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RULE §23.103Conduct of Referendum

(a) Upon request of the Council, the Commissioner shall conduct and prescribe the manner to conduct a referendum as authorized under Chapter 41 of the Texas Agriculture Code.

(b) The Commissioner shall propose in a referendum the:

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

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

(c) With the Commissioner's approval, the Council may set the assessment at a level less than the maximum assessment approved by the referendum.

(d) Notice of the referendum shall be published at least once in one or more newspapers published and distributed within the boundaries in which the Council operates. The notice shall be published at least 60 days before the date of the referendum. In addition, at least 60 days before the date of the referendum, the Department will give direct written notice to each county cooperative extension office in the state.

(e) Notice provided in accordance with subsection (d) of this section shall include:

  (1) the date of the referendum;

  (2) the manner in which the referendum is to be conducted and the assessment collected;

  (3) the purpose of the referendum;

  (4) if an assessment referendum is being conducted, the maximum assessment to be paid by cattle producers;

  (5) if held by physical balloting, the date, hours, and polling places for voting in the referendum and election, and the manner in which ballots will be distributed and deadline for submission of ballots;

  (6) whether a producer exemption is to be allowed, or whether the assessment shall be collected on a refund-only basis; and

  (7) who to contact for more information.

(f) An eligible producer may vote only once in a referendum and each vote is of equal weight.

(g) A referendum is approved if a simple majority of votes cast are cast in favor of the referendum.

(h) 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, Government Code.

(i) 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 owned cattle in the last 12 months before the date of the referendum.

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

(k) A canvassing committee appointed by the Commissioner shall count the ballots and verify the referendum results to the Commissioner for certification. Referendum results will be certified by the Commissioner.

(l) 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.

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

(n) The referendum will be conducted in person and ballots will be available for eligible producers to vote at all county Extension offices. Eligible producers may vote 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 vote may request a mail ballot by contacting Headquarters. No eligible producer requesting a mail ballot shall be refused a ballot.

  (2) Ballots will be mailed to Headquarters, by the county Extension offices via paid postage and by a deadline to be determined by the Department;

  (3) Ballots submitted to the Department by mail shall be maintained at Headquarters.

(o) 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 3 days prior to the count.

(p) Request for Recount. A request for recount submitted under this division 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 1 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.

(q) Conduct of Recount. A recount will be conducted by the Department, under the supervision of a representative of the Office of the Secretary of State.

Source Note: The provisions of this §23.103 adopted to be effective November 5, 2017, 42 TexReg 6002

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