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Election Advisory No. 2023-06

To: County Chairs, County Election Officials, and County Judges
From: Christina Worrell Adkins, Director of Elections
Christina Adkins signature
Date: June 26, 2023
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

This Advisory is intended for counties that will be making appointments of election precinct, ballot board, and central counting station judges in the July or August 2023 terms. If the commissioners court appointed election precinct, ballot board, and central counting station judges in July or August of 2022, as appropriate, for a two-year term, there will be no reason to make such appointments in July or August of 2023.

Counties may be conducting joint elections for the November 7, 2023 uniform election date with other political subdivisions, such as cities, school districts, water districts, or hospital districts. The joint election agreement and/or contract for election services must address how the appointments of election precinct presiding and alternate judges, early voting ballot board presiding judge and alternate judge, and central counting station presiding judge and alternate judge will be made. If the county is appointing the election workers as part of the contract and/or joint election agreement, it is recommended that the governing body of the local political subdivision ratify whatever actions are taken by the county.

All statutory references in this advisory are to the Texas Election Code (“the Code”), unless otherwise indicated.

NOTE REGARDING CERTAIN STATUTES AND GOVERNMENTAL ACTIONS THAT RELATE TO THE FEDERAL CENSUS: Pursuant to HB 2025 (2021, R.S.), the population figures from the 2010 federal census will continue to apply with respect to a statute that applies to a political subdivision having a certain population according to the most recent federal census until September 1, 2023. The bill specifies that a statute does not apply to a political subdivision to which the statute did not apply under the 2010 federal census, regardless of whether the political subdivision has the population prescribed by the statute according to the 2020 federal census.

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

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

Please refer to Sections 32.051-32.0552, 87.003, and 127.002-127.006 of the Election Code for situations in which a person will be ineligible to serve as a precinct presiding judge or alternate judge, early voting ballot board judge or alternate judge, or the central counting station judge or alternate judge.

  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 2022 gubernatorial election must submit a list to the commissioners court naming persons in order of preference who are eligible for appointment as a presiding judge or alternate judge in each county election precinct, as presiding judge and alternate judge of the early voting ballot board, and as a central counting station presiding judge and alternate judge and who are affiliated or aligned with the county chair’s political party. (Secs. 32.002, 87.002(b), 127.005(e)). Lists submitted by mail must be postmarked by June 30, 2023 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 2022 gubernatorial election must submit a list to the commissioners court naming persons in order of preference who are eligible for appointment as a presiding judge or alternate judge in each county election precinct, as presiding judge and alternate judge of the early voting ballot board, and as a central counting station presiding judge and alternate judge and who are affiliated or aligned with the county chair’s political party. (Secs. 32.002, 87.002(b), 127.005(e)). Lists submitted by mail must be postmarked by July 31, 2023 in order for them to be considered timely-filed. 

In counties with a population of more than 500,000, the terms of the judges start on August 1, 2023. In counties with a population of 500,000 or less, the terms of the judges start on September 1, 2023.  (Sec. 32.002(b)). As a general note, Section 32.002 of the Code allows the commissioners court to provide for appointment terms of either one-year or two-years for election judges (regardless of the typical length of appointment).

The appointment of the early voting ballot board presiding judge and alternate judge are for a fixed term, except for the November 5, 2024 general election. For the November 5, 2024 general election, those appointments are made by the County Election Board. (Sec. 87.002(c)).

A county chair may supplement the list of names for election judges until the 20th day before a general election (or the 15th day before 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. (Sec. 32.001(b)).

If neither the appointed presiding judge 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. (Sec. 32.007(a)).

For precinct judges and alternate judges, 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. (Sec. 32.002(c)).

Both the presiding judge 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 judge or alternate judge of the central counting station or the presiding judge or alternate 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 of any particular precinct). (Secs. 32.051, 87.003, 127.005).

NEW LAW: Senate Bill 1052 (88th Leg., R.S., 2023) amended Section 32.091 of the Code, effective September 1, 2023, to provide that a judge or clerk may not be paid for more than two hours of work before the polls open, except for payment made for work under Section 62.014(c) of the Code.

NEW LAW: House Bill 1632 (88th Leg., R.S., 2023) amended Chapters 32, 87, and 127 of the Code, effective September 1, 2023, to require the Secretary of State to develop materials for a standardized curriculum for online training in election law and procedure, including a published handbook, made available on the Secretary of State’s website, free of charge, for election judges and members of an early voting ballot board, signature verification committee, and central counting station.

Appointment of Judges for Countywide Polling Place Program

Presiding judges 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 judge 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 judge or alternate judge from the same election precinct may be selected to serve on election day.

Accordingly, when county chairs are submitting their list of qualified presiding and alternate judges to the commissioners court, they must list the names in order of preference; the list does not have to designate judges by precinct or polling location. Additionally, county chairs may submit a list containing more names than needed for the appointment to the position of presiding judge and alternate judge at all countywide polling place locations and the commissioners court may preapprove appointment of more judges than necessary. Any presiding judge or alternate judge vacancy that occurs after such preapproval can be filled by the appointment of a preapproved judge. (Sec. 32.002(c-1)).

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. (Sec. 32.002(c-1)).

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.

Position

Date List Due

List Submitted to…

Election Judge (Presiding and Alternate)

June 30 in a county over 500k
July 31 in a county of 500k or less

County Commissioners Court
(Sec. 32.002)

Early Voting Ballot Board Judge/Alternate Judge

June 30 in a county over 500k
July 31 in a county of 500k or less

County Commissioners Court
(Secs. 32.002, 87.002)

Presiding Judge/ Alternate Judge of Central Counting Station

June 30 in a county over 500k
July 31 in a county of 500k or less

County Commissioners Court
(Secs. 32.002, 127.005)

Failure to Submit List

If a county chair does not submit names by the June 30, 2023 or July 31, 2023 deadline, as applicable, for a particular precinct, and the county clerk or elections administrator has made a reasonable effort to consult with the chairs regarding the failure to submit names, then the county clerk or elections administrator shall prepare a list for that precinct to submit to the commissioners court. (Sec. 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 before a special election). (Sec. 32.007).

The county judge may make emergency appointments for the November 7, 2023 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 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. (Secs. 32.002, 127.002, 127.003). To serve as central counting station manager, the individual must meet the requirements set out in Section 127.002 of the Code and be a registered voter of the political subdivision served by the authority establishing the counting station (i.e., the county for a county-ordered election) except: (1) during the first year following the adoption of the voting system; OR (2) if the person is an employee of the political subdivision that adopts or owns the voting system. Employees of a political subdivision are not disqualified from appointment and, if appointed, may be paid additional compensation for their services.

The tabulation supervisor must meet the requirements set out in Section 127.003 of the Code, but note that the individual may serve if he or she is EITHER: (1) a registered 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). Under Section 127.003, the supervisor must 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).

Although the assistant tabulation supervisor is appointed by the tabulation supervisor, the assistant must be approved by the commissioners court. (Sec. 127.004). The assistant tabulation supervisor does not need to be a registered voter of the political subdivision (i.e., the county). (Sec. 127.004).

Note: Section 127.004 provides 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. The presiding judge, alternate judge, and central counting station manager may appoint clerks for the counting station in the number authorized by the commissioners court. (Sec. 127.006).

Qualifications of Early Voting Ballot Board

The presiding judge and alternate judge of the early voting ballot board are 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.

To be eligible for appointment to the early voting ballot board, a person must meet the requirements for eligibility for service as a presiding election judge, except that the appointee must be a qualified voter of the territory served by the early voting clerk and is not required to be a qualified voter of any other particular territory. (Sec. 87.003). In an election other than the general election for state and county officers or a primary election, the authority ordering the election may direct by resolution, order, or other official action that the precinct election officers serving one of the election precincts also serve as the early voting ballot board for the election. (Sec. 87.004). In that case, the presiding election judge of the precinct serves as the board’s presiding officer.

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 the commissioners court. (Secs. 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. (Sec. 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. (Secs. 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.

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

Appointment Process for Deputy Early Voting Clerks – November 7, 2023 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, as the early voting clerk, the county clerk or elections administrator has the ultimate responsibility for the overall conduct of early voting. (Sec. 83.031(c)).

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 Signature Verification Committee for the November 7, 2023 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. (Sec. 87.027). If the early voting clerk determines that a signature verification committee is to be appointed, the clerk shall issue a written order creating the committee. (Sec. 87.027(a)). A copy of the order must be posted continuously for at least 10 days before the first day the committee meets. (Sec. 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). (Sec. 87.027(d)). The county election board* appoints the members and designates the chair. (Sec. 87.027(b) & (c)). In order to serve on the committee, a person must be a qualified voter of the county. (Sec. 87.027(e)). 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.

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. (Sec. 87.027(c)). We recommend that the signature verification committee be appointed (if needed) by Wednesday, October 11, 2023 to allow time for all necessary notice requirements.

The committee may not begin operating before the 20th day before election day. (Sec. 87.027(f)).

If you have any questions or situations that are not covered by this advisory, please do not hesitate to contact the Elections Division toll-free at 1-800-252-2216.

CA:HM