‘What, now?’: How Texas election law deals with death

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As previously reported, 2022 Texas Railroad Commission Republican primary candidate Marvin “Sarge” Summers of Lubbock died Tuesday at the scene of an accident in Midland. His passing not only caused grief to his loved ones and associates, but also left questions regarding his place on the ballot.

During a primary, what happens after the death of a candidate? MyHighPlains.com reached out to Potter and Randall county election offices to discuss the different ways the Texas election code deals with candidate deaths.

As election officials explained, the start of early voting in Texas — Feb. 14 — is too close to allow Summers’ name to be removed from the ballot. Therefore, voters in the Republican primary election should expect to see Summers as an option when they go to the polls.

Additionally, unless the Texas secretary of state issues a directive to remedy it, election officials said the office has no responsibility to explain to voters that a specific candidate has died. Votes submitted for Summers should also be counted and cataloged, similar to votes for other candidates. This left the possibility that Summers could not only receive votes in the primary, but that he could win.

What happens if he wins?

The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution described that if a president-elect dies before Inauguration Day, the vice president-elect would take office. However, for a state-level primary, the process is different.

Election officials explained that the upcoming primary is party-led, with candidates chosen for the November elections. In accordance with Texas election code, if Summers wins the election, the state’s 64-member Republican Executive Committee would decide who becomes the nominee in the overall race.

However, this would change once again in a runoff, which would be triggered by no available candidate winning with more than 50% of the vote; a more likely outcome, election officials noted, the more candidates there are in a primary. In the event of a runoff election, officials said Summers’ name on the ballot would be replaced by the candidate who received the lowest number of votes in the original election after him.

For example, if Summers and another candidate both got 50 votes in an election and another candidate got 49 votes, the candidate with 49 votes would take Summers’ place in the second round.

For the latest election information and local updates, check out MyHighPlains.com.

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