A Texas state representative requested an opinion from the state’s attorney general as to whether an election judge may carry a concealed handgun at the polling place during the voting process. State law prohibits the carrying of a handgun, or other weapons, on the premises of a polling location while voting is in process. Another state law provides conflicting information.
State Representative James White (R-Hillister) wrote the Texas Attorney General’s office requesting clarification on apparent conflicts in the law regarding an election judge being able to carry a concealed handgun while serving in their official capacity.
“Over the last several years, election judges have inquired about their discretion to exercise their right to carry a firearm in a concealed manner if they are an authorized Texas license to carry (LTC) holder,” Rep. White wrote in the request for opinion attached below. “Due to the latest events, the public has a heightened awareness of the security posture in public spaces.”
The East Texas representative explained that many election judges serve in rural areas where law enforcement has limited manpower to provide security at polling locations.
“These election judges are evaluating the security posture and they are discovering that their polling places are in remote locations,” Write stated. “Their duties require them to arrive at the polling place early in the morning, sometimes before daylight begins, and then requires them to close their polling place in the evening.”
However, Section 46.03 (a)(2) of the Texas Penal Code lists a “polling place on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress” as a prohibited place for an LTC holder to carry a concealed handgun.
White cites what he believes to be conflicts in the penal code regarding election judges.
Secti6n 32.075 of the Texas Election Code states that election judges have the same power as a state district court judge. As such, the law provides election judges with certain law enforcement duties and powers.
The law states:
Sec. 32.075. LAW ENFORCEMENT DUTIES AND POWERS. (a) The presiding judge shall preserve order and prevent breaches of the peace and violations of this code in the polling place and in the area within which electioneering and loitering are prohibited from the time the judge arrives at the polling place on election day until the judge leaves the polling place after the polls close.
(b) In performing duties under Subsection (a), the presiding judge may appoint one or more persons to act as special peace officers for the polling place. A special peace officer may not enforce the prohibition against electioneering or loitering near the polling place unless the officer’s appointment is approved by the presiding officer of the local canvassing authority.
(c) In performing duties under Subsection (a), a presiding judge has the power of a district judge to enforce order and preserve the peace, including the power to issue an arrest warrant. An appeal of an order or other action of the presiding judge under this section is made in the same manner as the appeal of an order or other action of a district court in the county in which the polling place is located.
State law exempts district court judges from laws prohibiting carrying a handgun in certain locations under their jurisdiction. Specifically, these judges are exempt from Section 46.03, cited above, and 46.02.
White requests that Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office clarify these conflicts and whether an election judge should also be exempted from 46.02 and 46.03 while working in their capacity at a polling location.
“Realizing that election polling places are situated in various venues, this request for an opinion should include guidance on the porting of firearms by election judges with an L TC in polling places that are either government or nongovernment buildings,” White added. Some of those polling locations could include schools and other government-owned buildings.