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Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs

Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs is a Texas offense described in the Texas Election Code. As described below, the law was updated in the 85th Texas Legislature by creating enhanced penalties for violations.

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

Have you been charged with Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs in Texas? Call criminal defense lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

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.

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

Section 162.014 of the Texas Election Code describes the offense as follows:

(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.

What is the penalty for an Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs conviction?

The penalty for a conviction of Unlawful Participation in Party Affairs has been a Class C misdemeanor (punishable by fine only), but the Texas Legislature enhanced this penalty in 2017.1 Effective on September 1, 20172, 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.

Legal References:

1House Bill 1735 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 [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.

2House Bill 1735 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.

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