A new opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton concludes that the public should have access to “anonymous voted ballots,” paving the way for citizens and lawmakers to audit elections.

The opinion, issued Wednesday, says ballots are election records under the Texas Election Code and are therefore subject to disclosure under the state’s Public Information Act during the required 22-month election-record retention period, as long as any confidential voter-identifying information is redacted.

“This opinion is a very big deal for those who care about election integrity,” said Tony McDonald, an attorney with The Law Offices of Tony McDonald.

“The opinion overturns a wrongly decided 1988 AG opinion that has been used to block citizens from auditing their elections,” McDonald told Texas Scorecard. “This opinion means citizens will be able to exercise their statutory right to review ‘anonymous voted ballots’ to compare those records with official results.”

“Paxton and his team deserve credit for not blindly following the 1988 decision and instead taking a fresh look at the requirements of state law,” he added.

Paxton issued the opinion in response to inquiries sent in August 2021 by State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R–North Richland Hills) and State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Fort Worth) asking whether members of the public or the Legislature may inspect anonymous voted ballots.

Hancock said lawmakers wanted to research ballot results “in order to promote confidence in Texas elections,” but elections administrators denied them access, citing Sec. 66.058 of the Texas Election Code, which makes unauthorized entry into secure ballot storage containers during the retention period a crime.

Paxton’s opinion, which is not binding law, concludes that the Election Code “authorizes the Secretary of State and election records custodians to establish procedures to accomplish the dual priorities of ballot preservation and public access to anonymous voted ballots.”

The full opinion can be read here.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.