|To:||County Clerks/Elections Administrators in Counties Using Only DRE Voting Equipment|
|From:||Keith Ingram, Director of Elections|
|Date:||March 2, 2012|
|RE:||Definition of successful countywide precinct elections under House Bill 2194 (as amended)|
This memorandum supersedes the February 13, 2012 memorandum on the same subject.
House Bill 2194 created a new process for counties that have used the countywide election precinct method of voting. Prior law required counties to apply to use countywide election precincts election-by-election. The change adds Section 43.007(k)(2) to the Texas Election Code (the “Code”) to allow counties to move forward in using countywide election precincts without approval from the Secretary of State.
To use this special privilege, the commissioners court must first approve the county’s continued use of countywide election precincts and the Secretary of State must determine the county’s past participation in the program to have been “successful.”
The Legislature did not define what constitutes successful participation. After reviewing reports of past elections under the program and to ensure citizens and interested groups have an opportunity to express their views on whether the county should continue to use countywide precinct polling places for its elections, the Secretary of State has created the following requirements for counties to apply for successful status:
- The county must have held at least one election under the program and filed its post-election report with the Secretary of State.
- The Secretary of State must have received no major complaints supported by evidence in the county’s election(s) using countywide election precincts.
- The county commissioners court must hold a public hearing on the use of countywide precincts and provide specific written notice of the hearing to all county party chairs, local political subdivisions, and affected public interest groups.
- The county judge shall submit a letter to the Secretary of State applying for a determination of successful status, along with a recording or transcript of the public hearing.
Once the letter and transcript of public hearing have been received, the Secretary of State will evaluate whether the county shall be designated as having successfully participated in the program by reviewing the following: (1) reports of the county’s election(s) held using countywide election precincts in order to confirm the county met the requirements set out in Section 43.007(d) of the Code in those elections; (2) turnout data for the elections held using countywide election precincts compared to turnout from past elections of a similar type held using precinct-based polling places to determine whether the use of countywide election precincts caused a substantial reduction in voter turnout; and (3) recording or transcript of the public hearing to review opinions of voters, local political subdivisions, and other county stakeholders on the use of countywide election precincts.
Once a county is designated as having had a successful election under Section 43.007(k)(2) of the Code, the commissioners court may determine on its own authority whether the county will use countywide election precincts in an election authorized under Section 43.007(a) of the Code. The Secretary of State hereby reserves the right to withdraw a county’s “successful” status via written notification to the county elections officer and county judge, if any of the conditions (or lack thereof) addressed above should warrant such a withdrawal.
If you have questions regarding this process, please contact our office toll-free at 1-800-252-2216.