THE 2012 TEXAS BALLOT CHALLENGE

July 16, 2012

© 2012 jbjd and kjcanon

Given current election laws; the only way to keep an ineligible candidate out of the White House is to keep the candidate’s name off the ballot, in a state that only allows to be printed on the ballot the names of candidates federally qualified for the job. But what happens when election officials in a ballot eligibility state – like Texas – are determined to ignore those laws? Then, the only way preserve the integrity of the ballot; is to take those officials to court.

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Please, contribute to THE 2012 TEXAS BALLOT CHALLENGE challenge.

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TEXAS BALLOT CHALLENGE CHALLENGE

July 3, 2012

© 2012 jbjd

(The following narrative explaining the Texas Ballot Challenge is incorporated into a slide show presented by Texas citizen/activist Kelly Canon of Arlington, to civic groups throughout the state.)

Texas, We Have a Problem

We here in Texas have a problem with our 2012 general election ballot; and I’m going to tell you how we can fix it.

Generally, people will only cast their votes for a President they know is Constitutionally eligible for the job. And, thanks to candidate ballot eligibility laws passed here in Texas; voters should be able to trust that the candidates whose names appear on our general election ballot have been federally qualified. But, at least in 2012; they have not. Because as you will see; these election laws are being ignored by the responsible state governmental entities. And their conduct virtually guarantees that the November 2012 ballot will contain the name of at least 1 candidate who has not been federally qualified for the job.

That is; unless concerned citizens like us intervene.

Before I go any further, I need to emphasize that the problem here is ballot eligibility, not whether a specific candidate is eligible for office. Because under the Constitution; political parties have the right to run any candidates they want.  No doubt about it. But under Texas election laws, those party candidates are not entitled to be placed on the general election ballot unless they are federally qualified for the job.

I also want to remind everyone that I have been collaborating on this Texas ballot challenge with noted blogger “jbjd,” who for the past 4 years has been advising frustrated voters throughout the country: if you think a candidate is ineligible for office then, the way to keep him out of the White House is to keep him off the ballot. But this only works in a state with ballot eligibility laws. She has focused on the ballot here in Texas because, in her words, we already have some of the best laws. They just have to be enforced.

So, how do candidates for President and Vice President get their names on our general election ballot, anyway? Well, it all depends on whether they are Independent or Write-in, that is, Unaffiliated; or representing either the Republican or Democratic Party.

Unaffiliated candidates submit their applications for the general election ballot directly to the Secretary. On the other hand; the names of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees from the national Republican and Democratic Parties are submitted to the Secretary via the Chairs of their state parties: the Republican Party of Texas (“RPT”) and the Texas Democratic Party (“TDP”).

But keep in mind; whether the candidate is Unaffiliated; or representing the Republican or Democratic party; only the names of federally qualified candidates are entitled to appear on the Texas general election ballot.

Let me read the ballot entitlement law that applies to the parties, which is section 192.031 of Texas statutes, “PARTY CANDIDATE’S ENTITLEMENT TO PLACE ON BALLOT”: “A political party is entitled to have the names of its nominees for president and vice-president of the United States placed on the ballot in a presidential general election if the nominees possess the qualifications for those offices prescribed by federal law.”

And, if the party nominees possess the qualifications for offices prescribed by federal law then, under section 192.033; …“­­­the Secretary shall certify the names of the candidates for president and vice-president who are entitled to have their names placed on the ballot.”

Taken together; these 2 laws – 192.031 and 192.033 – plainly say that party candidates are entitled to appear on the general election ballot only when they are federally qualified for the job; in which case, the Secretary has no choice but to certify their names to the ballot. Conversely; if candidates have not established their federal qualifications then, they have no right to appear on the ballot; and the Secretary shouldn’t put them there.

So, who determines whether, consistent with the statute, a candidate for President or Vice President can be said to be federally qualified? Well, the Secretary, that is, the Executive branch, promulgates the rules and regulations to carry out the statutory intention of the Legislative branch.

And the Secretary has determined that federal qualification can be met simply by filling out a ballot application which asks the candidate to answer the following questions: are you 35? Have you lived in the U.S. for 14 years? Are you a NBC? And to swear the answers given are true. How do we know this ballot application process satisfies the Secretary’s standard for federal qualification? Well, as I pointed out; Unaffiliated candidates for President and Vice President get on the general election ballot by applying directly to the Secretary. And they do so using application forms which she designed, and which are submitted directly to her. Those ballot applications contain these provisions related to federal qualification. For both the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Unaffiliated candidates.

But as we have said; the Republican and Democratic parties don’t fill out applications to get the names of their Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees on the general election ballot. No; the state party chair merely passes on to the Secretary the names of the nominees elected at the national party’s Presidential nominating convention. Then, how does the Secretary ascertain whether those national nominees are federally qualified, that is, entitled to appear on the ballot? Well, as those of you who contacted the Secretary with respect to the 2008 general election already know; when it comes to determining candidate entitlement to appear on the ballot; she told us ascertaining federal qualifications was the responsibility of the parties! In fact; having ceded control over ascertaining the federal qualifications of party candidates, to the political parties; she certified to the 2008 general election ballot the names of those national nominees just by assuming their federal qualification.

First, we got mad. Then, at the direction of the Secretary; to find out how the national parties had federally qualified their candidates; we asked them.

In fact, beginning in 2008; citizens from several other states, with and without ballot eligibility laws, did the same thing.

For example, according to the rules for the Democratic National Committee (Services Corporation), their Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees must be Constitutionally eligible for the job. So, voters asked the DNC to disclose the documentary basis for ascertaining that Presidential Nominee Barack Obama, was Constitutionally eligible. And here’s what happened. Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Chair of the party’s Presidential Nominating Convention, ignored them. Alice Germond, DNC Corp. Secretary, referred all such questions to DNC Corp. General Counsel Joseph Sandler. He sent back this reply: ‘We are not a public agency and so, we don’t have to tell you. Go ask your Secretary of State.’

Of course, Secretary Andrade had sent Texas voters to them!

Well, it’s true that the national Republican and Democratic parties cannot be compelled to disclose the basis for their candidates’ federal qualification inasmuch as they are not public agencies. But unless we could discover what was the documentary basis for their federal qualification; we could not conclude that by assuming entitlement; the Secretary had abused her discretion. Fortunately for us voters in Texas; there’s another way to find out whether Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees have been scrutinized for federal qualification.

See, under Texas election law; in order to get the names of their Presidential nominee wannabes printed on the Presidential preference primary ballot, the chairs of the Texas state parties – the RPT and the TDP – must submit those names to the Secretary. This means that party candidates who want to appear on the primary ballot must apply directly to the party. And, under Texas law; candidate applications to appear on the ballot become public records upon filing. This makes those applications submitted to the RPT and TDP subject to the Texas Public Information Act (“PIA”).

So, to sum up so far; in Texas, the Secretary has determined that only the political parties are responsible for determining federal qualification, meaning, the only way to find out what documents were the basis for their candidates’ qualification, is to ask them; the national parties are not legally required to disclose such documentation and have refused to voluntarily provide such documentation; but in Texas, state parties are required under the PIA to produce the requested documentation. So, in 2012, using the PIA, I asked both the RPT and the TDP to produce federal qualification documentation. [1]

Turns out, just like the Secretary’s applications for Unaffiliated candidates to the general election ballot; the RPT applications for the primary ballot asks candidates the same eligibility questions,  and contains the same oath that the answers given are true . (Only, this application is designed by the party, and filed with them.) In other words; the RPT candidates in the primary election have satisfied the  standard established by the Secretary for federal qualification to be entitled to appear on the general election ballot.

The TDP requires their candidates to submit a primary ballot application, too. However, unlike the applications used by the RPT for the primary ballot; and the general election ballot for Unaffiliated candidates used by the Secretary; the forms designed and used by the TDP contain neither any language of federal eligibility nor an oath or affirmation. Yet, these applications are the only documents used by the TDP to determine which of their candidates to submit to the Secretary to certify to the primary ballot. How do I know? Because they told me so. In other words, their candidates have not satisfied the Secretary’s standard for federal qualification.[2]

And here is a critical point: ordinarily, the Secretary does not see the applications the candidates submit to the parties to get on the primary ballot.  Rather, having ceded the responsibility for federal qualification, to the parties; the Secretary only asks the parties to electronically transmit to her office the names of those candidates they, that is, the parties, want to appear. That’s it. And she puts those names on the ballot.

Remember, we are talking about 2 separate ballot eligibility laws here, one which entitles the federally qualified candidate to appear on the general election ballot; and the other which requires the Secretary to certify to the general election ballot the name of the entitled candidate. And as I just pointed out, none of the candidates whose names the TDP submitted to the Secretary for the primary ballot in 2012, had been federally qualified by the party. Yes, the Secretary certified their names to appear on the primary ballot, anyway.  And, of course, that was fine. Because, again, the ballot entitlement statute only kicks in, on the general election ballot. But since the nominees for President and Vice President are chosen by the DNC and RNC; even though their names are routed through the TDP and RPT to the Secretary to put on the general election ballot; at that point the state parties have no authority to determine the nominees’ federal qualifications. This means that, those candidate applications submitted to the state party chairs for the primary ballot currently provide the only legal mechanism to determine the nominees’ federal qualifications. Thus, the only Presidential or Vice Presidential nominees entitled to appear on the Texas general election ballot in 2012; are those nominee wannabes who submitted applications to the RPT for the 2012 primary ballot.

But does the fact, the names of candidates who have not been federally qualified are not entitled to appear on the general election ballot mean, the Secretary cannot put them there, anyway? Hardly. As we have said; she can put them there by exercising her discretion. She did that in 2008.

And this is exactly what she intends to do in 2012. How do I know? Because in May, I met with Attorney Keith Ingram, Elections Director; and explained that the primary candidates submitted to the Secretary by the TDP had undergone no federal qualification, meaning they were not entitled to appear on the general election ballot. I even offered to show him the actual candidate applications I have received from both state parties. But, he wasn’t interested. On the contrary; he dismissed me with a wave of the hand (literally), proposing if I had a problem with the ballot configuration, I should ‘go tell it to the legislature.’

So, I did. That is, as the Texas legislature does not formally reconvene until January 2013; I met with members of the legislature’s interim election committee. They agreed; the Secretary is not carrying out the intention of their ballot eligibility legislation. The committee was tentatively scheduled to hold hearings this summer. Yet, too few members were sufficiently interested in remedying the ballot eligibility problem, to reach a quorum. As a result; the hearings have been postponed until after the parties’ Presidential nominating conventions, too late for committee members to help us fix the problem in time for the printing of the general election ballot.

In sum; under TX law, only the names of federally qualified candidates are entitled to appear on the general election ballot but as of now, the Executive branch intends to exercise its discretion to put candidates on the ballot who have not been federally qualified, anyway; and the Legislative branch won’t stop them.

Now, it is up to the Judicial branch to ensure that our ballot complies with state law.

This is where we come in. We, the citizens of TX, must ask the Judicial branch to order Secretary Andrade to refrain from exercising her discretion to place on the general election ballot the names of any Democrat or Republican candidates for President or Vice President who have failed to establish for the primary ballot, they were federally qualified for the job.

How do we do this? We file an injunction. Not to keep off the general election ballot both the Democrat and Republican parties; but only to keep off the ballot the names of those Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees from the parties who have not been federally qualified for the job. (Keep in mind; we don’t elect the President and Vice President in the general election, anyway, but only the Electors for the political parties.)

This means coming up with the money to draft the legal documents, and pay the filing and notice fees. In addition, because the Respondent is a state agency; the Motion must be filed in Austin, which means covering the cost of local accommodations during the court proceedings.

(I had considered that Steve Munisteri, Chair of the RPT, would be well situated to bring this case, because he not only has access to both the financial and legal resources required, but also the added advantage of being located in Austin. But that was before I realized; many of the Vice Presidential nominees currently being considered for the Republican Party were also not federally qualified to appear on the TX general election ballot, inasmuch as they hadn’t applied to the state chair for a place on the primary ballot. And even I am not brazen enough to ask Chairman Munisteri to file an injunction keeping off our general election ballot the name of the Republican Vice Presidential nominee!)

But regardless of who files this injunction; clearly, it needs to be filed, in order to protect the integrity of the ballot so that at least we voters here in TX know which candidates have (or have not) been federally qualified for the job. And we need to do this ASAP, before the Presidential nominating conventions. Because when they end; the national parties, through the state party chairs, will submit the names of the party nominees to the Secretary, who will certify the names of those candidates, even the ones who have not been federally qualified, to the ballot.

I am uniquely situated to file this injunction. For starters; I am the onIy person who can provide first-hand authentication of the evidence required to ‘make the case’: I have met with the Secretary and the Legislature; and, more importantly, obtained those critical candidate ballot applications directly from the parties. But I also have a good grasp of the issues involved and the confidence to present the Motion. (Hat tip to “jbjd” who, having conceived and assembled this case, is now preparing to draft the legal documents.)

But we need help. Lots of it.  And not just financial. We need a core group of Texans – jbjd operates from the east coast – who can carry out a myriad of ‘clerical’ tasks, including but not limited to copying; faxing; and filing.  If you want to sponsor this TX Ballot Challenge; please, see me after this meeting.

Any questions?


[1] The first request I sent to the TDP went unanswered. But jbjd advised me to send another request listing the applicable TX statutes. (She explained; they are more apt to pay attention if they know you know the law.) This time; they responded immediately.

[2] In fact; the TDP had not produced the documents I requested evidencing their candidates were federally qualified. (jbjd joked, it’s like asking the Secretary to produce a list of registered voters and she sends the budget, instead.) So, as provided for under the PIA, I filed a complaint of non-compliance with the Attorney General. Incredibly, AAG June Harden issued an opinion letter saying, the state political parties are not covered by the PIA, in the Texas statutes under Government Code, inasmuch as  they are not listed in the “Definitions” section, as a “government entity.” However, she failed to notice that 1) the section of the PIA immediately preceding the definitions section, clearly indicates records which are “public” are covered by the Act; and 2) ballot applications are explicitly defined as “public records” under another title of the Texas statutes: Election Code.

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Please, contribute to the TEXAS BALLOT CHALLENGE CHALLENGE.


On the Radio 06.30.12

June 29, 2012

UPDATE 06.30.12:  AT END

Join us on Saturday when TX citizen/activist Kelly Canon and I discuss alternative ways to keep off the 2012 general election ballot the name of the Presidential candidate who documentary evidence exposes was never federally qualified for the job.  Call in number is 714.242.5220. (If you cannot tune in tomorrow; you can listen to the archived show, by visiting the same link.)

Texas, We Have a Solution (Maybe)!

UPDATE 06.30.12:  We just finished the show and, having listened to the entire playback, I must say; it is absolutely fabulous. It offers a comprehensive synthesis of our work on ballot eligibility issues, from who determines whether a candidate is “federally qualified” to appear on the ballot; to how the executive branch carries out the express intention of the legislative branch for ballot entitlement; to how joining the National Popular Vote Initiative can subvert the strongest ballot eligibility laws.

(Or, as Kelly would say, we covered everything ‘from soup to nuts.’)


AG ABBOTT OPINES, TX PUBLIC RECORDS LAWS not WORTH the PAPER on which THEY’RE WRITTEN

June 25, 2012

UPDATED 06.26.12: See update at bottom of article.

© 2012 jbjd

Disagreeing with me on a point of legal interpretation doesn’t per se mean you don’t know what you are talking about. But when Assistant AG June Harden rejected Kelly Canon’s complaint that the Texas Democratic Party (“TDP”) had violated the Public Information Act (“PIA” or “the Act”) by refusing to produce certain election-related documents; explaining to Ms. Canon that, political parties are not covered by the Act, well, Ms. Harden had no idea what she was talking about.

For the past 12 years, Harden has been the Senior Managing Attorney for Public Outreach in the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas. Before joining the OAG, she served as Special Counsel to Senator Gregory Luna of Bexar County.  Id. Ms. Harden received her undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University and her J.D. from Texas Tech University School of Law. Id. She has been working at the AG since December 1995; her current annual salary is $80,000. http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/government-employee-salaries/state-of-texas/june-b-harden/1114680/

Judging by her bona fides; by now, she should know her job in and out. But she doesn’t. And I can prove it. First, some background information, which has been covered in previous articles.

The legal standard for getting the name of the Presidential candidate from the major political party on the general election ballot in Texas is spelled out in §192.031 PARTY CANDIDATE’S ENTITLEMENT TO PLACE ON BALLOT.  The first of four prongs to entitlement is, the person must be “federally qualified” for the job. Id. But no law specifically designates whose responsibility it is to determine either in the first instance, whether the candidate is federally qualified; or, at some point after the political party has electronically submitted the name of the candidate to the Secretary of State (“SoS”) and before she certifies the name to the ballot, whether anyone has previously determined s/he is federally qualified for the job. However, we know that the Secretary does not verify Constitutional eligibility; and so, Ms. Canon determined to find out on what documentary basis both the RPT (Republican Party of TX) and TDP had determined their 2012 Presidential candidates’ federal qualifications. The RPT returned their candidate applications which, like those applications designed by the Secretary for Independent and Write-in candidates, contained the Constitutionally qualified self-affirmation. The TDP returned the candidates’ unauthenticated applications. (See BALLOT ENTITLEMENT LAWS should DISQUALIFY PRESIDENT OBAMA in TEXAS.)

But that’s not what Canon asked for; so she filed a complaint with the AG charging the TDP had violated the PIA. Pending receipt of the actual opinion letter; Ms. Harden telephoned her response.

According to Harden, the TDP is not covered by the PIA. Why? Because, as she told Ms. Canon; under Title 5 of 552.003, Definitions, political parties are not identified as government entities. And, technically she’s right. That is, the TDP is not a government entity. But this fact alone does not end the analysis as to whether the documents requested are covered under the Act. For example, had she read section 552.002; she would have seen this.

Sec. 552.002.  DEFINITION OF PUBLIC INFORMATION; MEDIA CONTAINING PUBLIC INFORMATION.  (a)  In this chapter, “public information” means information that is collected, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business:

(1)  by a governmental body;  or

(2)  for a governmental body and the governmental body owns the information or has a right of access to it.

This means, even granting that sec. 552.003 of the TX Statutes, Government Code, Title 5, Open Government; Ethics, does not explicitly define the TDP as a government entity; one cannot rightly infer that the documents held by the TDP which were the subject of Ms. Canon’s request and subsequent complaint to the AG for non-compliance; are not public documents under other provisions of the Act. Or that, under another legal scheme, either the party or the documents are not covered by the Act. And they are. For example, look at the Elections Code.

Sec. 191.003: NOTICE OF CANDIDATES TO SECRETARY OF STATE. The state chair of each political party holding a presidential primary election shall certify the name of each presidential candidate who qualifies for a place on the presidential primary election ballot and deliver the certification to the secretary of state not later than the 57th day before presidential primary election day.

Thus, in TX, the Presidential candidates representing the major political parties do not apply directly to the Secretary of State (“SoS”) to get their names on the ballot. Instead, they must submit their ballot applications to the chair of the party; and s/he must submit the names of these candidates to the SoS. In other words, under Sec. 552.002, the information “collected, assembled, or maintained” with respect to these applications which are made pursuant to Sec. 191.003, requiring the delivery of the certification of qualified candidates to the SoS; is public information.

But just in case the logic of coverage under the PIA is still unclear; there’s this.

Sec. 141.035.  APPLICATION AS PUBLIC INFORMATION.  An application for a place on the ballot, including an accompanying petition, is public information immediately on its filing.

Indeed; like they had done to several requestors in 2010; the TDP ignored Canon’s first request for documents in 2012, in which she had failed to specify the applicable public records laws.

View this document on Scribd

No; she only received a response after she revised her letter and filed a second request for documents in which she specifically asserted the laws supporting the request.

And she knew if the TDP had any such documents related to the 2012 ballot; these documents would still be held by the TDP.

Sec. 141.036.  PRESERVATION OF APPLICATION.  The authority with whom an application for a place on the ballot is required to be filed shall preserve each application filed with the authority for two years after the date of the election for which the application is made.

However, the party failed to produce the specific documents she requested related to how it had ascertained the candidates’ federal qualification, which refusal had prompted her present complaint to the AG.

Presumably, before Ms. Harden issued her opinion; she researched past opinions issuing on this subject from the office of the AG. We looked; there are none. This means, this was a case of first impression. But this also means that, subsequent complaints as to the refusal of the parties to produce specific election-related information; will be rejected on the grounds of her opinion.

It would appear that AAG Harden repeated the mistakes others have made when interpreting the coverage of the PIA. That is, she was too narrowly focused on the definitions which ruled out political party chairs as ‘public officials,’ ignoring the fact  the section of the law immediately preceding those definitions makes unambiguously clear that documents held by these party officers may still be classified as public records.  Or the fact that other laws may define records as public, making them also subject to the PIA; and spell out that when party officers carry out traditional state functions associated with elections, covered by another section of the law; then, just like other public officials, they can still be ordered to hand over these public records, under an action in Mandamus initiated either by the aggrieved citizen or by the AG.

To say nothing of the fact that the opening provision of the PIA urges its provisions not to be narrowly construed so as to limit public access to records but, on the contrary; to be “liberally construed in favor of granting a request for information.” http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm

But as of now; the erroneous opinion stands.  This means the TDP has the legal obligation to submit the name of a Presidential candidate to the ballot, which name the SoS, who presumes the candidates named by the parties are federally qualified for the job and thus entitled to appear on the ballot; must certify these names to the ballot.  Sec. 192.033. But neither the SoS nor a private citizen has the right of access to the party documents which were the basis for the TDP’s eligibility determination. And the TDP knows this, having been copied on both the complaint and the opinion letter.

Recall that, in the past, the TDP refused to produce documentary evidence of its candidate applications until the requester cited applicable public records and election laws. Until we can reverse Ms. Harden’s patently erroneous legal interpretation of the scope of PIA jurisdiction; how likely do you suppose will be the TDP to voluntarily disclose such eligibility documentation?

And why would the citizens of TX allow to remain intact, a system of elections that presently permits a political party to maintain access to the ballot notwithstanding it cannot produce any documentary evidence to the public or the Secretary, that its candidates satisfy the threshold to entitlement, of being “federally qualified” for the job?

UPDATE 06.26.12: Well, well, well. AAG Harden’s written response arrived; and it’s even ‘better’ in black and white.

View this document on Scribd

See, in addition to memorializing her illogical opinion that, the TDP is not covered under the PIA inasmuch as they are not identified as a “government entity” in the Definitions section of that law; she now preserves for the record her mistaken assertion that the only records covered are those held by entities explicitly defined as ‘government.’ This, of course, leaves out all of those “records” defined in the law as “collected, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business … for a governmental body and the governmental body owns the information or has a right of access to it.” Id.

But there’s more. Ms. Canon pointed out to Ms. Harden over the phone; she had filed a PIA request with the SoS seeking all documents the TDP had submitted to that office with respect to the federal qualification of the Presidential candidates whose names they provided to appear on the ballot. The SoS complied with this request. That is, they returned a printout of the electronic spreadsheet that had been submitted by the party, containing the candidates’ names. Because that’s all they had gotten from the party.  But apparently, Harden somehow got the idea that, Canon was perhaps complaining, the SoS had received from the party, documents of federal qualification; but had refused to forward to her that documentation! Now, writing the obvious, Harden advised that the SoS is a government entity under the PIA, and suggested Canon could file a PIA complaint against them!

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Please support the work going on here at “jbjd.”


WILL TX AG ABBOTT PROSECUTE the TDP for VIOLATING the TX PUBLIC INFORMATION ACT?

June 17, 2012

© 2012 jbjd

The Texas legislature enacted a law that directs the chairs of the major political parties to submit to the Secretary of State (“SoS”) the names of the party candidates who will appear on the ballots in both the Presidential preference primary as well as the general election.  It also passed a law that entitles candidates for President from the major political parties to appear on the general election ballot, only if they are “federally qualified” for the job. TX Election Code  §192.031

Unlike the Presidential candidates from the major political parties; Independent and Write-In candidates apply to appear on the general election ballot directly to the SoS. For this reason; consistent with the ‘federally qualified’ standard; the SoS designed ballot applications for use by both Independent and Write-in Presidential candidates which contain self-affirmations that, under the pains and penalties of perjury, the candidates are Constitutionally eligible for the job. (We found these by searching the SoS’s official web site, http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/index.shtml)

View this document on Scribd

True, a self-affirmation is arguably not as foolproof a method of establishing the candidate is federally qualified as, say, requiring the candidate to authorize a birth certificate to be generated by the issuing authority and delivered directly to the state official. HOW to WRITE SMART CANDIDATE ELIGIBILITY LAWS in your STATE (and make applying to get on the ballot harder than applying to get into Harvard) But at least  one might expect that, like in the case of the witness testifying in open court under the pains and penalties of perjury; the self-declaring candidate is more likely than not to be telling the truth.

In TX, Presidential candidates from each of the two the major political parties must apply to the party chair to get onto the Presidential preference primary ballot, using the individualized application forms designed by each party. The chair determines which names to forward to the SoS, who merely prints the names thus supplied.

The forwarding of names of Presidential candidates from the major political parties, to the SoS; is done through an electronic submission of data, using Excel-like spread sheets the Secretary designed. This format limits the information the parties are able to transmit to little more than the candidate’s name, address, and date of birth. BALLOT ENTITLEMENT LAWS should DISQUALIFY PRESIDENT OBAMA in TEXAS. This means that, with respect to the names of the Presidential candidates which are submitted to the SoS by the major political parties; the Secretary never sees the candidates’ actual ballot applications. By thus limiting any opportunity for the political party to transmit documentation which might have resulted in a federal eligibility determination; the SoS is merely assuming the political party has determined their candidates are federally qualified for the job.  Indeed, whenever Texans asked the SoS on what documentary basis her office ascertained the Presidential candidates from the major political parties were federally qualified for office before she certified these names to the ballot; they were always referred back to the political party.

In other words, the SoS makes Independent and Write-In Presidential candidates ‘prove’ they are federally qualified for office before allowing their names to be printed on the general election ballot, consistent with the law. But when it comes to establishing that the Presidential candidates from the major political parties are federally qualified for office and thus have earned the statutory entitlement to appear on the ballot; the SoS takes the party chairs at their ‘implied’ word.

(Note that §192.031 refers to being “federally qualified” as necessary to achieve entitlement to appear on the general election ballot. There is no corresponding statute with respect to the primary ballot. However, as individual candidates must apply directly to state political party chairs to get on the primary ballot in TX; this represents the only opportunity for these chairs to establish whether the candidates are federally qualified for the job.)

TX has an extremely powerful public information law (“the Act”). Here is the opening section.

Sec. 552.001.  POLICY; CONSTRUCTION. (a) Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy.

(b)  This chapter shall be liberally construed in favor of granting a request for information.

Using the Act; TX citizen activist Kelly Canon was able to obtain from the SoS documents such as the electronic transmittal forms they had received from the political parties. However, recall that neither the Republican Party of Texas (“RPT”) nor the Texas Democratic Party (“TDP”) is required to submit to the SoS either the actual primary ballot applications submitted to them by the Presidential candidates; or any other ‘evidence’ of the candidates’ federal qualifications. As a result, Ms. Canon could not obtain these documents by submitting a request under the Act, to the SoS. However, the Act equally applies to enumerated documents generated by political parties.  http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/EL/pdf/EL.161.pdf Further, under §552.321 of the Act, production of documents requested can be compelled by the courts in an action in mandamus, initiated either by the AG or the aggrieved citizen. Id.  So, in order to obtain any documentation held by the political parties with respect to their candidates’ federal qualification; pursuant to the Act, Ms. Canon sent letters to both the RPT and the TDP specifically requesting “any and all documents which were the basis for your certification to the TXSoS that these candidates are federally qualified for the job.” (Identical letters were sent to both political .parties; here is the letter sent to the TDP.)

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Here’s what she got back from the RPT.

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As you can see; just like the SoS, the RPT also interpreted the TX ballot entitlement statute to mean, their Presidential candidate must be federally qualified in order to appear on the ballot. And, just like the SoS, they designed a primary ballot application which contains the same self-affirmation found in the SoS’s applications for Independent and Write-In candidates to appear on the general election ballot.

Recall that, ballot applications from both Independent and Write-In Presidential candidates, which contain the self-affirmation of federal eligibility; are submitted directly to the SoS. True, swearing to the chair of a major political party that you are a federally qualified Presidential candidate is technically not the same thing as swearing directly to the SoS. However, in TX, this represents a distinction without a seminal difference. Because when the political party chair is acting like a state official, for example, when s/he is determining which candidates’ names will be forwarded to the SoS to appear on the ballot; then, under TX perjury laws, the penalty for lying is the same! Id.

On the other hand; all Canon got from the TDP was a ballot application that contained neither any language of Constitutional eligibility nor any self-affirmation the candidate is federally qualified for the job!

Obviously, this is not at all what she asked for.

Thus, having refused (for whatever reason) to provide the requested documentation; the TDP violated the Act. And recall that, under §552.321 of the Act, production of documents requested can be compelled by the courts in an action in mandamus, initiated either by the AG or the aggrieved citizen. Id. Consequently, exercising the protocol spelled out in the Act, on June 13, Ms. Canon filed a complaint with AG Abbott against the TDP.

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AG Abbott published the Public Information 2012 Handbook. This letter to “Fellow Texans” appears on the first page:

Dear Fellow Texans:

James Madison once wrote, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” The best way for the people to arm themselves with that knowledge is for government to maintain openness in its dealings. Texas places a high priority on government openness, and the Public Information Act (PIA) is the primary law that requires it.

At the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), we are dedicated to helping citizens and public officials understand their rights and obligations under Texas open government laws. To that end, we publish the Public Information Handbook. This comprehensive resource explains the history of the PIA and includes such topics as how to make an open records request, what types of information are subject to such requests, and the consequences of a governmental body’s noncompliance. The 2012 edition also reflects PIA changes that were made by the 82nd Legislature.

Other open government resources are available on the OAG website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov. These resources include frequently asked questions; a library of open records decisions dating back more than 30 years; and a public information cost estimate model, which assists governmental bodies in determining the cost of a public information request. Texans can also call our open government telephone hotline (877-OPEN-TEX) with their questions.

Thanks to Madison and the rest of America’s founders, this nation was established upon the principle of self-governance. We are heirs to that legacy. I hope this Public Information Handbook assists you in ensuring that Texas government remains accountable to the people it serves.

Sincerely,
Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas

Given the commitment memorialized in this handbook, to the principle that “government remains accountable to the people it serves”; will TX AG Abbott now prosecute the TDP for violating the TX Public Information Act?

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TEXAS, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

April 30, 2012

© 2012 jbjd

UPDATED 05.01.12 (15:00 EDT): See below.

This morning, kjcanon, from Arlington; and Native Texan, from Calvert; met in Austin with Attorney Keith Ingram, Election Director, Texas Secretary of State, for what kjc and NT had scheduled would be an “in-depth” discussion of “the Texas election process.” With kjc’s help; I drafted the letter which served as the basis for that ‘discussion,’ in which we synthesized the key glitches we had worked to identify in the Texas electoral process, insofar as these problems related to the job qualifications of candidates whose names appear on the Texas ballot. kjc meticulously assembled a folder containing documentary evidence that backed up these allegations. kjc and NT also provided a narrative of their personal experiences trying to obtain voting related information. The meeting began at 10:30 AM; it was all over by 11:03.

Before reading my report of the results of that meeting, which were conveyed by telephone to me, shortly thereafter; please, read the letter. Trust me: it’s the only way to fully grasp the nature of Mr. Ingram’s response to the presentation.

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(If you have trouble viewing this document in Scribd; here are jpeg images of that same letter.)

In short; here was Mr. Ingram’s response. (My abbreviated editorial comments follow, in orange.)

You gave me assertions only; you have not given me any facts. (Obviously, we not only gave you facts but also offered to give you documentary evidence to back up those facts.)

All the information voters need is on VoteTexas.gov. “I would even call it impeccable.” (Yes; you may call the information you provide, impeccable; but not if the Secretary’s purpose in posting that information is to inform the voters. Because we are voters and, we just reported to you that we, along with numerous other Texas voters disagree that the Secretary provides adequate information so as to cast an informed vote. Are you blaming us voters for failing to intuit election related information that’s not on your web site, such as the ‘fact,’ candidates are using at least 3 (three) different ballot applications? Are you rejecting all suggestions that we voters get to decide what  information we require to cast informed votes in the election?)

The Secretary of State has no enforcement power; go to the Legislature. (We are not asking you to enforce anything; rather, we are asking you to tell us what you know about how candidates access the ballot; which are the same things we need to know to become informed voters.) (The TX legislature is not in session until January 2013.)

We’re not required to post completed party application forms. (That’s precisely why we didn’t cite a law requiring you to post these applications and, instead, cited to your promise to appropriately inform voters regarding elections.)

If you want to challenge the ballot, go through the courts. (And say what, that we are Unaffiliated or Write-in candidates who are being denied Equal Protection of the law inasmuch as only we are required by the SoS to swear to Constitutional eligibility for office in order to get on the Texas Presidential ballot, whereas the Republican and Democrat candidates only fill out the party’s application?) (Or are you just trying to send us on a wild goose chase, like your colleague tried before you, alleging a legal violation when, by merely withholding information from the voters; no one has actually broken any laws?)

I always say, any answer is an answer. That is, we now know, the Elections office will not act on our request, on its own. So, to get action on the proposals and problems pointed out in the letter; we are following the chain of command – Mr. Ingram > his boss, Secretary Andrade > her boss, Governor Perry – until the buck stops. (That is, whoever is left with the final decision to amend the Secretary’s operations. This will likely be Ms. Andrade.) That’s where we will concentrate our efforts to ensure whatever steps necessary to make the information referred to in this letter available to all Texas voters. Assuming this means getting Secretary Andrade to act; I will again provide a ‘complaint,’ of sorts, for downloading and sending, which will be a re-format of the letter for wider use and distribution, and will include links to appropriate documentation. Fortunately, the Secretary’s web site suggests that voter concerns are transmitted electronically.

Of course, convincing the Secretary to shore up her operation will not resolve the problem of candidate ballot eligibility, which will require legislative action, up to and including calling an emergency session before the Presidential election. And, if more people understood the mess that is the current ‘system’ of getting candidates on the ballot; well, presumably they would be sufficiently outraged to demand such an emergency session and, to require the passage of appropriate legislation.

That said; with a few simple alterations in the rules; at least, the Secretary could achieve a uniform standard of candidate ballot application. But, as can be inferred by the attitude of Director Ingram; she is unlikely even to do that without massive citizen action. And that’s where you come in. If you can get fellow Texas voters to understand all of this election related material then, feeling like you feel now, they will be inspired in sufficient numbers to mobilize to require changes in the administrative procedures currently in place in the Office of the Secretary, including both posting the requested information and, making the rules apply equally to both unaffiliated and party candidates.

Because once we achieve widespread distribution of the information referenced in these complaint letters; no doubt enough voters will become sufficiently mobilized to demand the necessary candidate ballot eligibility legislation.

UPDATE 05.01.12 (15:00 EDT): kjc hand-delivered a follow-up letter to Mr. Ingram’s boss, the Honorable Hope Andrade, Secretary of State of Texas.

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GOOD THING the REPUBLICAN PARTY of TEXAS READS the “jbjd” BLOG

April 19, 2012

© 2012 jbjd

Thanks to the Republican Party of Texas (“RPT”) I am able to amend some misleading information I posted in the previous article, BALLOT ENTITLEMENT LAWS should DISQUALIFY PRESIDENT OBAMA in TEXAS. How they came to aid in this clarification, is a hoot!

On Wednesday, April 18, at around 5:30 PM EDT, I received a call from kjcanon, in TX. “Are you sitting down?” Needless to say, I was by the time I answered her question.

Seems she had just received a call from Mr. Jesse Lewis, who is the Executive Director of the RPT,  concerning her open records request. (She had listed her telephone number on that request.) According to Mr Lewis, the documents she asked for had already been forwarded to the email address she provided, and he wanted to know why she would claim otherwise. Immediately, she thought back to that complaint she had just filed 2 days earlier with AG Abbott, charging that Steve Munisteri, Chair of the TDP, a public official under the Public Information Act inasmuch as he certifies candidate names to the ballot; had refused to produce public records she requested, which were the basis of his certification. Could that office have possibly followed up so quickly? She asked Mr. Lewis what was the source of his information: “…I saw the JBJD (sic) blog…”

Turns out, the RPT had sent the materials on April 5, to the wrong address and then, seeing my blog, on Tuesday, re-sent the materials, again to the wrong address. Finally, after contacting kjc on Wednesday, they got it right. They also asked her to pass on this information to me, which she did. (They didn’t ask her to withdraw the public information complaint she had filed with AG Abbott but she did that immediately, too.)

Here are those RPT emails.

Notice that 2 documents were attached: one, designated “20120405091443653.pdf,” which contained multiple candidate applications to the ballot; and the other designated “order on party conventions.pdf.” This second attachment leads to the other subject raised by Mr. Lewis, which we will discuss first.

As the result of a settlement recently reached among the parties in the TX redistricting lawsuit, the dates were changed for several key party functions during the primary season, including the voting by party members during the actual primary contest and, the holding of the party state convention, which changes now conflicted with existing state statutes. Consequently, the federal district court ruling on redistricting matters (on remand from the SCOTUS) issued several orders with respect to these new dates, in which all such inconsistencies were addressed. (Four such orders were issued between February 28 and March 1!) Here is a snippet from an Order entered on February 28:

d. Sections 163.00, 191.007, and 191.008, Texas Election Code, are suspended for the
purposes of modfications (sic) to party rules made pursuant to this order.

Mr. Lewis, again obviously referencing the article he had read here on the “jbjd” blog, now informed kjc that, according to item “d” of this redistricting court order; the RPT wasn’t required to submit its rules to the SoS by January 5, the date which appears in the statute, in order to preserve the entitlement of their candidates to appear on the ballot, anyway! He would send along that court order for her reference.

Now, having not yet seen any of the documents to which kjc referred, I could only ‘guess’ at why Mr. Lewis was wrong. I reasoned that, obviously, a rule determining federal qualifications was not impacted by a court order necessitating changes in filing deadlines, which, without the court’s exception, would conflict with existing state laws. Then, I saw the order. The modifying language in section “d” makes clear, the only party rules exempted from the deadlines contained in those specific statutes, are those rules which must be modified pursuant to the changes imposed by the order, on the timetable for events occurring during the course of the primary season.  (Perhaps that’s why the RPT entitled that attachment, “order on party conventions.”) There is also this, from SoS Andrade:

All dates, deadlines or requirements not specifically adjusted by the federal court order remain as required under state or federal law. Calendar of Important Dates for Candidates for the 2012 Primary and General Elections

Before I complete the discussion of the rules, I want to focus on the other attachment which came in the mail, the Presidential candidate applications.  According to Mr. Lewis, the applications “are the only documents used to certify these candidates place on our ballot.” So, we looked for something in the form which confirms that the candidate has established meeting “federal” “qualifications.” Here is the form submitted by Charles “Buddy” Roemer.

Notice that this contains an oath or affirmation from the applicant swearing s/he satisfies the Constitutional requirements for the job.

Now, look at the TDP form submitted by Barack Obama (which also appeared on the previous post.)

No such self-authentication. (Had you already noticed that the application form supplied by the TDP contains no such oath or affirmation?)

Either way, neither the RPT nor the TDP can be said to ‘certify’ a Presidential candidate has met federal qualifications when the only basis for that certification is the candidate’s self-authentication.

Anyway, that was just the beginning of our work. On the RPT form, in the upper left corner, I noticed this blurb: Prescribed by the Republican Party of Texas, Rule #38, 10/2011. So, the RPT ostensibly has a rule with respect to establishing a candidate for President is federally qualified? How did we miss that? We searched through the RPT rules (and the TDP rules) for anything containing the numbers “191” or “192,” the sections of TX statutes dealing with Presidential candidates, and found nothing. Now, we looked at the RPT’s rule 38. Here is the section of that rule relating to the candidates’ applications:

Rule No. 38 – National Convention Delegates and Alternates – Amended February 29, 2012
Section 1. Presidential Primary, Application of Rule

Section 2. Method of Qualifying as Presidential Candidate
a. Filing: Any person eligible to hold the office of President of the United States may qualify to participate as a Presidential candidate in the presidential primary by filing with the State Chairman, not later than 6:00 p.m. the second Monday in December of an odd-numbered year preceding the presidential primary, a signed and acknowledged application for his or her name to be placed on the Presidential Primary ballot, accompanied by a supporting petition signed by a minimum of 300 registered voters of the state from each of a minimum of fifteen (15) Congressional Districts, or the payment of a filing fee of $5,000.

So, yes, both the TDP and the RPT filed ‘rules’ with the SoS by deadlines created either in the statute or through the court order(s). But neither party preserved its entitlement to the ballot by filing a rule that spelled out how it would determine conclusively so as to certify to the Sos; both the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates are federally qualified for the job.

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Freedom costs.


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