In intra-GPTX correspondence, Palmer referred to the action as "our Hail Mary." (That's an American football metaphor, in case you're not familiar with it.) The reason it seemed like a last-minute desperation bomb was that the case would be taken up after the state's official deadline for publishing of ballots. Apparently some counties had already printed, and even sent, mail-in ballots. Indeed the Court's opinion acknowledges Democratic Railroad Commission candidate Chrysta Castañeda's contention that the case was already moot.
It's important to remember that this decision does not find the filing fee provision in HB 2504 unconstitutional. The federal case still pending may make such a finding, but that won't happen until June 2021 at the earliest. With all that in mind, at last night's Zoom meeting of the GPTX State Executive Committee, I floated the idea of a fundraising campaign for a dedicated fund to pay filing fees for Green candidates. I couched my pitch in phraseology like now that this party has reached the age of majority, it's time for it to grow up and act like an actual party. GPTX as currently constituted will turn 21 next spring. Palmer agrees with me on that.
One of the cool ramifications of the Supreme Court's opinion is that there is no need to pay filing fees when a candidate files. There is no deadline specified in the relevant sections of the Election Code for paying fees—or, one would assume, the petition signatures in lieu of fees. Greens, Libertarians, and any other parties that gain ballot access can wait until after their nominating conventions and pay only for the nominees. That would certainly help avoid what happened this past spring, when two people filed to run as Greens, paid their fees, and were subsequently defeated by None of the Above at the Green Convention. Under current law, the Secretary of State's Office would be under no compulsion to refund the fees to candidates who do not win nomination.
Below are a couple of excerpts from the opinion that I found important and revelatory, with citations included this time. (Emphasis: boldface mine, underlines theirs.)
To be entitled to mandamus relief, Castañeda was required to establish that the Green Party co-chairs had a ministerial duty to declare the candidates ineligible. See In re Williams, 470 S.W.3d 819, 821 (Tex. 2015) (holding that mandamus may issue to compel performance of a ministerial act). “An act is ministerial when the law clearly spells out the duty to be performed by the official with sufficient certainty that nothing is left to the exercise of discretion.” Id. (quoting Anderson v. City of Seven Points, 806 S.W.2d 791, 793 (Tex. 1991)). For the reasons explained below, Castañeda failed to prove the Election Code clearly spelled out the duty of the co-chairs to declare the Green Party candidates ineligible for their failure to pay the filing fee, and the court of appeals therefore erred in ordering their removal from the ballot.
In this case, the court of appeals concluded that because the Green Party candidates had not paid the filing fee, they were ineligible and the co-chairs had a statutory duty to declare them ineligible. ___ S.W.3d at ___. The court relied on section 145.003, which requires the co-chairs to review a public record presented to them concerning a candidate’s eligibility and declare a candidate ineligible if “facts indicating that the candidate is ineligible are conclusively established by another public record.” Id. at ___ (quoting TEX. ELEC. CODE § 145.003(f), (g)) (emphasis added). “In election cases . . . we are constrained in our interpretation by the principle that any statutory provision that restricts the right to hold office must be strictly construed against ineligibility.” State v. Hodges, 92 S.W.3d 489, 494–95 (Tex. 2002); see also In re Francis, 186 S.W.3d at 542 & n.34. We therefore interpret the statutory provisions at issue with a candidate’s access to the ballot in mind.