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Election Advisory No. 2018-31

To: County Election Officials
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Keith Ingram's signature
Date: September 27, 2018


Volunteer Deputy Registrars

As the general election approaches, you may be deputizing new Volunteer Deputy Registrars (“VDR”) or have questions about current VDR’s. VDR’s are entrusted with the responsibility of distributing voter registration application forms throughout the county and receiving registration applications back from voters on behalf of the county. They are appointed by county voter registrars (“VR”) and charged with helping increase voter registration in the state. Pursuant to 13.047 of the Texas Election Code, the Secretary of State is responsible for adopting training standards, developing materials for the training, and distributing the materials to the counties. This advisory outlines our current resources and provides answers to frequently asked questions.

In addition to this Advisory, we have prescribed the following resources:

Please note that the Volunteer Deputy Registrar Guide and the Volunteer Deputy Training are available in Spanish. We have also prescribed an optional examination that is available in Spanish. County voter registrars can obtain the answer key on our DocShare site or by emailing the Elections Division.

Optional Training Method

Senate Bill 142 (Regular Session, 2015), provides an optional training method for the appointment of volunteer deputy registrars. Instead of holding in-person training sessions, a county MAY adopt a procedure that allows a person to review the SOS online Volunteer Deputy Registrar training. Upon completing the training, they must appear in person in the voter register’s office to take an examination. Upon satisfactory completion of the examination, and completion of the Request of Appointment, the voter registrar must appoint the person as a VDR. They will be issued a Certificate of Appointment. As this time, the county can provide the newly appointed VDR of any county specific procedures. The voter registrar must advise the newly appointed volunteer deputy registrar that the only requirements for voter registration are those prescribed by state law or by the Secretary of State. 

The examination is “open-book.” A potential VDR can use the training materials to assist them when completing the examination. A potential VDR is required to answer at least 90% (18 of 20) of the examination questions to successfully complete the application. The Election Code does not provide a limit to the number of times a potential VDR can take the examination before passing.

The online training and examination procedure can be adopted by decision of the Voter Registrar. The VR does not have to adopt the online training and examination procedure by order of the Commissioners Court, but can if the VR chooses to do so.

Counties are not required to adopt the online training and examination, and can continue to conduct only in-person training for VDRs without requiring an examination. Please note that if you do not schedule more than one training per month or if that training you schedule is only offered during business hours, we STRONGLY recommend that you adopt the optional on-line training method so as to allow more individuals the opportunity to be appointed as a VDR in your county.

Minimum Training Standards

Advisory 2012-04 is our directive on training standards and it outlined the following requirements:

Appointment of VDRs Trained in other Counties

If the volunteer deputy registrar has already been trained and appointed in another county during the current election cycle, he/she does not have to undergo additional training nor complete another examination. You may ask the previous registrar to confirm that the volunteer deputy registrar has undergone such training. A county can continue to provide county-specific information to VDRs at the time of certification, but cannot require that the VDR complete any additional examinations.

Volunteer Deputy Registrar Materials

The county Voter Registrar must distribute to each appointed volunteer deputy registrar the following materials:

  1. The Texas Volunteer Deputy Registrar Guide,
  2. Plenty of voter registration applications containing the county return address,
  3. A certificate of appointment, and
  4. A receipt book.

VDRs may also print blank applications from the Secretary of State’s website or request blank applications from the SOS directly.

NOTE: Some counties use VR applications with a perforated receipt that can be detached and given to the voter. The SOS has approved a version of this application. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Does a VDR need to be a registered voter in the county they are wanting to become a VDR in?
  2. No, a VDR does not need to be a registered voter in the county where they are wanting to become a VDR or even a registered voter in Texas. The potential VDR only needs to be a resident of the State of Texas.

  3. What are the qualifications to become a VDR?
  4. A VDR must be:

    • be at least 18 years old;
    • be a United States citizen;
    • not have been determined by a final judgment of a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be
      1. totally mentally incapacitated, or
      2. partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote;
    • never have been convicted of failing to deliver a voter application to a voter registrar;
    • not have been finally convicted of a felony, or, if convicted, must have
      1. fully discharged the sentence, including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision, or completed a period of probation ordered by any court, or
      2. been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disability to vote;
    • not have been finally convicted of identity theft under Section 32.51 of the Penal Code; and
    • be a resident of the State of Texas.
  5. Does the county have to offer in-person VDR training?
  6. No, as a county, you do not have to have in-person training, if you adopt an optional online training method prescribed by the SOS.

  7. If the county has in-person training, can a potential VDR still do the online training prescribed by the SOS?
  8. Yes, a potential VDR could take the county in-person training or the online training prescribed by the SOS, if the county has adopted the optional online training in their county.

  9. Can a potential VDR request to take the SOS examination in our county if we have not adopted the examination?
  10. No. If a county has not adopted the SOS online training and examination procedure, a potential VDR will be required to attend the in-person training to become certified.

  11. Can we continue to provide county-specific information to VDRs?
  12. Yes. A VR can continue to provide county-specific information to VDRs at the time of certification, regardless if they choose to adopt the examination. In a county that has adopted the examination, a VDR who successfully completes the examination must also receive the county-specific information.

  13. When a potential VDR comes in person to take the examination does the VR have to give them the examination at that time?
  14. Yes, as a VR if a potential VDR comes in-person to take the examination, then you MUST give them the examination that day during the voter registrar’s regular business hours.

  15. How many times can a potential VDR take an examination if they fail?
  16. The code does NOT have a limit of times that a potential VDR can take an examination, therefore a person shall be allowed to take the exam more than once.

  17. Can I as a VR refuse to appoint a VDR?
  18. No, under Section 13.032 of the Texas Election Code, a VR may not refuse to appoint a VDR unless they do not meet the qualifications to become a VDR. (13.032)

  19. As a VR can I terminate a VDR’s appointment?
  20. Yes, please refer to Section 13.036 for a list of reasons why a VDR may be terminated. Please note that under 13.036, these are the only reasons a VDR can be terminated.

  21. What are the general powers of a VDR?
  22. A volunteer deputy registrar may distribute voter registration application forms throughout the county and receive registration applications submitted to the deputy in person. Please note that a VDR is limited to voter registration applications only. A VDR could not accept an application for ballot by mail or an FPCA, and deliver it to the early voting clerk.

  23. How many applications must a VR provide to a VDR?
  24. A VR should be generous in the number of blank applications they provide to a VDR. If a VR is concerned about cost, they can always request reimbursement for these costs with Chapter 19 funds, if they are available to the county.

  25. What does a VDR do with the receipt books?
  26. For each completed voter registration application, a VDR may fill out a receipt in duplicate and give each applicant the original receipt. The duplicate receipts must be delivered to the voter registrar along with the applications. A VDR may wish to keep copies or stubs for their records. The VDR should not keep copies of the completed voter registration applications because these documents contain information that is confidential by law. A VDR MUST deliver completed registration applications and receipts in person to the voter registrar no later than 5 p.m. on the 5th day after the date you receive them. (13.042(b)).

    NOTE: An application submitted after the 34th day before the date of an election and on or before the last day for a person to timely submit a registration application for that election shall be delivered not later than 5:00 pm of the next regular business day after the date to timely submit a registration application for that election. (13.042)(c)).

    Failure to deliver an application in a timely manner is a criminal offense

  27. How long does a VDR need to keep their receipt books?
  28. It is not addressed in the Code, but we would suggest that a VDR should retain the receipt books for 22 months following the election closest to the effective date of the applications. Please inform the VDR to communicate with you as a VR, as you may have their own timeline of retaining the receipt books.

  29. I am a candidate and/or working for a campaign. May I serve as a volunteer deputy registrar?
  30. Yes. There is no prohibition against a candidate or a campaign worker serving as a deputy registrar, as long as they otherwise meet the “Qualifications” described above and have been officially appointed as a volunteer deputy registrar. Similarly, there is no prohibition against a volunteer deputy registrar registering voters at a campaign rally for a candidate or event. While working at rally or public event, a volunteer deputy registrar must offer registration to anyone who requests it. A VDR cannot refuse to accept an application if the voter does not want to vote for the candidate a VDR works for.

  31. As a VDR, can they accept applications from a voter in another county?
  32. No. A Volunteer deputy registrar status is conferred on a county-by-county basis. For VDR’s to accept applications for Y or Z counties, a VDR would have to become a volunteer deputy registrar for those counties. A VDR could certainly give applications to the attendees from County Y and County Z and direct them to mail the application to the appropriate county voter registrar’s office. A person commits a Class C misdemeanor by acting as a volunteer deputy registrar when he or she does not have an effective appointment as a deputy registrar. (13.044).

  33. May a VDR assist and witness multiple applicants?
  34. Yes. A VDR may assist and witness multiple applicants. If an applicant cannot sign his/her name on the application, the applicant may make a mark on the signature line. VDRs should: (1) Print the name of the applicant beside the mark, and (2) sign their name and address as the witness as required by Section 1.011 of the Texas Election Code.

  35. Must a VDR submit applications in person to the VR’s Office?
  36. Yes. Applications must be submitted in person by the VDR or by personal delivery through another designated volunteer deputy registrar. The VDR should NOT mail the voter registration applications to the VR’s office.

  37. What if a voter submits an application that is not complete?
  38. The VDR should be reviewing the application for completeness in the presence of the voter before the VDR accepts and delivers the application to the VR. (13.039).

  39. What if I get an application from a VDR for another county?
  40. Assuming the VDR is a VDR in that county, you as a VR will forward the application to the correct county.

  41. When is the effective date of registration for an applicant submitting its application to a VDR?
  42. Assuming the individual is otherwise eligible to vote, the applicant’s registration will be effective 30 days after the date of submission to the VDR.

  43. As a VR must I keep an active appointment file of a VDR?
  44. Yes. The registrar shall maintain a file containing the duplicate certificates of appointment of the volunteer deputy registrars whose appointments are effective. (b) The registrar shall maintain the file in alphabetical order by deputy name on a countywide basis. (c) Each certificate shall be retained on file during the time the appointment is effective.

  45. As a VR must I keep an inactive appointment file?
  46. Yes. The registrar shall maintain a file containing the duplicate certificates of appointment of the volunteer deputy registrars whose appointments have been terminated. (b) The registrar shall enter the date of and reason for termination on each duplicate certificate. (c) The registrar shall maintain the file in alphabetical order by deputy name on a countywide basis. (d) Each certificate shall be retained on file for two years after the date of termination.

All references are to the Texas Election Code (unless otherwise cited) available here:

Texas Constitution and Statutes

If you have any questions about the information in this advisory, please contact the Elections Division at 1-800-252-VOTE(8683).