Help! The Election Judge is Being Unfair!
As we tell our clients often, one of your campaign’s most important tools is the use of poll watchers. Poll watchers are your campaign’s eyes and ears on the ground throughout your district. These individuals silently watch and observe election activity on behalf of the candidate and are trained (or should be) to observe that all procedures are being followed, and that no irregular or suspicious activity is taking place that could pose a risk to your candidacy or the election in general. But not every judge wants a poll watcher watching them. Not every poll watcher knows what they are and are not allowed to do. Not every judge has been trained on the nuances of the election code. What happens if you get a judge who doesn’t know the rules? How do you make sure your poll watchers are prepared to assert and protect their rights without stepping overboard?
Here at Guest and Gray we have experience dealing with election procedural hiccups, irregularities, and malfeasance. We want you to be prepared. We offer poll watcher training, and complaint support during early voting and election day. It’s important to get an experienced elections attorney integrated with your team so you’re ready for what election day can throw at you. What are your choices when an election judge is not behaving the way they should? Well, although you are free to complain about the activity or behavior of an election judge, if you want to submit a complaint to the Party responsible for the judge, and to the Secretary of State, those complaints do not do what you probably think they do: help you now. In truth, submitting that kind of complaint is useful and admirable, but they will not be addressed until after the election is over. And, if the Secretary of State decides your complaint has merit, it will be sent to the Attorney General’s Office Elections Division for a possible investigation. And if you want that complaint to be taken seriously, it has to be formatted correctly and the statement included must be drafted with fact only statements, no value judgments, and no emotions. Without an experienced eye that can be difficult do. Even then, it will be months or even years before you get a response. That won’t help your campaign.
What other options do you have? It is possible that you could convince the Chair of the Party who appointed the judge to agree to voluntarily withdraw that person as a judge, but that almost never happens. It’s also possible that you could obtain removal of the judge by the county’s Commissioner’s Court, but that usually requires navigating complex political situations and again, rarely ever happens. Otherwise, election judges have the authority of District Court Judges. That means that if you want to overrule them immediately, you’d have to file a Writ of Mandamus with an Appellate Court to do so. The law requires that you first serve a demand letter on the judge with specific information included in it, and that the judge refuse to comply. Given how fast elections move and what the law says about how long you have to obtain judicial assistance with an election matter, you may only have hours to respond before it’s legally moot.
We understand that campaigns can be difficult and that you may feel as if you’ve put everything online. We have experienced election attorneys who have represented countless campaigns at every level from local to federal, in all aspects of the election process. We know how hard you’ve worked and how stressful it can be to put yourself out there and run for office. Let us help you prepared your team. Call Guest & Gray and make sure your team is prepared.