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Election Advisory No. 2020-26

To: All County Election Officers (County Clerks/Elections Administrators/County Tax Assessor-Collectors)
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Keith Ingram's signature
Date: August 28, 2020
RE: Additional Instructions for Preparation of Ballot for Write-In Candidates and Independents, Procedures for Unopposed Candidates Declared Elected, and Legend Printing Instructions

Straight-Party Voting Repealed

House Bill 25, passed during the 85th Legislative Session, repealed straight-party voting effective September 1, 2020 (Section 64.004, Texas Election Code). As a result of this change in law, straight-party voting should not be included as an option on your ballot.

Instructions Specific to the Preparation of the Ballot – Write-In Candidates and Independents

Write-in Candidates

Section 52.068(a) of the Code states that if no candidate’s name is to appear on the ballot for an office and there is no declared write-in candidate for that office, the office title does not need to be printed on the ballot.

Section 124.0621 of the Code states that for counties using an optical/digital scan ballot, blank write-in lines must be provided on the ballot only for offices where a declared write-in candidate has been certified. You may include the language "write-in (voto escrito)" under the write-in line on your ballot to describe the purpose of the line. For counties using a DRE or ballot marking device, a blank write-in line needs to appear on the ballot page under the race title following the candidates’ names that are printed on the ballot. You will need to post special instructions on how the voter is to vote for a write-in candidate on the DRE or ballot marking device.

The sample ballot displays a square in the write-in column for which a candidate filed a valid declaration of write-in candidacy for state or district office. Do not print a write-in square for each race printed on the ballot; only races with declared write-in candidates should have a square.

When you prepare the list of declared write-in candidates, do not include candidates running for any district offices that are not included in your county. This list must be posted in each voting booth, on the wall where voters may be standing in line, and included with each mail ballot.

The Code does not provide direction as to how to list multiple write-in candidates for the same office on the List of Declared Write-in Candidates. If there are two or more declared write-in candidates in any one race, the Secretary of State recommends that you list them in alphabetical order or conduct a ballot drawing pursuant to Section 52.094(a) & (c) of the Code. The List of Declared Write-In candidates should list only those candidates running for offices for which the voter is eligible to vote. For example, if your county has a declared write-in candidate for County Commissioner, Precinct 2, that candidate's name should appear only on the list posted in the voting precincts contained in that commissioner’s precinct. If your county participates in the Countywide Polling Place Program, you must post all declared write-in candidates’ names in every voting booth that is deployed to polling places throughout the county.

The List of Declared Write-in Candidates must be mailed with the official balloting materials to all voters who vote by mail and must be posted in each voting station during early voting and on Election Day.

Independent Candidates

Independent candidates will be listed on the ballot just as party affiliated candidates are listed. In accordance with Section 52.094(a) of the Code, if there is more than one independent candidate for an office, there will need to be a ballot drawing only for those independent candidates. The ballot drawing will determine the order of names of the independent candidates within the candidate listing for that office. This ballot drawing does not affect the listing of other candidates in the race.

Procedures for Unopposed Candidates Declared Elected

State and District Offices

The Secretary of State will not certify the unopposed candidates for state and district offices as declared elected. These unopposed candidates are certified with all other candidates and must be printed with a voting space in the regular ballot order.

County and Precinct Offices

As county elections officer, you have the authority to print your unopposed county and precinct candidates as declared elected. If you choose to print your ballot this way, you will make a declaration that those candidates are unopposed and duly-elected. You do not need to file this with the commissioners’ court, but you must keep it with your other election records. At the local canvass, you will issue a certificate of election to these candidates; however, the County Judge will continue to issue certificates to those candidates who won the election and were contested. (Section 2.056, Texas Election Code).

If you choose to print your ballots this way, you do not include a voting space but merely list all uncontested candidates at the end of your ballot under the heading “Unopposed Candidates Declared Elected.”

You will need to include the candidate’s name and the office title to which the county or precinct candidate is duly-elected. You may print all of your duly-elected county and precinct candidates on all ballots and do not need to take into account specific ballots styles. For example, if both your county commissioners’ races for Precinct 2 and 4 were unopposed, you may print both races on all ballots, even ballots where voters would not be voting on county commissioner in this election. Remember, if you do this type of ballot for one unopposed candidate, you must do it for all your county or precinct unopposed candidates. You cannot pick and choose which unopposed candidates will be printed on the ballot with or without a voting space.

The Sample Ballot posted on our website demonstrates the ballot layout for how Unopposed Candidates Declared Elected should appear on the ballot.

Separate Listing of Unopposed Candidates for Electronic Voting Systems

For counties using electronic voting systems, you also have the authority to group your unopposed races and block vote them, per Section 124.003 of the Code. This process is different from the “Unopposed Candidates Declared Elected” process described under Section 2.056 of the Code.

Printing Legend Instructions

If you abbreviate the party names on the ballot, you must also print a legend containing the explanation for each party. We suggest that you print the party legend at the bottom of the ballot or in the instruction box. For those of you who use voting equipment that will not allow you to place party legend on the ballot, we direct you to place the legend in each voting booth. You may combine the party legend with the List of Declared Write-In Candidates. See example below:

List of Declared Write-In Candidates

Name of Candidate Office Sought
Name   United States Senator

Legend of Party Affiliation or Independent Printed on Ballot

Party Legend
Republican Rep
Democratic Dem
Libertarian Lib
Green Grn
Independent Ind

If you have any questions regarding this memorandum or the information enclosed, please call the Elections Division toll-free at 1-800-252-2216 or email Elections Division.