SCOTX puts Greens back on the ballot

That sound you hear is my head spinning.

The Texas Supreme Court has ordered three Green Party candidates to be restored to the November ballot after Democrats successfully sued to remove them.

Last month, a state appeals court sided with the Democrats, who were seeking to kick the candidates off the ballot because they had not paid filing fees. The three candidates are David Collins for U.S. Senate, Katija “Kat” Gruene for Railroad Commission and Tom Wakely for the 21st Congressional District.

The Texas Green Party appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which ruled Tuesday that the secretary of state “shall immediately take all necessary actions to ensure these candidates appear on the” November ballot. The Supreme Court did not give its rationale, but said a full opinion was forthcoming.

It is the latest development in a spate of legal battles over third parties on the November ballot. At issue is a new requirement that third parties pay filing fees like Democrats and Republicans do. The law, passed last year by the Legislature, is the subject of multiple legal challenges, and many third-party candidates had not paid filing fees amid the pending litigation.

A state appeals court upheld the 2019 law last week.

While the Democrats were initially successful in booting the three Green Party candidates off the ballot, Republicans more recently failed in their bid to remove 44 Libertarians from the ticket for a similar reason. In rejecting the GOP effort earlier this month, the Supreme Court said the party waited too long to raise the issue.


It is crunch time for finalizing ballots across the state, with a Saturday deadline for counties to mail overseas and military ballots. The state’s most populous county, Harris County, wrote to the Supreme Court on Monday saying that “it is too late to make changes,” even if the court acted that day.

In an email sent to county election officials shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Texas secretary of state indicated that counties that had already sent out mail ballots would need to send a corrected version “as soon as possible.”

“The Supreme Court’s ruling and ballot change will not be an acceptable excuse for missing the [Sept. 19] deadline,” wrote Keith Ingram, the state’s director of elections. “That deadline must still be met.”

State law requires corrected ballots to include both a written notice explaining the change and instructions to destroy “defective” ballots that have not yet been returned to a county. A defective ballot returned to the county will be counted if a corrected ballot is not returned in time.

See here and here for the background on the Dems’ effort to boot those three Green candidates, and see here and here for more on the Republicans’ failed effort to boot the Libertarians. A fourth Green candidate had withdrawn from the ballot before all this started because he had voted in the Democratic primary this year.

My first reaction on seeing this news was that it was awfully late in the game for further changes to the ballot. Looking at the case filings, the writ was filed by the Greens on September 11, the Dems had till the 14th to respond, and the ruling came down on the 15th. I’ll have an opinion on the ruling when it is available, but until then all I can do is shrug. It is what it is. You can read this Twitter thread, which began with the original rulings in the two cases, for some more context. The Chron has more.

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23 Responses to SCOTX puts Greens back on the ballot

  1. Brad says:

    Time for instant run off voting so the Democrats and Republicans can stop their undemocratic games.

  2. blank says:

    @brad–You beat me to it. RCV would not only end the spoilers problem, but it would have also helped the 125K or so of us who voted early in a presidential primary only to have our selected candidate drop out before election day.

  3. Forgive me, but how does RCV matter here? These November elections only require a plurality to win. No one’s second or third choice would ever factor into the result.

    For a primary, sure, I get the appeal of RCV. But there are no Green or Libertarian candidates on a primary ballot.

  4. brad says:


    Would it matter to you if MJ Hegar lost to Cornyn 47% – 46% with 2% Libertarian and 5% Green?

    Please see 2000 Presidential Florida results and extrapolate the likely filtering of 2nd and 3rd round voting.

  5. Brad,

    1. As I have always understood it, the point of RCV, which used to be called Instant Runoff Voting, was to eliminate the need for runoffs. We don’t have runoffs in November of even year elections.

    2. In practice, if we did have RCV for an election like this, and if we did have (say) John Cornyn and MJ Hegar both failing to reach 50%, we would then decide the election based on the second choice of the people who voted for the Libertarian or Green candidates. My second choice wouldn’t matter at all, unless for some bizarre reason I picked Cornyn as my second choice. Why is this supposed to be appealing to me?

    (For the record, in any recent R-D-(L and/or G and/or I and/or write-in) election I can think of, I doubt I would have ever picked a second choice. That’s mostly because in every single one of these elections, the R and the D would be first and second, and so there’s no scenario in which my second choice would matter. It’s also because none of the potential second choices on my ballot have ever been candidates I have taken seriously enough to consider voting for.)

    3. In my personal experience, Green Party people have and express way more antipathy towards Democrats than towards Republicans. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as we are essentially competing for the same voters, for the most part. But as such, I have no reason to believe that the second choice for most Greens would be the Democrat. In the scenario you propose, I don’t know how RCV would affect the outcome. But if I’m supposed to believe that enough Greens would pick Hegar as their alternate choice, then why wouldn’t they have done so if there had been no Green candidate on the ballot? If their choice were simply Cornyn-versus-Hegar, as it would be for their second spot (or third spot, if they go Libertarian there), then why wouldn’t they have voted Hegar over Cornyn anyway? How does adding this layer of complexity help achieve the outcome I prefer?

    4. If we are talking about a primary, or an odd-year race, with a large number of similar candidates and the need to reach a majority, I see a lot of potential value in RCV. Same for special elections, which also require majorities. In this context, I do not.

  6. Wolfgang says:

    Re: Ranked-choice voting incorporates the runoff into the original choice on the ballot, on which the voter ranks the candidates in the same race in the order of the voter’s preferences (best liked, next-best, and so on). If the voter’s first choice-candidate does not win, the second preference counts, and so on. To determine the winner, all first-preference votes are counted for each candidate, the one with the lowest count eliminated, and the second-preference votes on those ballots (the ones with first preferences for the eliminated candidate) then re-allocated to the respective tallies of the candidates that remain in the running. Then repeat until you have a winner, ie one candidate exceeds the 50% mark with the sum of first-preference votes and re-allocated lower-preference votes.

    See here:

    Such a system would allow supporters of Green Party and Libertarians to vote for their most-preferred candidates without having to fear that will be wasting their vote, because they can also indicate the “lesser-evil” candidate among the other candidates.

    You obviously need a major reform of the election law/system to implement this voting system, not just change from a plurality decision rule (first-past-the-post) to a majority rule for determining winners.

    This type of system is also known as single-transferable-vote (STV) among election system scholars internationally and can be employed in multi-member districts, not just in race in which only one candidate wins. It’s used in Australia, Ireland, and Malta. With multi-member districts, the determination of the winners is based on a quota (number of votes needed to win one seat) that results from dividing all ballots cast (or all valid ballots cast) by the number of seats to be filled plus 1), with some variations in details.

  7. Mainstream says:

    Charles, in answer to your analysis at item 2: You would benefit if after counting all second choices of the minor parties, your candidate prevailed, after having been behind in the initial count.

    I think RCV would increase the number of minor parties and protest votes. The current system forces voters to think seriously about what is possible, not what is ideal from their political perspective. We have way too many folks on the political extremes who refuse to engage in the hard trading and negotiating to reach compromise, which the extremes view as a dirty word.

    The other problem with RCV is the level of voter information and research needed to cast an informed ballot. The run-off system allows a second round of informing about and contrasting the final candidates.



    After receiving the Court’s Order yesterday, the Secretary issued an amended certification that included the previously omitted three Green Party candidates: David B. Collins (United States Senate), Katija “Kat” Gruene (Texas Railroad Commission), and Tommy Wakely (United States Congressional District 21). Those candidates’ names now appear on the candidate listing page on the Secretary’s website.

    The Secretary also advised the county election administrators of this Court’s Order, the amended certification, and their obligation to include those candidates on their ballots.

    Based on the Texas Election Code and the Court’s Order, it is now incumbent upon the county election administrators, who are responsible for preparing ballots, to ensure that those candidates appear on their ballots. See Tex. Elec. §§ 52.002, .003. A county election official’s failure to include a candidate entitled to be on the ballot is a criminal offense. Id. § 52.004. Anyone committing that offense risks prosecution by the attorney general or an appropriate local prosecutor. See id. §§ 273.021, .022.

    The Secretary of State has fully complied with the Court’s Order by taking all actions that she is legally empowered to take to ensure that the three Green Party candidates appear on the 2020 general election ballot. She files this advisory to inform the Court of her compliance. The Secretary intends to continue offering advice to counties to assist them in effectuating this Court’s directive.

    Respectfully submitted.
    Ken Paxton
    Attorney General of Texas


  9. brad says:


    I am truly surprised you don’t fully understand or see the benefits of RCV/IRV.

    Or I am disappointed that you are slyly avoiding saying out loud that don’t wish to see any encroachment of the duopoly/hegemony of the Republican and Democratic parties where, frankly, it is tiring to hear the right/wrong, black/white, night/day, good/evil debating. Adding in additional non-majority party and independent candidates and their voices, ideas, issues, perspectives, policy positions, platforms can only serve to elevate the political debate.

    1) The point of RCV/IRV is to reflect the overall will of the voting population. Eliminating run-offs is an added money saving benefit.

    2) Its not about your major party vote. Its about non-major party voters wishing to vote for their ideas/policies/candidates, yet have the opportunity to elect the overall winner which closer reflects their beliefs/desires for the elected position at hand.

    3) Dems don’t own Green voters. And I don’t care if they vote for a candidate other than a Dem or if they even select a 2nd or 3rd option, but they do have the option, and at the end of all rounds of voting there will be a majority winner instead of a plurality winner. Surprised at your comment “How does adding this layer of complexity help achieve the outcome I prefer?” A bit of a ‘oh, its too hard’ dodge. You know the state of Maine is already successfully using RCV voting for US congressional candidates and they elected a Democrat after the RCV votes to 2 independent candidates pushed the plurality winning Republican off the podium. Do you prefer that outcome?

    4) I don’t care about party primaries for RCV/IRV. The Democrats and Republicans are private organizations. They should design/organize/administer and PAY for their own process to select their candidates however they want, plurality or majority.

  10. Brad,

    I’m sorry, but I see the main value of RCV in large field elections with several similar candidates – like Houston City Council races, for example – where listing one’s top three or whatever would make a lot more intuitive sense than just picking one and hoping they make it to the runoff. I see much less value to it in elections like this, for three reasons.

    1. The vast, vast majority of the elections on November of even year ballots will be settled by someone getting a majority of the vote. Like, maybe one or two percent of these elections would need to use the features of RCV to determine a winner under its rules. That puts a limit on its value, at least to me.

    2. I disagree that elections decided by RCV rules are necessarily better at determining the “true” intent of the electorate. Current rules say the person who gets the most first-place votes wins. RCV rules say the person with the best combination of first, second, and third place votes (it could go from there, but you get the point) wins. Sometimes these two would be the same, sometimes not. MLB awards its MVP and Cy Young trophies to the players who get the most points in a system that allows up to ten (for MVP) or three (Cy Young) ordered selections, which is basically an RCV system. Sometimes, the person who gets the most first place votes does not win the award. Those instances tend to inflame the argument about who the “real” winner is, not quiet it. I’m sure some people disagreed with the outcome of that Maine Congressional election.

    Is RCV a valid way to settle elections? Sure. It’s just not the only valid way, and whether it’s the most valid way or not is a matter of opinion. If public sentiment is such that RCV becomes the law in Texas, I’ll accept it. I may be won over by it at some point. I’m just not convinced right now that it’s so clearly better that I want to prioritize it over other election reforms I’d like to see get passed.

    3. I’m also not convinced that having RCV would have prevented these lawsuits by the Rs and Ds agains the Ls and Gs. The allegation was that the Ls and Gs failed to follow the law, and the penalty for that was that their candidates did not qualify for the ballot. That would still be true under RCV. Maybe there would be less incentive to have that fight, I don’t know. But the conditions that caused it would still be there.

  11. blank says:

    Forgive me, but how does RCV matter here?

    Right now, Democrats are in court trying to get Green Party candidates off of the ballot, while Republicans are similarly in court trying to get Libertarian candidates off of the ballot. We don’t exactly know why either of these two major parties is trying to remove a minor party from the ballot, but it is at least likely that the two major parties are concerned that their potential pool of voters might vote for these minor party candidates instead of their major party candidates. (I suppose the lawsuits could have something to do filing fees or whatever is in the lawsuits, but I will go out on a limb and speculate that there is “more to it than this”.)

    So, then the question is: Would this be happening if RCV were in place? If not, what would be happening instead?

    Again this is speculation, but my guess is that the answer is: No, the major parties would not be in court trying to remove minor parties from the ballot. Instead, as we have seen in other RCV run elections, they might even be courting these voters. In fact, in RCV run elections, we have even seen candidates ask other candidates to endorse each other as their second choices. This is similar to what we see in the Iowa Caucuses. While this is certainly less likely to happen between different parties than within the same party, I could at least envision it as a standard debate question: “Whom should a voter select as his/her second choice?”

    Based upon the existing situation in which major parties are suing to get minor parties off of the ballot, versus a potential situation in which candidates are courting second-choice voters, I would emphatically prefer the latter, which sounds far more democratic (small “d”) to me.

  12. C.L. says:

    I say…. put everyone on the ballot that has met the criteria to be on the ballot, with the person who receives the most as the winner. Shouldn’t be any more complicated than that. If the end result in 20 folks running President or Senator or Dog Catcher, so be it.

    If Bill gets enough signatures and pays his fee and gets his paperwork in on time, put him on the ballot.
    If Manny gets enough signatures and pays his fee and gets his paperwork in on time, put him on the ballot.

    Matter of fact, as I’m typing thing, I’m thinking that’d be a dream campaign for me ! I’d be inclined to vote absentee, use a mail in ballot, vote in person both as myself and as someone dead, leave the country and try to vote from overseas, etc.

  13. blank says:

    MLB awards its MVP and Cy Young trophies to the players who get the most points in a system that allows up to ten (for MVP) or three (Cy Young) ordered selections, which is basically an RCV system.

    Maybe in practice, but it’s pretty easy to come up with a counter example, depending upon how the points allocated. Suppose we have 4 candidates A, B, C, and D, and 51 voters rank them A-B-C-D and 49 rank them C-B-D-A, then in RCV A wins, since A was the first to 51 votes. Suppose points are allocated 3 for 1st, 2 for 2nd, 1 for 3rd, and 0 for 4th. B wins with 200 points over C’s 198 points. A in fact only gets only 153.

  14. Blank, sure. My point was just simply that different ways of determining a winner that will have broad acceptance can determine different winners under the right set of circumstances. I should have added, in this sort of situation the race is necessarily close. The closer the race, the harder any system has to measure it with sufficient precision.

  15. Ross says:

    Am I the only one here who thinks that electing someone with a plurality of the votes is a poor way to run elections? Rick Perry was elected in 2006 with only 39% of the vote. We need runoff or RCV to resolve that.

  16. Manny says:

    C.L. your attempt at being funny does not work.

    I disagree with Bill but I understand him, you I don’t understand because you don’t stand for anything.

  17. C.L. says:

    Crazy, isn’t it ?

    #Anarchy !

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  19. Mainstream says:

    I would just note that a lot of election reforms end up with unintended consequences. The Southern Regional primary set up in 1984 was intended to give a moderate Southern Democrat a chance at the national nomination, but instead Jesse Jackson swept several states. Many Southern states were pushed to implement 40% plurality victor rules by DOJ, on the thinking that minority candidates would benefit, but in fact Walter Jones in NC and other white/Anglo candidates sometimes benefited. Maybe RCV would be a great improvement, but I am not convinced.

    I wonder how many voters can name all the candidates in many recent City of Houston election contests, much less distinguish between them.

  20. brad says:


    Voters don’t need to know all the candidates to vote IRV/RCV.

    If a voter is lazy and only knows one candidate in a ten person field they may only put in one vote and have no 2-10 selections.

    If a voter does a little more research and has maybe 5 candidates they put in a vote for, then that is better.

    If a voter does its civic homework and has votes for all ten candidates then great.

    Regardless, RCV will produce a majority vote in all scenarios above.

    Side note: What a scary scenario you reminded us of with Jesse Jackson. A black man almost nominated to a major party candidacy?! Very scary unintended consequences indeed.

  21. Mainstream says:

    Brad, I am sure it was scary to the conservative white Democrats who put the Southern regional primary in place in order to help bring a more conservative/moderate candidate to victory at the Democrat convention.

    I stand by my thesis: election process changes often have unintended results.

    When Kingwood and Clear Lake were joined to a single city council district, I anticipated that Kingwood would never have a member of Houston City council, since the southern part of the district is more populous. But in fact, since Robb Todd, I think every representative for that district has come from the less populous northern sector of the district.

  22. blank says:

    election process changes often have unintended results.

    Sure, there is a downside to RCV and other voting systems be clear. In any multi-candidate system, it is easiest enough to show that a candidate could win even if a majority of voters preferred a different candidate. I will save the boring math for classes though.

    However, we can look at what people who use think. From

    “… after Maine’s first RCV general election in November 2018, 61% of respondents were in favor of keeping RCV or expanding use of RCV. After Santa Fe’s first use of RCV in 2018, 94% of voters reported feeling “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their use of RCV. In Portland, Maine in 2020, voters voted to expand RCV to all of their municipal elections, with 81% in favor, after having used RCV to elect their mayor since 2011.”

    FairVote is an RCV advocacy group, so they are certainly biased. Nonetheless, we are seeing very positive reviews of those who are using it, and my guess is that most of the 39% in Maine who disapprove are also Bruce Poliquin supporters. (I suspect that support for RCV is as much psychological as anything else. Voting is empowering, so voters being allowed to say more on their ballots, which RCV enables, is more empowering.) What’s perhaps more important from an adoption standpoint is that elections in major media markets are about to start using it. For example, NYC is going to use it next year, Mass is about to vote on using it statewide, and Virginia just voted to allow munis to use it. It’s pretty easy to envision positive press on RCV to grow rapidly.

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