Election Notice:  ID requirements for voting in person  |  ID requirements for voting by mail  |  Election Night Returns

Voter Registration Certificate

To: Voter Registrars
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Subject: Voter Registration Certificate
Authority: Texas Election Code Sections 31.002 and 31.003
Effective Date: August 27, 2015
Superseded Directive: Secretary of State Directive of July 29, 2013

1. Summary and Purpose

1.1. In accordance with Texas Election Code Section 31.003, this directive establishes the requirements for voter registrars to issue voter registration certificates.

2. Description of Certificate

2.1. No changes authorized unless approved by the secretary of state. The certificate has been designed to meet the content requirements of Texas Election Code Sections 15.001, 15.002, and 15.003, bilingual requirements of the Federal Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C.A. Section 10503, the mailing requirements of Texas Election Code Sections 14.001 and 14.002, and regulations of the United States Postal Service regarding size, thickness of paper, address placement, and postage. Various other exigencies such as horizontal and vertical spacing for computers have been considered. To avoid any possible violations of state or federal law, no change to the specifications of the certificate, as provided by this directive, may be made without prior written approval by this office.

Pursuant to Section 15.001 of the Texas Election Code, voter registrars must place the jurisdictional or distinguishing number for the following seven territorial units in which the voter resides: 1. United States Representative; 2. State Senate; 3. State Representative; 4. County Commissioner; 5. Justice of the Peace; 6. City district code; and 7. School district code on the certificate. Section 15.002 authorizes, but does not require, the voter registrar to place up to seven additional jurisdictional designations on the certificate. The Secretary of State has prescribed a certificate with ten boxes for placement of district information, seven for the required districts and three for the optional districts. This format has been approved by the Postmaster in Austin. Our office recommends that the local postmaster approve the placement of district numbers on the certificate prior to printing if you are using any other format than the one prescribed. Any combination of the three optional district codes may be chosen by the voter registrar for inclusion on the certificate without prior approval.

The TEAM System prints the mandatory seven jurisdictions and provides an option to print up to three more jurisdictions on the certificate. TEAM will preprint the boxes on the certificates as well as the jurisdiction type. The boxes with voter unique identifier (VUID), year of birth, and valid from date, will also be printed by TEAM and not preprinted on the card stock by your printer. There are two layouts, one for TEAM counties who will actually use TEAM to print voter information on the certificate and one for offline counties and TEAM counties who will contract with a private vendor to print voter data on the certificates. Offline counties must use the layout of the form enclosed but if they wish to print the maximum 14 jurisdictional boxes, they will have to work with their local postmaster on the design.

The Secretary of State has authorized the printing of the 10 digit VUID number in a barcode format in addition to a numeric-value format. The numeric-value format of the VUID number must be printed in the box specifically provided for the VUID number. The barcode-format number may be placed anywhere on the card as long as it does not interfere with postal regulations, and nothing is deleted from the card as prescribed. It is recommended that a universal-product barcode be used rather than the type of barcode that is used for zip codes, which is a Postnet font. Again, for placement of a barcode-format VUID number, you must coordinate the printing with the postmaster to ensure that it complies with other postal requirements. TEAM will default to print the barcode of the VUID above the name of the voter on the mailing address side of the certificate.

2.2 Size. The postcard certificate is 4 1/8” x 6.” The postcard is sized to accommodate space for barcoding the zip code. Even if you do not plan to barcode the zip code on the certificate prior to mailing, you must ensure sufficient room for the barcode strip area because the post office will prepare the mail piece for automation by placing a barcode strip which includes delivery point validation on the certificate. The counties will not receive any postal discount if the post office has to barcode the mail piece. The post office has advised our office not to print any type of barcode for the zip code if it is only going to be the 5 digit or 9 digit zip code.

Counties using the Secretary of State’s TEAM system must print their certificates exactly as shown on the attached sample(s). The layout of the certificate must be exactly as shown on the sample. If a laser printer is used, the certificates must be printed on an 8½” x 14” sheet of paper with a 1” gripper at the top and a 1¼” margin on the left side of the paper. Counties using the online system cannot barcode the zip code. It is imperative that your printer uses the Secretary of State’s layout of the certificate to ensure proper placement of information. Since the TEAM system will be printing the boxes, box types, and jurisdictional numbers, the alignment of information should no longer be an issue. Please ask your printer to send a proof of your certificate for layout purposes before they are printed to our office for pre-approval. For counties using a dot matrix printer, the certificates must be ordered on paper with a ½” feeder strip on the left side of the paper. We encourage you to send us your proofs in order to ensure that they are compatible with the TEAM system.

2.3. Color and paper specifications. The color for the 2016-2017 certificate is Pantone Blue 283. The stock is white index or the equivalent. To meet postal requirements, the paper must be at least .007" thick and not more than .016" thick. The sample attached is printed on #110 index. When paper is manufactured, there can be a variance in the thickness of the paper, so be sure to state in the specifications that the paper must meet postal requirements for calibration. The front side of the certificate is to be printed with Pantone Blue 283 color. The language on the certificate will be in black ink. Using the Pantone Blue 283 to "color" the paper will ensure that all certificates are printed uniformly across the state. The backside of the certificate may be printed either with the Pantone Blue 283 color or left plain white. The sample attached shows the area that is to be printed in Pantone Blue 283 at 100% solid.

2.4 Format. The voter registrar's name, telephone number, and return address must be printed in the upper left-hand corner above the dotted line. Modules 202.4.3 and 202.4.4 of the Domestic Mail Manual ("D.M.M.") requires the postal endorsement “RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED" to be placed ¼" below the return address. The word "Postmaster" is NOT used in conjunction with the endorsement. See Section 3 of this directive for further discussion. "Secretary of State's Office, Elections Division" and the Secretary of State's toll-free number (1-800-252-8683) must be printed directly across from the voter registrar's name and address, as indicated on the attached sample card. The name of the voter registrar's county must be printed directly below the words "Voter Registration Certificate" as indicated on the attached sample card. The state seal is placed to the left of the name of the county. Counties using the Secretary of State’s TEAM system must have the county name and the voter registrar's return address and phone number preprinted on the certificate card stock. It is recommended that all counties use a non-bold, 4pt sans-serif font for the return address information.

2.5. VUID number. Use the ten-digit VUID number already assigned to the voter.

2.6. Valid from-thru. The "VALID FROM" date on all renewal certificates issued to registered voters is JANUARY 1, 2016. The certificate will expire on DECEMBER 31, 2017, and that date shall appear on the certificate below "THRU." See Section 3.3 of this directive for the period for mailing renewal certificates.

New registrants whose applications are received and accepted after the 30TH DAY BEFORE JANUARY 1, 2016 will be issued an initial certificate, and the "VALID FROM" date on the certificate is the same as the effective date of registration. Renewal certificates need not be issued in this instance. See Section 5 of this directive for information regarding new registrants whose registrations will be effective on or after NOVEMBER 15, 2015, but before JANUARY 1, 2016.

For a voter who changes his or her name or changes his or her address , the "VALID FROM" date on the corrected certificate is the date the change becomes effective. These changes become effective on the 30th day after the voter registrar receives notice of the change.

If a registered voter requests a replacement certificate because his or her original certificate has been lost or destroyed, the "VALID FROM" date on the replacement certificate is the same as the date on the certificate that is being replaced. The replacement certificate must have a notation that it is a replacement certificate. The word “replacement” should be printed vertically below the seal.

2.7. Information on certificate. Texas Administrative Rule § 81.10 outlines the requirements regarding the name of the Voter to print on the Voter Registration Certificate. In accordance with this rule, “the the voter registration certificate shall reflect the information provided by the voter on the most recent application supplied by that voter to the voter registrar. The name on the voter registration certificate shall be restricted to first name, middle name (if any is supplied by the voter on the most recent application), and last name (including suffix, if any).” The voter registrar may also include abbreviations of names indicated on the voter registration application. The name of the voter printed on the certificate must be sufficient for the election judge to be able to identify the voter. For instance, the voter registrar may not routinely print "P.D. Smith" if the voter has indicated on his application the name "Paul David Smith." The voter registrar may, however, print "Paul D. Smith." Nicknames may not be used unless the voter indicated a nickname as his or her name on the application. The certificate must also include a designation of gender if gender has been provided on the application. If gender is not provided on the application, leave the gender field blank on the voter registration certificate. The year of birth (not birth date) and election precinct number must be indicated on the certificate, as well as the permanent residence address (and the mailing address, if these two addresses are different). The voter registrar will print the mailing address on the right-hand side of the card. The permanent residence address or a concise description of the location of the permanent residence must be printed on the left-hand portion of the certificate. If the complete descriptive address will not fit on the certificate, the address may be truncated.

2.8 Back of Certificate. The prescribed language on the back of the certificate instructs the voter concerning the requirements concerning identification that may be required at the polling place and instructs the voter to correct information on the front of the card by making corrections in the space provided on the back of the certificate. The Secretary of State by this directive requires that the information be printed on the back of the certificate as shown on the attached sample. Changes in the prescribed text are not permitted without prior written approval of this office.

2.9. Party Affiliation. The space for stamping party affiliation is placed vertically on the front of the certificate.

2.10. Area for Postal Information. The right half of the front of the certificate must be left blank, except for mailing address and postage, barcode for VUID and information in the shaded blue area. Information that is printed in the address area of the certificate must have a 1/8” clear space around the name and address. See Section 2.1 of this directive for exceptions.

3. Mailing of Certificate

3.1. Postage. The voter registrar mails the certificate with first-class postcard postage or, if mailed in an envelope, first-class-letter postage. The Texas Election Code requires that the certificate be mailed by nonforwardable mail. The voter's tax statement may not be included in the same envelope.

Module 202.4.4 of the Domestic Mail Manual provides for the endorsement to the postmaster on the certificate. The endorsement must be printed in at least 8pt. type and must appear at least ¼" below the voter registrar's return address. There must also be a ¼"-clear space below the endorsement. The attached sample of the certificate shows the correct placement of the endorsement. The certificate will be returned free of charge to the voter registrar when mailed at either first-class postcard or first-class letter rate. The voter registrar will receive an address correction at no extra charge when the certificate is returned with the endorsement "RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED." There is no charge for this service since the new address will appear on the original mail piece. (DMM Exhibit 1.5.1, Domestic Mail Manual)

If an envelope is used to mail the voter registration certificate, the instruction to the postmaster, "RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED," must be printed on the front of the envelope at least ¼" below the return address of the voter registrar. There must also be a clear space of ¼" below the endorsement.

Postage must be paid from the county's budget. The Secretary of State is not authorized to pay for the mailing of the certificates. Funds received under Sections 19.001-19.006 of the Texas Election Code may not be used for payment of postage for mailing certificates. Funds received from the Secretary of State and maintained by the voter registrar or post office in the voter registration application business reply account (Permit 4511) may not be used to pay for mailing voter registration certificates.

The certificates may be mailed at a lower first-class-postage rate, for example, by carrier route or barcoding the zip code. To take advantage of the lower postage rate, the mailing list must be certified that it has been updated within 95 days of the mailing. Contact your local postmaster for various ways to prepare your mailing to obtain the lowest possible postal rate.

3.2. Postal Requirements for Postcards. If the certificates will be mailed as postcards rather than in envelopes, certain postal requirements must be met.

Any preprinted information on the right-hand side of the card must be shaded. (See attached sample certificate and Domestic Mail Manual The area reserved for the address is white and must be at least 2 1/8” long and 1" high. The U.S. Post Office requires all certificates mailed as postcards to be presorted.

3.3. Coordination with Local Postal Authorities. The voter registrar should coordinate with the local postmaster before the mailing date. Postal regulations have become very complicated, and we highly recommend that the local postmaster be consulted prior to printing the certificates.

3.4. Mailing Date. The voter registrar shall issue a voter registration renewal certificate to each voter in the county whose registration is effective on the preceding NOVEMBER 14. The mailing shall occur between NOVEMBER 15 and DECEMBER 5 of each odd-numbered year.

4. Duplicate Certificates

4.1. Duplicate Certificate Files. Texas Election Code Section 15.433 provides a method for the voter registrar to maintain the active or inactive duplicate-certificate file on electronic data processing equipment. Evidence of the mailing must be maintained in a retrievable format. The data must include the name and address to which the certificate was sent and the ten digit VUID number. TEAM records the mass mailout for each applicable voter in the activity tab within the voter view window.

5. New Registrations

5.1. Before Effective Date. Persons who register to vote whose registrations will become effective after NOVEMBER 14, 2015, and before JANUARY 1, 2016, may be issued initial certificates for the remainder of the voting year (orange certificate). The "VALID FROM" date on the initial (orange) certificate is the effective date of registration, and the "THRU" date is DECEMBER 31, 2015. The voter registrar must issue renewal certificates (Blue certificate) to the voters. The "VALID FROM" date on the renewal certificate will be JANUARY 1, 2016, and the "THRU" date will be DECEMBER 31, 2017. The duplicate of the initial certificate for the remainder of the voting year should be filed in the duplicate-certificate file or in electronic format as discussed above. Proof of issuing a renewal certificate is required, and instructions in Section 4 of this directive should be followed to provide such proof.

6. "Suspense" Voters

6.1. Voters who have been mailed a confirmation notice prior to the mass mailout but failed to respond to the notice are designated with an "S" on the list of registered voters. These voters are NOT mailed a renewal certificate.

6.2. If a voter responds to the confirmation mailing after the mass mailout, correct the voter's registration information, remove the "S" designation, and mail the voter a renewal certificate with the new information.

7. Returned Certificates

7.1. Confirmation Notice. The voter registrar is required to mail, no later than March 1, 2016, a confirmation notice and response form to each voter whose renewal certificate was returned as undeliverable. If the post office provided a forwarding address on the returned certificate, the confirmation notice and response form must be mailed to the address given. If the post office did not provide a forwarding address, the confirmation notice and response form must be mailed to the last known address of the voter. In any case, the confirmation notice and response form must be mailed by forwardable mail.

7.2. Design. The Secretary of State has prescribed the wording of the confirmation notice and response form, but has left the design for printing to the voter registrar’s discretion. Coordinate with the postmaster to determine the most efficient way to mail the confirmation notices and receive the response forms.

8. Approval

8.1. Secretary of State Approval. Issued this 27th day of August, 2015.

Carlos H. Cascos
Secretary of State