The State Bar of Texas is fully committed to conducting fair elections. That means all president-elect candidates—whether they are nominated by the Board of Directors or certified by petition—deserve a level playing field and the same opportunities to campaign.

A recent letter to the editor asserted there was no valid reason for the board’s recent vote to add a 180-day expiration date on petition signatures. I want to assure our members that the board’s action was carefully considered and driven only by a commitment to fairness.

The State Bar Act provides two ways for members to appear on the ballot as a president-elect candidate: by board nomination or by petition. Those seeking candidacy by petition typically start gathering signatures—in effect, campaigning—by late August, which is five months before the State Bar board has historically approved its nominees in late January.

This year, despite the best efforts of the board’s Nominations and Elections Subcommittee, the State Bar could find no one willing to jump into the race in late January against Lisa Blue and Randy Sorrels—who both began gathering petition signatures months earlier and were thus perceived to have an overwhelming advantage. As a result, the subcommittee nominated Ms. Blue and Mr. Sorrels as candidates, and the board approved their nominations on January 26.

The board was faced with how to address this imbalance in future elections to ensure both pathways to candidacy remain viable. At our January meeting, we took a number of steps in this direction. The board added the 180-day expiration date on petition signatures—a provision that matches the law governing petitions in other state elections. The board also decided to approve its nominees four months earlier—in September instead of January—starting with the 2019 election process.

Taken together, these changes will ensure that the campaign periods are roughly equal for all president-elect candidates, whether they are nominated by the board or certified through petition. In the same spirit, the board also voted to relax or remove many restrictions on campaigning to ensure that candidates for president-elect and district director could freely present their views.

The State Bar board is made up of 46 voting members. Forty are lawyers who are elected from districts across Texas or appointed to represent the interests of their fellow lawyers. Six are public members appointed by the Supreme Court and confirmed by the Senate. Although we often disagree on issues, all of us are deeply committed to serving the legal profession, carefully weighing the issues before us, and doing what we believe is right. Those commitments will continue to guide us as we work to ensure fairness in State Bar elections.

Sincerely,

Tom Vick
President, State Bar of Texas