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Election Advisory No. 2020-18

To:

County Elections Officers (County Clerks/Elections Administrators/Tax Assessors-Collectors)

From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Keith Ingram's signature
Date: June 11, 2020
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

There are special procedures for appointing early voting officers, members of the early voting ballot board, and election clerks who will serve in the November General Election for State and County Officers. Therefore, please review carefully the appointment procedures in this advisory because they are different from those used in May elections and in November elections in odd-numbered years.

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;
  2. Election Clerks of Polling Places;
  3. Presiding and Alternate Early Voting Officers for Early Voting Locations;
  4. Presiding Judge and Members of Early Voting Ballot Board;
  5. Members of Signature Verification Committee, if one is created;
  6. Presiding and Alternate Judge of the Central Counting Station;

he county chairs for the minor parties with ballot access (currently, the Libertarian and Green Parties) may submit lists containing the names of eligible persons to be appointed to the following positions, if the party has a nominee for a precinct or county office on the general election ballot:

  1. Members of the Early Voting Ballot Board, and;
  2. Members of the Signature Verification Committee, if one is created.

Deadlines for Submitting Lists

For all counties regardless of population: The deadline for party chairs to submit to county commissioners court a list of eligible persons for certain positions listed above is August 7, 2020. The Secretary of State adjusted this date in accordance with Section 41.006 of the Texas Election Code so newly elected party chairs can exercise their authority to submit a list of eligible persons for the November General Election for state and county officers. Section 41.006 provides that if an election under Chapter 41, Subchapter A is held on a date other than a date prescribed by other law, deadlines and the performance of any official act relating to the election shall be adjusted to allow the same interval of time in relation to the date of the election as would be provided by application of the other law. Because the new term for party chairs begins August 3, 2020, the Secretary of State’s office moved the list submission deadline (for all counties regardless of population) to Friday, August 7, 2020. The chart below provides details as to which deadline applies to each position.

Position Date List Due List Submitted to...
Election Judge (Presiding and Alternate) August 7 in a county over 500k
August 7 in a county under 500k (This date has been pushed back and combined, due to the party chairs taking office at a later date this year.
County Commissioners Court
Election Clerks 25th day before election day (October 9, 2020) Presiding Judge of Precinct (If no judge appointed by 25th day, list is submitted to county chair of party with highest number of gubernatorial votes or commissioners court if no chair.)
Early Voting Election Officers August 7 in all counties. County Clerk
Early Voting Ballot Board Judge/Member Recommended deadlines:
August 7 in a county over 500k
August 7 in a county under 500k
County Election Board
Signature Verification Committee Member Recommended deadline:
Wednesday, August 26, 2020 in all counties.
County Commissioners Court

NOTE: If the commissioners court appointed election precinct and central counting station judges in July 2019 for a two-year term, there will be no reason to make election precinct and central counting station judge appointments in August 2020.

Appointment Process for County Election Precinct Presiding and Alternate Judges and for the Central Counting Station Election Judge and Alternate Judge

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 the 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 election judge and alternate judge, who are affiliated or aligned with the county chair’s political party. (Sections 32.002 & 127.005(e)). We recommend that the list contain names for every precinct in the county and for the central counting station. (Section 32.007). Because the new party chairs will not take office until August 3, 2020, due to the Primary Runoff Election being postponed to July 14, 2020, the deadline to submit the list of names is postponed to August 7, 2020. A county chair may supplement the list of names for election judges until the 20th day before general election (or the 15th day for a special election) in case an appointed judge becomes unable to serve. After that time, an emergency appointment may be made. See below for additional information on emergency appointments.

As stated above, the commissioners court is required to appoint the presiding and alternate election judges for each county election precinct and the central counting station from the lists submitted by the county chairs at its August term. (Sections 32.001, 32.002 & 127.005(e)). The 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. (Section 32.002(c)).

In counties with a population of more than 500,000, the terms of the judges start after August 7, 2020, immediately upon appointment by commissioners court. In counties with a population of 500,000 or less, the terms of the judges start on September 1, 2020.

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, if the authority making an appointment of a presiding judge or 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. (Section 32.051(b)).

To be eligible to serve as the presiding or alternate judge of the central counting station, 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). (Sections 32.051 & 127.005).

Election Workers for Countywide Polling Places

Section 32.002 of the Code outlines the procedure for selection of presiding and alternate judges for a countywide polling place. 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.

List of Persons Appointed Required

Section 32.012 requires that the county clerk provide to the county chair of each political party a list of the individuals appointed by the commissioners court after the commissioners court appoints a presiding election judge and an alternate presiding judge. The appointment list must be provided in writing.

Failure to Submit List

If a county chair does not submit names by the August 7, 2020 deadline for a particular precinct, the county clerk or elections administrator shall prepare a list for that precinct. (Section 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 general election (or the 15th day for a special election). (Section 32.007).

The county judge may make emergency appointments for the November General Election for state and county officers, 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 whom must be the alternate judge, in the number prescribed by commissioners court. (Sections 32.031, 32.032 & 32.033). In the November General Election for state and county officers, the clerks must be selected from different political parties, if possible. (Section 32.034). Not later than October 9, 2020 for the general election, the county chair of a political party whose candidate for governor received the highest or second highest number of votes in the county in the 2018 gubernatorial election may submit to a presiding judge a list containing the names of at least two persons who are eligible for appointment as a clerk. (Section 32.034(b)). If a timely list is submitted (and the list is timely if postmarked by October 11, 2020), the presiding judge must appoint at least one clerk from the list, unless there will be only one other election clerk in addition to the alternate judge serving as clerk. (Section 32.034(c)). In such case, the additional clerk must be appointed from the list of a political party with which neither the presiding judge nor alternate judge is affiliated or aligned, if such a list is submitted. 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. (Section 32.051).

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. (Sections 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 election 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)).

Please see our website for further details on student election clerks.

Qualifications of Remaining Central Counting Station Personnel for November General Election

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. (Sections 32.002, 127.002, & 127.003). To serve as central counting station manager or tabulation supervisor, 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. (Section 127.004). The assistant tabulation supervisor does not need to be a qualified voter of the political subdivision (i.e., the county). (Section 127.004). Note: Section 127.004 requires that assistants appointed by the tabulation supervisor in a county with a population of less than 60,000 must be a registered voter of the political subdivision served by the authority establishing the counting station (the county) or an employee of the political subdivision that adopts or owns the voting system. Both the presiding judge and central counting station manager may appoint clerks for the counting station in the number authorized by the commissioners court. (Section 127.006).

Appointment Process for Early Voting Election Officers

Pursuant to Section 85.009 of the Code, the county clerk or elections administrator shall select election officers for the main early voting location, as well as any branch early voting location, from a list provided by the party chairs to ensure equal representation for each political party holding a primary election in the county. However, the county clerk or elections administrator is still the early voting clerk and has the ultimate responsibility for the overall conduct of early voting. (Section 83.031(c)).

By August 7, 2020, the county chair of each political party holding a primary election must submit in writing to the county clerk or elections administrator a list of names of persons, in order of preference, to serve at each early voting polling place. (Section 85.009(b)). The list must contain the names of individuals who are eligible to serve under the requirements set forth in the Code for presiding election judges, with the following exceptions:

The county chair may supplement the list of names until the 30th day before early voting begins in the event an appointed officer becomes ineligible to serve. (Section 85.009(b)). County clerks or elections administrators: if you wish the county chairs to include your regular early voting workers, including office staff, on their lists, you should communicate with your county chairs.

The county clerk or elections administrator MUST appoint the first person who meets the eligibility requirements from the list submitted by the party that obtained the highest number of votes in the county from the 2018 gubernatorial election as the early voting presiding officer of that early voting polling place and the first person meeting the eligibility requirements from the list submitted by the party that obtained the second highest number of votes to serve as the early voting alternate presiding officer of that early voting polling place. Additional early voting election officers for each early voting polling place will be appointed from the lists submitted by the county chairs to the county clerk or elections administrator for each early voting polling place. If a county chair fails to submit a list to the county clerk or elections administrator, the county clerk or elections administrator must make reasonable attempts to consult with the party. If such attempts do not prove successful, the county clerk or elections administrator will select early voting election officers for the early voting polling place(s) in a manner that attempts to ensure equal representation for the parties to the extent possible. (Sections 85.009(b), (c)).

County chairs: your list of names for early voting officers must be submitted to the county clerk/elections administrators not later than August 7, 2020. If submitting by mail, the letter must be postmarked by August 7, 2020 to ensure timeliness. We recommend that you communicate with the county elections office to obtain an estimated number of early voting polling places and number of potential early voting officers needed for early voting so that you will have some idea of the number of names to submit by the August 7 deadline.

A We note this procedure for appointing early voting officers applies only during a General Election for State and County Officers. In addition, it is recommended that county chairs contact the persons they wish to use for early voting to verify their eligibility and willingness to serve as an election official prior to submitting their names.

Appointment of the Early Voting Ballot Board for November 2020 General Election

The procedure for appointing the early voting ballot board for the November General Election is set out in Section 87.002 of the Code. (Section 87.002(c)). The early voting ballot board is appointed by the county election board, a group that consists of the county clerk, who serves as the chair, the voter registrar, the two major political party county chairs, the sheriff, and the county judge.* (Sections 51.002 & 87.002). The county election board first determines the number of early voting ballot board members to be appointed. (Section 87.002). The minimum number is three, which would consist of a presiding judge and two clerks. (Section 87.002(a)).

*NOTE: If the county has an elections administrator, or if commissioners court has transferred the election duties of the county clerk to the county tax assessor collector, he/she will serve as the county election board chair in place of the county clerk. (Sections 31.043, 31.072 & 31.073).

The party chairs, including the county chairs of the Libertarian Party of Texas and Green Party of Texas, submit lists of eligible persons for appointment to the early voting ballot board. (Section 87.002). The eligibility requirements to serve on the board are the same as those for presiding election judges, except a member of the early voting ballot board has only to be a qualified voter of the county.

Section 87.002(c) of the Code does not provide a deadline for the county chairs to submit names to the county election board. We suggest that the party chairs submit the names to the county clerk, elections administrator, or tax assessor collector (the chair of the county election board) within the same time frame that they are preparing names for precinct election judges for submission to commissioners court. That is, we recommend that for all counties, the chairs should submit names of persons to serve on the early voting ballot board by August 7, 2020.

We recommend that the county election board appoint the members of the early voting ballot board no later than October 1, 2020, to allow time for notice requirements.

The presiding judge of the early voting ballot board is appointed from the list of the political party whose candidate for governor received the highest vote in the 2018 gubernatorial election countywide. (Section 87.002(b)). For the remaining members, the county election board must select at least one from each party chair’s list. (Sections 51.002 & 87.002). If more than three members are ordered, an equal number of members must be chosen from each list.

Appointment of Signature Verification Committee for the November 2020 General 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. (Section 87.027). If the early voting clerk determines that a signature verification committee should be appointed or if the clerk receives a petition signed by at least 15 registered voters, the clerk shall issue a written order creating the committee. The deadline to submit a petition requesting creation of a signature verification committee is Thursday, October 1, 2020. (Section 87.027(a-1)). A request for the committee submitted by mail is considered submitted at the time of its receipt by the early voting clerk. The early voting clerk determines the number of members on the committee, providing for a minimum of five (the committee chair and four members). (Section 87.027(d)). The county election board appoints the members. The party chairs, including the county chair of the Libertarian Party of Texas and Green Party of Texas, submit lists of eligible persons for appointment to the committee. In order to serve on the committee, a person must be a qualified voter of the county.

The county chairs’ lists for the appointment of the signature verification committee members are not subject to the August 7, 2020 deadline. The county elections 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 OR not later than October 15, 2020, if the committee is created after a valid petition was submitted requesting its creation. We recommend that the signature verification committee be appointed (if needed) by October 7, 2020, to allow time for all necessary notice requirements. Therefore, we recommend that the parties submit the lists to the chair of the county elections board (county clerk or elections administrator) by August 26, 2020 to allow for appointment during the month of September or no later than the October 7, 2020 recommended date.

The presiding judge of the signature verification committee is appointed from the list of the party whose candidate for governor received the highest vote in the 2018 gubernatorial election countywide. For the remaining members, the county election board must select at least two qualified individuals from each chair’s list. If clerks beyond the minimum requirement are ordered, an equal number must be chosen from each list.

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.

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