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How to Establish a Political Party in Texas

Candidate Eligibility

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 to be 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 according to the candidate’s status; 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 ("the Code") prescribes exclusive eligibility requirements.  Section 141.001, Texas Election Code.

Procedures for Establishing a New Political Party

A person wishing to start a political party in Texas must form an organization and elect a chair and other necessary officers.  Sections 181.004, 182.002, Texas Election Code. The organization must have a name of three words or less. Section 161.002, Texas Election Code. Chapter 181 of the Code applies to a political party making nominations by convention.   Chapter 182 of the Code applies to a political party making nominations only for county and precinct offices. 

Adoption of Rules

A political party that makes candidate nominations in Texas and has a state executive committee must adopt rules that, among other things, prescribe:

  1. The parliamentary procedure governing the conduct of party meetings and conventions from the precinct level to the state level;
  2. The method of selecting the party's presidential elector candidates;
  3. The manner of selecting party officers, convention delegates, convention alternates, and convention officials; and
  4. The manner of adopting party rules and amendments to the rules. Section 163.002.

A political party's rules, including amendments to rules, governing or affecting conventions or nominees ("rule on electoral affairs") may be adopted only by a state convention or the state executive committee. If adopted by the state executive committee, the rules may be temporary, if adoption before the next state convention is necessary, or permanent, if the state executive committee is expressly required or authorized by statute to adopt a rule. Section 163.004. The rules adopted must be consistent with state law. Section 163.003.

Filing Rules with the Secretary of State’s Office and on Party’s Internet Website

The state chair must file a copy of each rule on electoral affairs with the Secretary of State. Section 163.005(a).   In addition, all party rules (whether temporary or permanent) must be posted on the state party’s Internet website. Section 163.005(f).  

A rule must be filed not later than the 30th day after the date of its adoption. Section 163.005(b). Exception: A rule on electoral affairs that is to become effective in a year in which the party will hold precinct conventions must be filed with the Secretary of State and posted on the party's Internet website not later than the 30th day before the date the party convenes its earliest precinct conventions. Section 163.006(a). The Secretary of State may extend this deadline for good cause. A rule on electoral affairs is not effective until filed. Section 163.005(e). If a party fails to file a rule, the party is not entitled to have its nominees placed on the ballot for the general election for state and county officers. Section 163.006(b). The temporary rules must be considered by the membership at the first state convention after their adoption. Section 163.004(b).

A new political party (also referred to as a “third party” or “minor 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. Section 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. Section 172.002. Parties whose candidates received twenty percent or more of the total number of votes received by all candidates for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election are required to hold a primary election. Section 172.001.

Registration Deadline

A political party that intends to make nominations by convention for the general election for state and county officers under Chapter 181 (except a party making nominations only for county and precinct offices under Chapter 182) must register with the Secretary of State not later than January 2 of the election year. The Secretary of State has prescribed a form for registering a new political party (PDF). Section 181.0041. A party must make nominations of candidates by convention if the party is not required or authorized to nominate by primary election. Section 181.003. A political party making state nominations under Chapter 181 is required to establish a state executive committee. Section 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.  Section 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. Section 181.031(a). The application must be filed no later than 6:00 p.m. on December 11, 2023 preceding the new party’s convention. Section 181.033. Candidates seeking nomination for a state or district office must file their application with the state party chair. Section 181.032(a)(1). Candidates for county or precinct offices must file applications with the county party chair. Section 181.032(a)(2).   The application for nomination must be accompanied by either a filing fee or a petition in lieu of filing fee, delivered to the Secretary of State (for a statewide or district office) or to the county judge (for a county or precinct office), in order for the candidate to be considered for nomination by convention.  Section 181.0311. The amount of the filing fee or the number of signatures required for the petition in lieu of a filing fee is the same amount that is required for a candidate seeking nomination by primary election under Sections 172.024 and 172.025.  Section 181.0311. 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. Section 181.032(b).

New parties nominating by convention must hold the following conventions:

  • Precinct conventions on the second Tuesday in March (i.e., March 12, 2024);
  • County conventions on the first Saturday after the second Tuesday in March (i.e., March 16, 2024);
  • District conventions on the second Saturday after the second Tuesday in March (i.e., March 23, 2024); and
  • State conventions on the second Saturday in April (i.e., April 13, 2024).  Section 181.061.

The chair of each convention will certify the nominees to the county election officer (county or precinct offices) or the Secretary of State (district or statewide offices) not later than 20 days after each corresponding convention. Section 181.068.  For more details on this certification process, please contact the Secretary of State’s office.

Minimum of Precinct Participants Required

To be entitled to place their nominees on the general election ballot, new political parties must first file a list of precinct convention participants with the Secretary of State not later than the 75th day after the date of the precinct conventions (i.e., May 28, 2024). (Note: This deadline is extended to Tuesday, May 28th in accordance with Section 1.006 because the 75th day is a Sunday and Monday, May 27th is Memorial Day. Sections 1.006, 181.005(a)). The list must include the residence address and voter registration number of each participant. Section 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. The one percent figure for the 2022 gubernatorial election is 81,030 participants.

Supplementing the Convention Participation List

If the number of precinct convention participants is fewer than the number required for the political party to qualify to have its nominees placed on the ballot, the party may still qualify by filing a petition (PDF) signed by registered voters who have not voted in a primary election or participated in another party’s convention. The petition must contain enough signatures that, when added to the number of convention participants, equals at least one percent of the total number of votes received by all candidates for governor in the most recent gubernatorial general election. Section 181.006(a), (b). The petition must comply with the requirements prescribed by Section 141.062 for a candidate’s petition and use the statutorily required language in Section 181.006(f). The petition may not be circulated until after the date of the party’s precinct convention (March 12, 2024). A signature obtained on or before that date is invalid. Section 181.006(j). The petition must be filed with the Secretary of State before the deadline to file the lists of precinct convention participants. Section 181.006(b).

NOTE: Once a new party is on the general election ballot, the party is entitled to have the names of its nominees placed on the ballot in each subsequent general election, without meeting the petition requirements, if the party had a nominee for statewide office who received at least two percent of the total number of votes received by all candidates for that office at least once in the five previous general elections.   Section 181.005(b). For the 2024 general election, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party are entitled to have their nominees on the general election ballot without needing a petition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is a new party required to have a precinct convention, or can a new party seeking ballot access submit the required number of signatures on the supplemental petition?

A: Section 181.003 requires a political party to make nominations for the general election by convention if the party is not required or authorized to nominate by primary election. As such, a party must hold a convention and cannot submit a petition to supplement all of the precinct convention participants.

Q: Can a precinct convention be held virtually?

A: There is no provision in the Texas Election Code that authorizes a precinct convention to be held virtually. Additionally, Section 181.063 and 181.064 of the Code refer to the “place for convening” the convention, which suggests that the convention must be held in person.

Q: May a new party hold several precinct conventions on different days?

A: Section 181.061 of the Texas Election Code requires precinct conventions to be held on the second Tuesday in March. Therefore, multiple or additional precinct conventions on other days are not authorized under the Code. Sections 181.061, 181.063.

Financial Disclosure Requirements

Under Title 15 of the 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, P.O. Box 12070, Austin, Texas 78711-2070 (or call 512-463-5800 or visit its website). Candidates filing for federal offices should contact the Federal Elections Commission toll-free at 1-800-424-9530 or visit its website.

All references are to the Texas Election Code.