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Election Advisory No. 2021-10

To: County Chairs, County Election Officials, and County Judges
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Keith Ingram's signature
Date: August 31, 2021

RE:

NEW LAW: SB 1111 (2021, Regular Session) Address Confirmation Process and Forms

In its 87th Regular Session (2021), the Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 1111 (SB 1111), amending certain provisions of the Texas Election Code related to the definition of residence, address confirmation notices, and voters who register at certain locations that do not correspond to a residence. This advisory summarizes the changes and provides the new forms that must be used for this process.

Definition of Residence

SB 1111 modifies the definition of residence under Section 1.015 of the Texas Election Code. First, subsection (b) is modified to eliminate references to common law and to specify that “[a] person may not establish residence for the purpose of influencing the outcome of a certain election.” Second, subsection (f) has been added, providing that “[a] person may not establish a residence at any place the person has not inhabited. A person may not designate a previous residence as a home and fixed place of habitation unless the person inhabits the place at the time of designation and intends to remain.” See below for full text of Section 1.015, Texas Election Code.

Section 1.015. Residence

  1. In this code, “residence” means domicile, that is, one’s home and fixed place of habitation to which one intends to return after any temporary absence.
  2. A person may not establish residence for the purpose of influencing the outcome of a certain election [Residence shall be determined in accordance with the common-law rules, as enunciated by the courts of this state, except as otherwise provided by this code].
  3. A person does not lose the person’s residence by leaving the person’s home to go to another place for temporary purposes only.
  4. A person does not acquire a residence in a place to which the person has come for temporary purposes only and without the intention of making that place the person’s home.
  5. A person who is an inmate in a penal institution or who is an involuntary inmate in a hospital or eleemosynary institution does not, while an inmate, acquire residence at the place where the institution is located.
  6.  A person may not establish a residence at any place the person has not inhabited. A person may not designate a previous residence as a home and fixed place of habitation unless the person inhabits the place at the time of designation and intends to remain.

While SB 1111 modifies the definition of “residence” under the Election Code, it does not alter the actions of a voter registrar upon receiving and reviewing a voter registration application. Voter registrars will continue to review the address that is listed on the face of a voter registration application to determine if a voter resides within their county and determine the precinct in which a voter should be registered.

Modifications to Standard Address Confirmation Forms

SB 1111 made modifications to the “Notice of Address Confirmation” and response document. The official confirmation notice and response document must include the full definition of “residence” under Section 1.015 of the Texas Election Code and a sworn affirmation of the voter’s residence. Other than the revisions to the forms, there are no procedural changes to the standard address confirmation process. Additionally, the Secretary of State has included in the “Notice of Address Confirmation” information about voters updating their residence via Texas.gov as in-county updates; this process may also be used by voters who are on suspense. The Secretary of State has revised the applicable forms. They are currently available in the Election Forms Manual and can be found below.

Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address

Form

17-1

Address Confirmation Response - fold over

Form

17-2

Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address Response - tri-fold

Form

17-3

Procedures for New Address Confirmation Requiring Documentation

SB 1111 created a new address confirmation process for voters registered at certain addresses that do not correspond to a residence. If the voter registrar has reason to believe that a voter’s residence address is a commercial post office box or similar location that does not correspond to a residence, the voter registrar shall deliver an address confirmation to the voter. (Section 15.051(a), Texas Election Code). The response to the address confirmation for these voters must include a photocopy of certain documentation that corresponds to the voter’s residence address. (Sections 15.052, 15.054, Texas Election Code). The voter is required to provide a photocopy of the first document from the following list that corresponds to their residence under Section 1.015 of the Texas Election Code.

Required Documentation for Certain Address Confirmations

If a voter has recently updated their address on documents 1-3 above, they may execute an affidavit indicating that they recently updated their address. This option will be provided on the “Address Confirmation Requiring Documentation” form.

Voters Whose Residence has no Address

Certain voters are exempt from providing a photocopy of the residential proof if they reside in a place with no address, and they execute an affidavit providing a concise description of the location of their residence. (Section 15.054, Texas Election Code).

Requirement for Residential Proof does not Apply to Certain Voters

The requirement for residential proof does not apply to a member of the U.S. armed forces or the spouse or dependent of a member, a voter enrolled as a full-time student who lives on campus at an institution of higher education, or a voter whose address is confidential under Texas law. (Section 15.054(d), Texas Election Code). If a voter registrar knows that a voter falls under one of these categories, the voter registrar is not required to send out the Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation.

New Forms for Address Confirmation Requiring Documentation

The SOS has prescribed the following form for use for voters registered at certain addresses that to not correspond to a residence address. Please be advised that the new “Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation” confirmation must be sent to the voter with a postage-paid response envelope that the voter can use to complete the required form and submit their required documentation, if applicable.

Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation

Form

17-4

Variations to Notice of Address Confirmation and Response Documents

Please be advised the voter registrar may prescribe a different design from that prescribed by the Secretary of State for an official form, if approved by the SOS. (Section 15.052, Texas Election Code).

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Why are you including information about updates via Texas.gov on the revised Address Confirmation Notices?

A1: The new address confirmation notice will include information about Texas.gov updates because voters who have moved within the same county can update their residence online through this application. An address update via Texas Online is sufficient for providing a response to a Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address that was sent to the voter.

Q2: For the new Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation, what happens if the voter returns the response document but doesn’t return the required documentation?

A2: If a voter doesn’t return the required documentation or execute the affidavit stating their residence has no address, and the voter is not exempt under Section 15.054(d), the voter will be placed on the suspense list.

Q3: Is there a separate “suspense” designation for the two different address confirmation notices?

A3: No. The law does not provide for a separate designation. Therefore, any failure to respond or submit the required documentation/form will result in the voter being placed on suspense.

Q4: If a voter is on suspense because they did not return the required documentation associated with the Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation, is the voter required to submit that documentation before voting?

A4: No. SB 1111 did not change the process for coming off of suspense when voting. All voters on suspense are required to complete a Statement of Residence prior to being accepted for voting. Once the Statement of Residence is complete and the election worker has accepted the voter for voting, the voter may vote a regular ballot, if otherwise eligible.

Q5: Would a ballot by mail voter who received the Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation be required to submit a copy of their documentation with their returned mail ballot in order for their ballot to be counted?

A5: No. The process is the same for all voters. If a voter submits a complete Statement of Residence, the voter’s ballot will be accepted, if otherwise eligible.

Q6: What if a voter who was previously sent a Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation and did not provide a response, votes in person and completes a Statement of Residence with the same commercial address?

A6: The voter registrar has the authority to send out another Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation. If the voter fails to respond to the new notice, the voter would be placed on suspense.

Q7: Are voter registrars required to review their list of registered voters to determine if voters are registered at a commercial address for the purpose of sending a Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation?

A7: No. There is no requirement to proactively search for these addresses. However, if a voter’s registration is challenged on such grounds or the voter registrar becomes aware of registration at a possible commercial post office box, they must send the Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address by Providing Documentation to these voters.

KI:CA