Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs: Texas Election Code §162.014

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs law makes it illegal to vote or attempt to vote in a primary election or to participate or attempt to participate in a convention of a party after having voted in a primary election or participated in a convention of another party during the same voting year.

Basically, the law says that you cannot participate in primary elections or conventions for two different parties in the same year.

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The increasingly heated partisan rhetoric regarding a perceived, but inaccurate, sense of increasing voter fraud was likely the cause of the introduction of the bill in 2017 that ultimately led to the increased penalties.

The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Section 162.014 of the Texas Election Code. The legislature did not update this law in 2023. The law was amended in the 2017 by creating enhanced penalties for violations.

This law is one of several voting-related offenses in Texas. The Texas Election Code provides several other voting offenses, including Illegal Voting (passed in 2023) and Engaging in Organized Election Fraud Activity (passed in 2017). The Penal Code also provides a voting-related offense called Tampering with Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machine.

The Election Code classifies the Texas Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs law under Title 10 “Political Parties,” Chapter 162 “Regulating Participation in Party Affairs.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs below.

What is the current Texas law about Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs?

Texas law currently defines the offense of Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs in Election Code Section §162.014 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly votes or attempts to vote in a primary election or participates or attempts to participate in a convention of a party after having voted in a primary election or participated in a convention of another party during the same voting year.

How can I be charged with an Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs offense in Texas?

You can be charged with a violation of Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of Election Code §162.014 as described in the section above have been met.

What is the statute of limitation for Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs in Texas?

Misdemeanor level Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs charges have a two-year limitations period.[2] Felony level offenses have a three-year limitations period.[3]

What is the penalty for a Texas Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs offense?

Prior to 2017, the penalty for a conviction of Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs was a Class C misdemeanor (punishable by fine only), but the Texas Legislature enhanced this penalty in 2017. [4] Effective as of September 1, 2017,[5] there are two circumstances in which a violation can be a punished as a felony:

  • “if the conduct constituting an offense under Subsection (a) consists of knowingly voting in a primary election after having voted in a primary election of another party during the same voting year,” in which case it is a second degree felony and
  • “if the conduct constituting an offense under Subsection (a) consists of knowingly attempting to vote in a primary election after having voted in a primary election of another party during the same voting year,” in which case it is a state jail felony.

Can you get probation for Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[6]

Note, however, that no matter the offense, neither judges nor juries may recommend community supervision for any suspended sentence of over 10 years.[7] Also, judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[8]

What level of crime is Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs in Texas?

The Election Code classifies Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs as either a state jail felony or second degree felony.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.


^1. Texas Election Code §162.014. This law is current as of 2024.^2. Code of Criminal Procedure 12.02(a)^3. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(9)^4. HB 1735, 85th Legislature, Section 26, amended this law as follows:

SECTION 26. Section 162.014, Election Code, is amended by amending Subsection (b) and adding Subsections (c) and (d) to read as follows:

(b) Except as provided by Subsections (c) and (d), an offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

(c) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree if the conduct constituting an offense under Subsection (a) consists of knowingly voting in a primary election after having voted in a primary election of another party during the same voting year.

(d) An offense under this section is a state jail felony if the conduct constituting an offense under Subsection (a) consists of knowingly attempting to vote in a primary election after having voted in a primary election of another party during the same voting year.

^5. HB 1735, 85th Legislature at Section 65:

SECTION 65. (a) The changes in law made by this Act in amending Section 31.093(d), Election Code, as redesignated by this Act, and Section 162.014(b), Election Code, and adding Section 276.011, Election Code, apply only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is governed by the law in effect when the offense was committed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose. For purposes of this section, an offense was committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense occurred before that date.

^6. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^7. Art. 42A.053(c), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^8. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure

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