The redistricting of congressional districts, legislative districts, and local Commissioner precincts was postponed by the delay in completion of the 2020 Census. Without the boundaries of the new districts and precincts, candidates and the county chair of each political party cannot fully determine whether a candidate resides in the district or precinct. To deal with this dilemma, the legislature adopted S.B. 13 in the Second Called Session to allow sufficient time for the adoption of new boundaries and voter registration rolls. S.B. 13 provided for delays in the beginning of the filing period. Under S.B. 13, “An application for a place on the general primary election ballot must be filed not earlier than November 29, 2021, and not later than 6 p.m. on December 13, 2021.” However, S.B. 13 did not receive a two-thirds vote in both houses for immediate effect, and this was not corrected in the Third Called Session. This means that S.B. 13 is not effective until December 2, 2021.
Under current law (Section 172.023, Election Code), the filing period for the primary election will begin on November 13, 2021, and end at 6 p.m. on December 13, 2021. The Texas Secretary of State has advised the county chairs for the Republican and Democratic parties that this is still the filing period under current law and that applications may be filed beginning on November 13. This will create uncertainty among candidates and election officials because most voter registrars will not be able to produce new voter registration rolls by November 13, and the county chairs will not be able to fully verify the residency of a candidate when the ballot application is filed.
Also, on December 2 the new statutory deadline of November 29 for the beginning of filing will take effect under S.B. 13. What happens then to the applications that are filed between November 13 (the current beginning of filing) and November 29 (the new beginning of filing)? There is no precedent for this unfortunate situation. It is unlikely that the county chair will reject an application that was accepted under prior law. However, any opposing candidate can file in district court to disqualify another candidate, and applications that are filed between November 13 and November 29 could be contested.
Candidates can avoid any possible contest of an application by waiting until November 29 to formally file the application. Candidates can announce, designate a campaign treasurer, accept donations, and expend funds before filing the application. Therefore, it would be prudent to wait until November 29 to formally file the application for the primary ballot with the county chair.
Finally, any county officer who is considering running for another office instead of re-election should avoid the automatic resignation trap by waiting to formally announce for the other office. An announcement of candidacy for another office with more than one year and 30 days remaining on the present term will result in an automatic resignation. A precinct or county officer who is running for a different office must wait until December 2 to file an application to avoid the resign-to-run provision of Article XVI, Section 65, Texas Constitution.
For additional information, please call me at 1-800-733-0699.