Today is the Primary Election Day in Texas. For many voters, today marks the end of the nomination process for candidates who will appear on the ballot in November.
But for candidates running as a minor party nominee or independent, this is the beginning of a long struggle to obtain ballot access.
After the polls close today, the Republicans and Democrats will hold precinct conventions in which delegates nominate local leadership and vote on resolutions that will change the party platform. At the precinct convention, delegates will be chosen to move up to the Senate District or County conventions and from there, delegates will be chosen to go to the state convention.
The minor parties will also hold precinct, Senate District/County, and state-level conventions. This year, minor parties include TVC coalition partners: Libertarian Party of Texas, Green Party of Texas, America’s Party of Texas, and the None of the Above Party. Minor parties are required by state law to hold their precinct conventions a week after the primary. Why is there a subset of parties that must wait for another set of parties to hold their nomination event first? That gives the impression that minor party voters are second-class citizens. Their votes aren’t as important as the primary voters.
Unfortunately, volunteers and judges who work at primary polling stations often don’t know about the minor parties, or the opportunity for voters to participate in their convention process. One year, the Green Party had reached out to voters who were eager to support their candidates, although they were confused about the process. They went to a primary voting location and asked to vote for the Green Party. The volunteers there told them that wasn’t an option and gave them Democratic ballots.
Because the polling location volunteers gave the wrong information, those voters were prohibited from supporting the candidates of their choice. If you vote in a primary, Texas law prohibits you from participating in the nominating process for any other party or independent candidate.
Minor parties and independent candidates rarely have the resources to inform voters of all their options. Meanwhile, the primary parties receive millions of taxpayer dollars for voter registration and primary election expenses. Our report, Political Welfare: How Texas Taxpayers Fund A Discriminatory System That Limits Voter Choice details how the Republican and Democratic parties have received public funds for their primary elections since 1972.
Here’s where it gets complicated. The Libertarian Party of Texas has ballot access, so they will nominate candidates at their state convention and those candidates will appear on the ballot.
Other minor parties in Texas, like America’s Party and None of the Above, must collect signatures on nomination petitions before their candidates are approved to appear on the ballot. In our report, Outdated, Over Regulated And Just Plain Complicated: How Ballot Access Laws Deny Texas Voters a Free Choice at the Polls, we reviewed how Texans who want to run for public office as minor party or independent candidates face some of the most difficult and restrictive barriers in the nation.
The nomination process should be fair for everyone. That’s why Texans for Voter Choice is asking every candidate running for the Texas Legislature to sign a pledge to support the Texas Voter Choice Act.