Friday, October 30, 2015

Qualified Voter vs Registered Voter

Qualified voter vs registered voter. Is there a difference? Does it matter? It matters because Proposition No. 50 in the upcoming Richardson city charter amendment election changes the requirements for a person to serve as mayor or council member. The current charter requires a person to be a "registered" voter. The amended charter calls for a person to be a "qualified" voter.

One person in social media complained that the change "waters down" the requirements. Another (and by another I mean me) said the change, if anything, toughens the requirements. Who is right?


If the question sends you looking for a dictionary, you are probably going to the wrong place. It's probably state law that you should look up. Unfortunately, the amendment doesn't say where in state law to look. After I did my own search, I felt comfortable saying the new language toughens the requirements. From Texas election code:
Sec. 11.002. QUALIFIED VOTER. (a) In this code, "qualified voter" means a person who:
(1) is 18 years of age or older;
(2) is a United States citizen;
(3) has not been determined by a final judgment of a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be:
(A) totally mentally incapacitated; or
(B) partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote;
(4) has not been finally convicted of a felony or, if so convicted, has:
(A) fully discharged the person's sentence, including any term of incarceration, parole, or supervision, or completed a period of probation ordered by any court; or
(B) been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disability to vote;
(5) is a resident of this state; and
(6) is a registered voter.
There you have it. A qualified voter must be registered, along with meeting five other requirements. So, the change to the Richardson charter will toughen the requirements.

Not so fast, legal impersonator. From the Texas constitution:
ARTICLE 6. SUFFRAGE
Sec. 2. QUALIFIED ELECTOR; REGISTRATION; ABSENTEE VOTING. (a) Every person subject to none of the disqualifications provided by Section 1 of this article or by a law enacted under that section who is a citizen of the United States and who is a resident of this State shall be deemed a qualified voter; provided, however, that before offering to vote at an election a voter shall have registered, but such requirement for registration shall not be considered a qualification of a voter within the meaning of the term "qualified voter" as used in any other Article of this Constitution in respect to any matter except qualification and eligibility to vote at an election.
There you have it. A qualified voter does not have be registered, at least as the term is used in the Texas Constitution. So, the change to the Richardson charter will weaken the requirements.

So which is it? Does the change toughen or weaken the requirement? D*mned if I know. IANAL. But it's nit-picky details like this that lead to long and expensive lawsuits. Clarifying such details is, in part, what led to having 83 amendments proposed to the Richardson charter. It's ironic that even after all that, there's still a question about what "qualified" voter means. Well, there'll be another charter review in two to ten years. Maybe this detail can be cleaned up then.

By the way, Richardson can make sure this never becomes an issue by making sure future candidates for city council remember to register to vote.

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