Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

It’s a little easier to run for a statewide judicial office now

From the Quorum Report:

"Objection Overruled", by Charles Bragg

“Objection Overruled”, by Charles Bragg

In a change that flew under the radar for most and was signed by Gov. Abbott, candidates for statewide judicial offices will no longer be required to gather petition signatures from around the state before they can file. One of the changes quietly made by the Texas Legislature this year will make it significantly easier for candidates to qualify for the ballot in statewide judicial races, Quorum Report has learned.

Starting this fall, those wishing to run for the Texas Supreme Court or the Court of Criminal Appeals will no longer be required to travel around the state gathering signatures from each of the state’s 14 appellate court districts before they can file.

Slipped into the language of Senate Bill 1073 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, is a line that repeals the section of the Texas Election Code that forced the gathering of the signatures. The part of the bill that removed the petition requirement was at the very end of the legislation. The text simply states that several election code sections would be repealed without describing what those sections actually do.”

Here’s SB 1073 and here’s the bill text, with the un-annotated repeal bits at the end. I’m too lazy to look up which repealed section is the one dealing with petition signatures, but feel free to do it yourself if you want to.

I found this on Sondra Haltom’s Facebook page, where she half-jokingly asks Glen Maxey if he was responsible for this. Maxey went on to explain as best he could what happened in the comments:

I drafted SB 1073 and asked [Sen. Judith] Zaffirini to carry it. In the House, it was amended with two other bills that I drafted. One of those was a rewrite of the laws about canvasses. Rep. [Craig] Goldman had sponsored that bill. It got caught up in the Thursday night chub a thon on gay marriage. I asked Rep. [Eddie] Rodriguez to amend SB 1073 with HB 3118 by Goldman.

Somewhere in all that last minute shuffle, this repealer language got added. It was a drafting mistake somewhere along the line…. but in this case a good mistake. These petitions are a pain and don’t serve the ostensible reason they were done: to keep unqualified people from running for judge. We have learned that even idiots can get petition signatures. It did more to thwart good candidates than protect them. Good riddance to an anti-democratic piece of legislative crap.

Your government at work, y’all. This sort of confusion has been known to happen at the end of a legislative session when everything is in a rush to beat various deadlines. As Maxey says, at least this time it was a beneficial mistake. If more candidates sign up to run for statewide benches in 2016, now you’ll know why.

Related Posts:

2 Comments

  1. Greg Wythe says:

    172.021(g) – It doesn’t show up in the original Senate bill. It only comes into play when the House Elections committee gets it. I wasn’t tracking the Elections Committee this session, so I’m not sure if it was discussed in committee.

    Sec. 172.021. APPLICATION REQUIRED. (a) To be entitled to a place on the general primary election ballot, a candidate must make an application for a place on the ballot.
    (b) An application must, in addition to complying with Section 141.031, be accompanied by the appropriate filing fee or a petition in lieu of the filing fee that satisfies the requirements prescribed by Section 141.062. A political party may not require payment of a fee as a condition to applying for a place on the ballot as a candidate for county chair or precinct chair.
    (c) An application filed by mail is considered to be filed at the time of its receipt by the appropriate authority.
    (d) The circulation of a petition to be filed under this subchapter in connection with a candidate’s application for a place on the ballot does not constitute candidacy or an announcement of candidacy for purposes of the automatic resignation provisions of Article XVI, Section 65, or Article XI, Section 11, of the Texas Constitution.
    (e) A candidate for an office specified by Section 172.024(a)(8), (10), or (12), or for justice of the peace in a county with a population of more than 1.5 million, who chooses to pay the filing fee must also accompany the application with a petition for a place on the primary ballot as a candidate for judicial office that complies with the requirements prescribed for the petition authorized by Subsection (b), except that the minimum number of signatures that must appear on the petition required by this subsection is 250. If the candidate chooses to file the petition authorized by Subsection (b) in lieu of the filing fee, the minimum number of signatures required for that petition is increased by 250. Signatures on a petition filed under this subsection or Subsection (b) by a candidate covered by this subsection may not be obtained on the grounds of a county courthouse or courthouse annex.
    (f) A political party’s state executive committee by rule may require that an application for the office of county chair be accompanied by a nominating petition containing the signatures of at least 10 percent of the incumbent precinct chairs serving on the county executive committee.
    (g) A candidate for the office of chief justice or justice, supreme court, or presiding judge or judge, court of criminal appeals, who chooses to pay the filing fee must also accompany the application with a petition that complies with the requirements prescribed for a petition authorized by Subsection (b), except that the minimum number of signatures that must appear on the petition required by this subsection is 50 from each court of appeals district.

  2. Mainstream says:

    HB 3880 would have removed the signature requirements for judicial candidates in Harris County, but did not pass.