required oath at a party precinct convention, or by taking a party oath of affiliation generally [Secs. 162.003, 162.006, 162.007]. A voter’s affiliation with a party automatically expires at the end of each calendar year, which is December 31. [Sec. 162.010]. A voter who affiliates with a party is not eligible to participate in the party affairs of another party during the same calendar year. [Secs. 162.012, 162.013].
    If a voter did not vote in a party primary or take an oath of affiliation with a party this calendar year, the voter has not yet affiliated with any party. If a voter has not yet affiliated with a party, the voter is able to vote in either party’s primary election. However, if a voter votes in the primary of one party, the voter will only be able to vote in that party’s primary runoff election. [Secs. 162.012, 162.013]. After affiliating with a party, a voter is not able to change or cancel their party affiliation until the end of the calendar year. [Sec. 162.010].
  1. How can a voter change their party affiliation?

    After affiliating with a party by voting in a party’s primary, participating in a convention, or by taking an oath of affiliation with a party, a voter cannot change their party affiliation during the calendar year. [Sec. 162.010]. However, affiliation will automatically expire at the end of the calendar year.

  2. Does filing an Application for a Place on the Primary Election Ballot affiliate the candidate with that party?

    Filing an application does not affiliate a person with a party. However, a person who voted in a primary election or who was a candidate for a nomination in a primary is not eligible for a place on the ballot for the succeeding general election for state and county officers as (1) an independent candidate for an office for which a candidate was nominated in the primary, or (2) the nominee of a political party other than the party holding the primary in which the person voted or was a candidate. [Sec. 162.015].

Voting in a Primary Election

  1. Does a voter have to register or affiliate with a party before voting in the primary?

    No. A registered voter is not required to pre-register or take any steps towards affiliating with a party before voting in a party’s primary election. [Sec. 162.003]. Additionally, when a person registers to vote in Texas, they do not register with any kind of party affiliation. 
  1. Does a voter have to vote in the general primary election in order to vote in a primary runoff election?

    No. Section 11.001 of the Texas Election Code prescribes the specific qualifications necessary in order to vote in a Texas election. There is no requirement to have previously voted in the general primary election in order to participate in the subsequent primary runoff election. Therefore, if a qualified voter did not vote in the general primary election, they are still eligible to vote in the primary runoff election.
  1. If a voter has voted in one party’s primary in a prior calendar year, do they have to vote in the same party’s primary this year?

    No. A voter’s party affiliation ends at the end of each calendar year. Affiliation with a party in a prior year does not affect what primary an unaffiliated voter can vote in a new voting year. [Sec. 162.010].
  1. If a voter is not going to be 18 in time for the primary or primary runoff, but will be 18 by the time of the general election, can they vote in the primary?

    No. A voter must have an effective date of registration on or before election day in order to vote in the current election. [Sec. 11.001].  A registration is effective for purposes of early voting if it will be effective on election day.  [Sec. 13.143].  In Texas, the earliest a voter can submit a voter registration application is when they are 17 years and 10 months old. [Sec. 13.001]. However, this application is not effective until a voter’s 18th birthday. If a voter is not 18 on or before election day, their voter registration will not be effective prior to election day and they will not be able to vote in that election. However, a voter who turns 18 between primary election day and primary runoff election day can register to vote and vote in the primary runoff election.
  1. Why are voters asked during a primary election if they want a Republican or Democratic ballot? Isn’t this private information?

    The primary elections in Texas are two separate elections that occur on the same day. These elections are the method for both the Republican and Democratic parties to select their nominees for the general election in November. When a voter votes in a primary election or primary runoff election, they are affiliating with the party whose primary they are voting in. [Sec. 162.003]. A voter who is affiliated with a political party is not eligible to become affiliated with another party during the same voting year. [Sec. 162.012]. This means a voter cannot vote in both primary elections, or the primary election of one party and the runoff election of another party. Some counties will have joint primaries and/or the parties will share polling places. In a county where the Republican and Democratic parties are sharing polling places, the voter must identify the primary in which they would like to vote, in order to ensure they receive the correct ballot and are marked as voting in the correct primary election. 
  1. Is the fact that a voter voted in a primary election confidential?

    No. Offices and candidates that a voter selected are confidential and secret. However, voting in a particular party’s primary is public information and the voter’s name will be listed in that party’s early voting and election day rosters.
  1. Why do voters have to indicate party preference on an Application for a Ballot by Mail (ABBM)? [Primary election year ONLY]

    If a voter would like to vote in a primary, they must include the party preference. This is because a voter cannot participate in both parties’ primary elections, and therefore a voter must indicate, when voting by mail, their party preference to ensure they receive the correct ballot style. A party preference on an Application for Ballot by Mail is only necessary during a primary election year.
  1. Does requesting a ballot by mail affiliate a voter with that party?

    Not immediately. A voter does not become affiliated with a particular party until the early voting clerk receives the voter’s voted primary ballot. [Sec. 162.003]. If a voter requests a certain primary ballot but does not return a voted ballot for that primary election, they will not be affiliated with a party (unless they take other steps to affiliate with a party or decide to vote in person).
  1. Can a voter vote in one party’s primary election and a different party’s primary runoff election?

    No. By voting in a party’s primary election, a voter has affiliated themselves with that party and is not eligible to participate in the convention or primary runoff election of another party during that calendar year. [Secs. 162.012, 162.013].
  1. If a voter voted in a party’s primary election, is the voter required to vote for that party’s candidates in the subsequent November general election?

    No. A voter who votes in the primary is not required to vote for a particular party’s candidates in the succeeding November general election.
  1. What if the voter considers themselves an independent, but wishes to vote in a primary election?

    The act of voting in a primary election affiliates a voter with a political party. [Sec. 162.003]. However, if a voter has not otherwise affiliated themselves with a political party, they are able to vote in the primary of either party.

  2. If the Democratic or Republican Party's convention occurs before the primary election, can a candidate attend one party's convention and then run for office or vote in the other party's primary?

    No.  A candidate may only participate in the affairs of one party during the voting year.  This prohibition applies to a primary candidate's attendance at a minor party's nominating convention as well.

Effect of Redistricting

  1. A candidate is considering running for a precinct office (i.e., Justice of the Peace, Constable, or County Commissioner). How is length of residency calculated in a precinct if the boundaries have changed?

    Per Section 141.002, instead of the six-month precinct residence requirement prescribed by Section 141.001(a)(5), a candidate must have continuously resided in the county in which the precinct is located for six months and be a resident of the precinct on the date prescribed by Section 141.001(a)(5).

  2. A candidate is interested in running for a district office. How is length of residency calculated in a district if the boundaries changed?

    In determining whether a candidate has complied with the residence requirement under Section 141.001, residence in an area while the area was not part of the district is considered as residence within the district if that area is part of the district on the date prescribed by Section 141.001(a)(5).  [Sec. 141.004].  For example, if a person has resided in their home for 3 years, and prior to redistricting their residence was not part of the district but after redistricting it is part of the district, the person can consider those 3 years in determining the required period of residence.

  3. When is the voter registration deadline for a candidate whose office has been redistricted?

    The general rule under Section 141.001 is that a candidate must be a registered voter by the time of the regular candidate filing deadline.