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Voter Registration Requirements for Candidates Frequently Asked Questions

As a general rule, Section 141.001 of the Election Code provides that (for most offices) a candidate must be a registered voter of the territory elected from as of the filing deadline (unless outside law conflicts). Below is a list of questions and answers on this matter.

The candidate filed his application but the VR number part is blank. Accept?

The voter registration (VR), or VUID number, is not a required component of the face of the application itself. The VR blank is optional on the form. If everything else is correct on the application, you may accept (depending on the outcome of any review you conduct about the VR status, explained below). In other words, the VUID number is not part of the “form, content, or procedure” review under Section 141.032. Rather, it is a question of eligibility to run for office.

Should we look up every candidate’s registration status as part of our review?

First, your minimum statutory duty is reviewing the face of the application under Section 141.032. You can rely on the candidate’s oath and presume that all of the statements on the application are true and that the candidate is eligible for the office, if on the face of the application, he or she appears to be so.

However, once you have met that minimum duty, we recommend that you look up the voter registration status of each candidate to determine if the candidate is indeed registered to vote. In that sense, this is like the review of a petition in lieu of filing fee, where the reviewer can rely on the affidavit, or look up the registered voter status. If you look up one candidate’s status, you should look up everyone’s. Our candidate application forms reflect our recommendation to check registration status, as they have a check-box for indicating this review of the registration status by the filing authority. 

Note that under Section 145.003 (declaration of ineligibility), you must respond to any paperwork presented to you alleging lack of VR status by reviewing what is presented to determine if it is a conclusive public record of ineligibility.  

I have a candidate who applied to vote, but the effective date of registration is after the filing period. Is that enough?

No. The Election Code definition of registered voter is one whose registration is effective. Section 1.005, Election Code. Therefore, the registration must be effective by the filing deadline.

Does the VR address have to match exactly the address on the application form?

No. The law just says the candidate must be a registered voter of the territory from which the office is elected.

You cannot make the law stricter than it is; however, you will need to keep the territory in mind. Example: In the case of single-member district election, in addition to checking the entity as a whole, you will need to check to see if the voter registration address is in the single-member district the candidate is running for.  

Millions of Texans move and do not update their registration addresses right away. This is not fatal to the application (if the registration address is still in the territory). It does not affect the filing authority’s judgement of the residence address portions of the application.

If a candidate is not registered at the address listed of the application for a place on the ballot, you may alert the candidate to the issue, as the candidate might be on the suspense list (as long as you alert candidates uniformly). 

It looks as if the candidate is not a registered voter of the area elected from, but I think there has been some mistake. I remember they voted in our bond election last year. What next?

Short answer: check with the registrar’s office to see if there was a mistake.

Remember the basis for a rejection of a candidate’s application for a place on the ballot is a conclusive public record. Section 145.003. If there is reason to believe there was a mistake in the voter registration information, that renders the registration record less conclusive. 

As general advice, we recommend asking the voter registrar for voting history as well as voter registration status. Seeing the voting history might alert the registrar to the problem (for example, someone voting provisionally who was not processed correctly as an application for registration).  

There seems to have been a mistake in the VR process. The registrar’s office is researching this for us, but the deadline for declaring the candidate ineligible is approaching. What if we don’t resolve the issue in time for the deadline?

A declaration of ineligibility must be based on a “conclusive” public record. Election Code Section 145.003. If there is anything about the situation that renders the voter registration records inconclusive, you should err in favor of the candidate. Consult your local counsel before making your final decision if possible.

Example 1: Candidate says he or she updated the registration at the time their driver’s license was updated. The registrar is checking this out, as their office has not received anything from DPS.

Example 2: Candidate appears to have been deleted from the registration records after several years on the suspense list. However, it appears from the voting history that the candidate voted during the time that an update should have occurred. The county is researching their election records to check.

The candidate’s address is very near a boundary line. Based on the registration address, we think the candidate’s registration address is inside the required territory. However, the VR list indicates the candidate’s registration address is outside the territory.

This is a common occurrence when the boundary line is close. The county registrar officials do the best they can with the most recent boundary and mapping information you give them. You (the city, school district, hospital district) are the authorized expert about your own boundaries. If you (the filing authority) determine the address is inside your boundary, you should make the final call. Then (as needed) advise the VR to correct their records.

The candidate’s lack of voter registration in the territory was not discovered until it was too late to omit him from the ballot.  The candidate did get registered in time to vote on election day, and won.  An opponent has challenged the candidate under Section 145.003, and wants the presiding officer to declare the candidate ineligible at the canvassing meeting.  Should our presiding officer do this?

No. If the candidate becomes registered in time to be sworn in, we strongly recommend against using the “second window” of time to declare the candidate ineligible under Section 145.003, for the following reasons.    

Section 145.003 has two time periods when a candidate may be declared ineligible.  In the “second window,” the presiding officer of the final canvassing authority for the office sought by a candidate may declare the candidate ineligible after the polls close on election day and (with limited exceptions), before a certificate of election is issued.  This second window could clearly be used, for example, in the case of a final felony conviction.

However, Government Code Section 601.009 provides that a candidate cannot be sworn in unless he or she is a registered voter.  (That is the general rule; some offices have exclusive requirements.)  In other words, the Government Code provides for a “second deadline” for candidates to be registered in time to serve.  In this example, the candidate was registered in time for the second deadline.  The presiding officer would be declaring the candidate ineligible based on the earlier deadline in the Election Code, when the candidate has since become eligible for purposes of the Government Code.  (There are also various laws governing local entities like cities and school districts, which provide that the officer must be a voter at the time of the election; in this example, the candidate has met those deadlines as well.)  Section 145.003 is premised on the idea that the candidate is conclusively ineligible.  The courts tend to construe any ambiguity in a candidate’s favor.  Accordingly, once the candidate has met the “second deadline,” we recommend against declaring him or her ineligible under Section 145.003.   

NOTE:  In the most common scenario, the candidate realizes he or she needs to get registered by election day in order to vote, and succeeds in doing so.  If you have a different scenario, please contact us for advice. 

Does the voter registration requirement also apply to party chair candidates in the primary?

Candidates for county or precinct chair must be a qualified voter of the county, based on a different law. Section 161.005.  

As there are a variety of scenarios, we stand ready to advise you on a case by case basis.

Published to website: April 2024