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Election Advisory No. 2023-07

To: County Election Officials
From: Christina Worrell Adkins, Director of Elections
Christina Adkins signature
Date: July 14, 2023
RE: Volunteer Deputy Registrars

Volunteer Deputy Registrars (“VDRs”) are entrusted with the responsibility of distributing voter registration application forms throughout the county and receiving registration applications from voters on behalf of the county. VDRs are appointed by county voter registrars (“VRs”) and charged with helping increase voter registration in the state. Pursuant to Section 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.

As a reminder, per Section 13.031 of the Texas Election Code, VDRs serve for terms expiring December 31 of even-numbered years. That means that as of January 1, 2023, all VDRs appointed in 2021 and 2022 must complete training and examination, if required, prior to being appointed as a VDR for the 2023-2024 biennium. This advisory outlines the Secretary of State’s current resources and provides answers to frequently asked questions regarding VDRs.

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

The Volunteer Deputy Registrar Guide and Volunteer Deputy Registrar 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 the Secretary of State’s DocShare site or by emailing the Secretary of State’s Elections Division. All statutory references in this advisory are to the Texas Election Code (“the Code”), unless otherwise stated.

In-Person Training

The voter registrar of each county must establish a schedule of times and places where in-person training for volunteer deputy registrars will be offered. We encourage voter registrars to schedule regular training sessions. Voter registrars must offer a minimum of one training class per month.

The county may conduct the in-person training via live online video meetings. However, if the county uses an online video meeting to conduct the training, the county should develop practices to confirm the attendee’s presence during the training (such as by requiring participants to turn on their cameras during the entirety of the training). Individuals who complete in-person training are not required to take and pass any examination prior to receiving their appointment.

Optional Online Training Method

Section 13.048 of the Election Code 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. After completing the training, they must appear in person in the voter registrar’s office to take an examination. Upon satisfactory completion of the examination, and submission of the Request for Appointment, the voter registrar must appoint the person as a VDR and issue a Certificate of Appointment. At that time, the county can provide the newly appointed VDR any county-specific procedures for processing voter registration applications. The voter registrar must advise the new VDR 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 must answer at least 90% (18 of 20) of the examination questions to successfully complete the application. The Election Code does not limit 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 can—but does not have to—adopt the online training and examination procedure by order of the Commissioners Court. While the county may adopt the SOS online VDR training followed by an in-person examination, a county cannot create its own online VDR training program and examination without SOS approval.

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 if they choose. If you do not schedule more than one training per month or if the scheduled training is only offered during business hours, we strongly recommend that you adopt the optional online training method to allow more individuals the opportunity to be appointed as a VDR in your county.

Minimum Training Standards

The Secretary of State’s training standards include the following provisions:

Appointment of VDRs Trained in Other Counties

If a VDR received a certificate of appointment by completing the online training and examination or by completing a county’s in-person training, the VDR is not required to take any additional training to be appointed as a volunteer deputy registrar in another county. The VDR must present a certificate of appointment to the new county to demonstrate that they have completed the training and/or examination. Once the VDR has presented their certificate of appointment, the county shall appoint them as a volunteer deputy registrar and may advise them about any county-specific procedures for processing voter registration applications.

This is the mandatory procedure for all counties, regardless of whether they have adopted the online examination process or they provide in-person training using the required materials developed by the Secretary of State. Pursuant to Section 13.048(a) of the Texas Election Code, any counties that wish to adopt an alternative training program for volunteer deputy registrars must submit the training program to the Secretary of State for approval before adopting that program. However, a county that has adopted an approved alternative training program may not require a person with an active certificate of appointment from another county to take the county’s alternative training program before appointing that person as a VDR.

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. A sufficient number of voter registration applications containing the county return address;
  3. A certificate of appointment; and
  4. A receipt book (unless the county is using the Voter Registration Application for Use by VDR with the tear away receipt).
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 voter registration 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 in which they want to become a VDR?

    No. A VDR does not need to be a registered voter in Texas or the county where they want to become a VDR. The potential VDR only needs to be a resident of Texas.

  2. What are the qualifications to become a VDR?

    A VDR must:
  1. Does the county have to offer in-person VDR training?

    No. The county does not have to offer in-person training, if the county adopted an optional online training method prescribed by the SOS.

  2. If the county offers in-person training, can a potential VDR still do the online training prescribed by the SOS, if the county has also adopted the optional online training in their county?

    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.

  3. Can a potential VDR request to take the SOS examination in our county if we have not adopted the examination?

    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.

  4. Can we continue to provide county-specific information to VDRs?

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

  5. When a potential VDR comes in person to take the examination, does the VR have to give them the examination at that time?

    Yes. If a potential VDR comes in person to take the examination, the voter registrar must give them the examination that day during the voter registrar’s regular business hours.

  6. How many times can a potential VDR take an examination if they fail?

    The Texas Election Code does not impose a limit on the number of times that a potential VDR can take an examination. Therefore, a person must be allowed to take the exam more than once.

  7. As a VR, can I refuse to appoint a VDR?

    No. Under Section 13.032 of the Texas Election Code, a VR may not refuse to appoint a person who meets the qualifications to become a VDR. (Sec. 13.032).

  8. As a VR, can I terminate a VDR’s appointment?

    Yes. Section 13.036 of the Code identifies the only grounds on which a VDR’s appointment may be terminated.

  9. What are the general powers of a VDR?

    A volunteer deputy registrar may distribute voter registration application forms throughout the county and receive registration applications submitted to the VDR in person. (Sec. 13.038). A VDR cannot accept any materials other than voter registration applications—for example, a VDR cannot accept an application for ballot by mail (ABBM) or a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and deliver it to the early voting clerk.

  10. How many applications must a VR provide to a VDR?

    A VR should provide an ample number of blank applications to a VDR. The VR can request reimbursement for the costs of providing blank applications with Chapter 19 funds, if they are available to the county.

  11. What does a VDR do with the receipt books?

    For each completed voter registration application, a VDR must 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. (Sec. 13.040). A VDR may wish to keep copies of the receipts 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 5:00 p.m. of the 5th day after the date that the VDR receives them. (Sec. 13.042(b)).

    The VDR should return the receipt books to the VR if their appointment is terminated and/or at the end of their appointment.

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. (Sec. 13.042)(c)).

FAILURE TO DELIVER AN APPLICATION IN A TIMELY MANNER IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE.

  1. How long must the county VR retain the receipts delivered by the VDR?

    The county VR must retain the receipt on file with the voter’s application. Each application shall be retained on file during the time the registration is effective and for two years after the date of rejection or cancellation. (Secs. 13.101, 13.102).

  2. I am a candidate and/or working for a campaign. May I serve as a volunteer deputy registrar?

    Yes. There is no prohibition against a candidate or 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 a rally or a public event, a volunteer deputy registrar must offer registration to anyone who requests it. For example, a VDR cannot refuse to accept an application if the voter does not want to vote for the candidate for whom a VDR works.

  3. Can a VDR accept applications from a voter in another county?

    No. Volunteer deputy registrar status is conferred on a county-by-county basis. Thus, a VDR can only accept applications for those counties in which they are appointed. A VDR can provide applications to residents of other counties 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. (Sec. 13.044).

  4. May a VDR assist and witness multiple applicants?

    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.

  5. Must a VDR submit applications in person to the VR’s office?

    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. (Sec. 13.042).

  6. What if a voter submits an application that is not complete?

    The VDR should review the application for completeness in the presence of the voter before the VDR accepts and delivers the application to the VR. If the application does not contain all the required information, including the required signature, the VDR must return the application to the applicant for completion and resubmission. (Sec. 13.039).

  7. What if I get an application from a VDR for another county?

    Assuming the VDR is a VDR in that county, you will forward the application to the correct county.

  8. When is the effective date of registration for an applicant submitting their application to a VDR?

    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. (Secs. 13.041, 13.143).

  9. As a VR, must I keep an active appointment file of a VDR?

    Yes. The registrar shall maintain a file containing the duplicate certificates of appointment of the volunteer deputy registrars whose appointments are effective. The registrar shall maintain the file in alphabetical order by deputy name on a countywide basis. Each certificate shall be retained on file during the time the appointment is effective. (Sec. 13.034).

  10. As a VR, must I keep an inactive appointment file of a VDR?

    Yes. The registrar shall maintain a file containing the duplicate certificates of appointment of the volunteer deputy registrars whose appointments have been terminated. The registrar shall enter the date of and reason for termination on each duplicate certificate. The registrar shall maintain the file in alphabetical order by deputy name on a countywide basis. Each certificate shall be retained on file for two years after the date of termination. (Sec. 13.035).

  11. Are VDRs the same as High School Deputy Registrars?

    No. High School Deputy Registrars are different from Volunteer Deputy Registrars. By virtue of being a high school principal in Texas, principals are automatically able to collect completed voter registration forms from eligible students and school employees. (Sec. 13.046). High School Deputy Registrars are not required to complete training. For more information on High School Deputy Registrars, please visit our Voter Registration Resources page.

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

    CA:LP