Filing for the 2020 election begins tomorrow (Saturday). In Texas, candidates for county, state and federal elective office are nominated for the general election by their respective political parties unless they are running as an independent or write-in candidate. The Democratic and Republican Parties nominate their general election candidates with primary elections. The Libertarian and Green Parties – and any new parties that may organize in time for this election – nominate their general election candidates with conventions.
Candidates seeking the Democratic or Republican nomination must file their applications by December 9. They will file with their county party organization if they are seeking county offices or if the state or federal district they are seeking lies entirely within one county. If their desired district lies in more than one county, then they file with the state party organization. These deadlines also apply to Libertarian and Green Party candidates, and they also apply for candidates seeking the nomination of a party that does not have ballot access. A new law (House Bill 2504) requires minor party candidates to pay a filing fee or collect a minimum number of signatures. This law is currently being challenged in court. That same law adjusted the thresholds for obtaining ballot access, which had the effect of restoring automatic ballot access to the Green Party.
Our Crib Sheets will show identify those candidates whose filing has been reported by an official party website or report or by the Secretary of State’s candidate listing report. We may also mark as “filed” candidates who have posted the fact to their social media accounts or whose filings are noted in certain local political blogs with an accurate track record. A check mark in the “Filed” column indicates we believe the candidate has filed for a spot on the ballot.
Despite being known as the “filing deadline,” December 9 is not the last day for some candidates to file for a spot on the ballot.
There are some exceptions that can extend the filing period for partisan nomination by one week, but they are all connected to a potential vacancy in that office. For example, if Fort Bend Co. Sheriff Troy Nehls (R) announces he is running for CD22 on or after November 30, then the filing period for Fort Bend Co. Sheriff would be extended by one week (Announcing prior to that date would trigger his automatic resignation, so any announcement will come no earlier than the 30th.) Additionally, a party may by rule extend a filing deadline for an office for which a sole candidate withdraws, dies or is ruled ineligible.
Candidates seeking the nomination by a new political party or an existing party lacking ballot access must also file by December 9. Their party must register with the Secretary of State by January 4. The new party must gather at least 83,435 signatures of registered voters who did not participate in another party’s nominating process between March 11 and May 25. Two years ago, none of the five political parties seeking ballot access were successful. Signatures collected by any of the new party’s individual candidates would not count toward the party’s requirement because the periods of time for collecting those signatures do not overlap.
Independent candidates must file declarations of intent to run by December 9. Independents must ultimately collect the minimum number of signatures, a process that cannot begin until at least March 4 but may not begin until May 27 for offices that require a primary runoff election. Independent candidates’ signatures and petitions to appear on the ballot must be filed by June 26.
Individuals seeking to become certified write-in candidates do not get to file their declarations of candidacy until July 18, and they have a filing deadline of August 17. Certification is required for the votes cast for them to be officially counted. In other words, votes cast for “Mickey Mouse” are only counted if Mickey Mouse was a certified write-in candidate.
Independent and write-in candidates file with the county judge for all county offices except for district attorney or the Secretary of State for all state and federal offices, judicial offices and district attorney. Independents must file with the minimum number of signatures. Write-in candidates may either pay a set filing fee or collect signatures.
Ultimately, the Secretary of State and each county judge must certify the names of all partisan nominees, independents and write-in candidates on the general election ballot. The deadline for this to occur is August 30. Even though the filing period ends on December 9, we will not know the final list of 2020 general election candidates until 68 days before that election.
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