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RULE §23.221Conduct of Referendum

(a) The Commissioner shall conduct a referendum as authorized under Chapter 41 of the Code.

(b) Based upon decisions of the Board, the Commissioner shall propose in a referendum:

  (1) The maximum assessment to be paid by grain producers; and

  (2) The manner in which the assessment will be collected.

(c) Legal notice must be published 90 days prior to the referendum in one or more statewide or regional newspapers that provide reasonable notice throughout the state. In addition, at least 90 days before the date of the referendum, the Department will give direct written notice of the referendum to each Extension office in the state.

(d) Notices required pursuant to subsection (c) of this section shall include:

  (1) the date, hours and polling places for voting in the referendum;

  (2) the maximum estimated amount of the assessment proposed to be collected, and the basis of collection;

  (3) the manner in which the referendum is to be conducted and the proceeds administered and used; and

  (4) who to contact for more information.

(e) An eligible grain producer may vote only once in a referendum and each vote is of equal weight, regardless of the grain producer's volume of production.

(f) A referendum is approved if the Commissioner finds that a majority of votes cast are in favor of the referendum.

(g) All voter information, including a producer's vote in a referendum conducted under this section, is confidential and not subject to disclosure under Chapter 552, Texas Government Code.

(h) Ballots must bear the signature and the address of the producer to be valid. A producer's signature on the ballot certifies that the voter sold grain to a grain buyer in the 36 months before the date of the referendum and that the production volume provided on the ballot is accurate.

(i) Ballots for the referendum will be counted in a manner determined by the Commissioner.

(j) A canvassing committee(s) appointed by the Commissioner shall verify the referendum results to the Commissioner for certification.

(k) The Department will be reimbursed by the Board for all costs associated with conducting a referendum under this subchapter.

(l) The referendum will be conducted in-person with ballots submitted by mail to the Department by the grain producer. Ballots will be available to eligible producers at all county Extension offices. Eligible producers may pick up ballots during normal office hours of the county Extension offices during the voting period.

  (1) An eligible producer who is unable to access a county Extension office to pick up a ballot may request a mail ballot by contacting Headquarters. No eligible producer requesting a mail ballot who verifies eligibility to vote shall be refused a ballot.

  (2) Ballots must be returned to the Department at the address indicated on the ballot, postage prepaid. Ballots not postmarked by midnight on the final day of the voting period will not be counted.

  (3) Mail ballots submitted to the Department shall be maintained at Headquarters.

(m) A watcher may be present at Headquarters for the purpose of observing the processing of election results and until members of the canvassing committee complete their duties. Written notice of intent to be present during processing must be submitted to the Department at least three days prior to the count.

(n) After the ballots are counted and the results verified by the Commissioner, the ballots shall be locked in a container and stored at the Headquarters for a period of 30 days. The closed, stored container containing referendum ballots cannot be opened for the 30-day period without a court order or written request for recount. If no contests or investigations arise out of the referendum within 30 days after certification of such referendum, the Commissioner shall destroy the ballots by shredding.

(o) Request for Recount. A request for recount submitted under this subchapter must:

  (1) be in writing;

  (2) state the grounds for the recount;

  (3) be submitted to the Commissioner within 10 calendar days of canvass results; and

  (4) be signed by the person requesting the recount or, if there is more than one person, any one or more of them and state each requesting person's name and residence address. If the request is made on behalf of an organization or association, the person submitting the request must state that they are authorized to request a recount on behalf of the organization or association.

Source Note: The provisions of this §23.221 adopted to be effective November 5, 2017, 42 TexReg 6002

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