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Election Advisory No. 2019-08

To: County Chairs, County Election Officials, and County Judges
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Keith Ingram's signature
Date: June 16, 2019

RE:

Appointment Procedures for County Election Precinct Presiding and Alternate Judges, Election Clerks, Early Voting Ballot Board Members, Signature Verification Committee Members, and Central Counting Station Personnel

Introduction

If the commissioners court appointed election precinct and central counting station judges in July or August of 2018, as appropriate, for a two-year term, there will be no reason to make election precinct and central counting station judge appointments in July or August of 2019. This Advisory is meant for counties that did not make two-year appointments in 2018, and will be making appointments in the July or August 2019 terms.

Counties may be conducting joint elections for the November 5, 2019 uniform election date with other political subdivisions, such as cities, school districts, water districts, or hospital districts. The joint election agreement must address how the appointments of election precinct presiding and alternate judges, early voting ballot board presiding judge, and central counting station presiding and alternate judges will be made.

The county chairs for major parties (Democratic and Republican Parties) may submit lists containing the names of eligible persons to be appointed to the following positions:

  1. Presiding and Alternate Judge of Polling Places including countywide polling locations);
  2. Presiding Judge and Alternate Presiding Judge of Early Voting Ballot Board;
  3. Presiding and Alternate Judge of the Central Counting Station.

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

Please familiarize yourselves with the Election Code provisions 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 at the central counting station, which are Sections 32.051-32.0552, 87.003, & 127.002 - 127.006.

  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 2018 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 2018 gubernatorial election must contain the name of a person eligible for appointment as the early voting ballot board presiding judge.  (87.002(b)). Lists submitted by mail must be postmarked by June 30, 2019 in order for them to be considered timely-filed.  
  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 2018 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 2018 gubernatorial election must contain the name of a person eligible for appointment as the early voting ballot board presiding judge. (87.002(b)). Lists submitted by mail must be postmarked by July 31, 2019 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 a general election (or the 15th day for a special election) in case an appointed judge becomes unable to serve the remainder of the term. Note that if a term-appointed presiding judge is unable to serve for a single election, the alternate presiding judge will serve.  (32.001(b)). If neither the appointed presiding nor alternate judge is able to serve for a given election, and this is discovered after the 20th day before election day (15th day before a special election), the county judge may make emergency appointments. If the county judge is unavailable, the county clerk/elections administrator may make the emergency appointment.

NOTE: 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 2019 election; a new appointment should be made for each election.

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.

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, 2019. In counties with a population of 500,000 or less, the terms of the judges start on September 1, 2019.  (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 or the presiding judge of the early voting ballot board, 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, 87.003, & 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)).

Appointment of Judges for Countywide Polling Place Program

If your county is part of the countywide polling place program, the county chairs shall submit a list of names of persons eligible for appointment as election judges to the county commissioners court. The commissioners court must apportion the number of judges for countywide polling places in direct proportion to the percentage of election precincts located in each county commissioners precinct won by each party in the last gubernatorial election.

For example, if the county has 10 county election precincts located in county commissioner precinct #1 and one party won 6 of those 10 precincts in the 2018 gubernatorial election while the other party won 4 of those 10 precincts, there would be a 60% to 40% split of the county election precincts in that county commissioner precinct for the two parties. This means that if the county plans to have five countywide polling places in county commissioner precinct #1, the commissioners court must appoint a presiding judge from the list of the party who won 60% of the county election precincts in 2018 to three of those five countywide polling places in county commissioner precinct #1 and a presiding judge from the list of the party who won 40% of the county election precincts in 2018 to the remaining two of the five countywide polling places in county commissioner precinct #1. This is because 60% of five polling places is equal to three polling places and 40% of five polling places is equal to two polling places.

In cases where the application of percentages for countywide polling place judges does not result in a whole number, our office recommends that a county attempt to get as close to the percentages as possible and uniformly apply any resolution method.

Presiding and alternate judges for countywide polling places are not required to be qualified voters of any particular election precinct, but they must be qualified voters of the county. Additionally, a presiding or alternate judge for a countywide polling place does not have to reside in the election precinct where the countywide polling place is located, and more than one presiding or alternate judge from the same election precinct may be selected to serve on election day. County chairs may submit a list containing more names than needed for the appointment to the position of presiding and alternate judge at all countywide polling place locations and the commissioners court may preapprove appointment of more judges than necessary. Any presiding or alternate judge vacancy that occurs after such preapproval can be filled by the appointment of a preapproved judge.

Failure to Submit List

If a county chair does not submit names by the June 30, 2019 or July 31, 2019 deadline, as applicable, for a particular precinct, and the county clerk or elections administrator has made a reasonable effort to consult with the chairs of a failure to submit names, then the county clerk or election administration shall prepare a list for that precinct to submit to the commissioners court. (32.002(d)) The 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

If the appointed election judge is unable to serve for a given election, the alternate judge shall serve in the election judge’s place. If neither the election judge nor the alternate judge is able to serve, an emergency appointment may be made if the inability of the presiding and alternate judges to serve is discovered after the 20th day before a general election (or the 15th day for a special election). (32.007)

The county judge may make emergency appointments for the November 5, 2019 uniform election, usually at the request of the county clerk/elections administrator. If the county judge is unavailable, the county clerk or elections administrator shall appoint the replacement judge. 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, unless the clerk is a student election clerk (see below).  (32.051 & 32.0511)

Student Election Clerks

A student who is at least 16 years of age and who is enrolled in a public or private high school or home school and has the consent of the principal (or parent/legal guardian in charge of education in home school) may serve as an election clerk on election day or during early voting.  (32.0511, 83.012)  Up to four student election clerks may serve at any one time at an early voting site, and up to two student election clerks may serve at any one time at an election day polling place. The elections officials must receive written authorization from the student's parent or guardian for the student to serve in the election for which he or she is appointed.

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. (Texas Education Code 25.087(e))

For additional information, please see our Student Election Clerk FAQs.  

Qualifications of Remaining Central Counting Station Personnel

The 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, 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. Although the assistant tabulation supervisor is appointed by the tabulation supervisor, the assistant must be approved by the 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 the commissioners court.  (127.006)

The tabulation supervisor must meet the requirements set out in Sections 127.002 and 127.003 of the Code, but note that the individual 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) 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). 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 – November 2019 Constitutional Amendment Election

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)).

Note that the procedure for appointing early voting officers from a list provided by the political parties 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 2019 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 5, 2019 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 2019 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)).

*For the November 2019 Constitutional Amendment Election (i.e., for elections other than the general election for state and county officers or a special legislative election), the county election board consists of the county judge, county clerk, voter registrar, and the sheriff. Note that the EA replaces the county chair and the voter registrar in counties that have an EA. The county clerk (or EA) is the chair of the county election board. (51.002). 

The county election 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 9, 2019 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.

KI:CA:MB