Texas AG Rules Election Judges Can Carry In Polling Places

Two things tell us that we live in a free society: elections and private firearm ownership. Neither of those things really takes place in despotic societies. Some might create the trappings of democracy, but it’s funny how often the party in power wins those elections despite widespread opposition. None, however, are big on guns.

While many here in the good old U.S. of A. don’t like guns either, they’re still here, and we can still own them.

However, our election process has a vulnerability. What happens when someone decides to attack a polling location? While many polling locations have police officers present, many others don’t, and that represents a vulnerability. It’s enough of one that if such attacks happen often enough, it could change the way our nation elects leaders. Hypothetically, at least.

The Texas attorney general, however, has addressed this in his state.

Election workers who keep the peace and break tie votes now have the state’s blessing to carry guns at polling places.

In an opinion released Tuesday, Attorney General Ken Paxton said so-called election judges who are licensed to carry a firearm can do so during the performance of their official duties. The opinion was issued after a Republican lawmaker raised concerns about the safety of these poll workers in rural areas.

“Due to the latest events, the public has a heightened awareness of the security posture in public spaces,” Rep. James White, R-Hillister, wrote to Paxton in March. “These election judges are evaluating the security posture and they are discovering that their polling places are in remote locations.”

Firearms are usually banned at polling places.

This rule, however, does not apply to some people, like police and correctional officers. According to Paxton’s opinion, it also doesn’t apply to election judges with gun licenses “when performing their duties” because these poll workers fall into an exemption for “active judicial officers.” Attorney general opinions don’t carry the force of law, but they can be used as a supporting argument in court.

It should be noted that election judges aren’t actual judges. They’re poll workers who keep the peace at precincts and break any ties that might pop up. They’re supposed to work impartially, but they’re selected by the party that got the most votes for governor from that precinct in the most recent election.

One of their jobs is to “preserve order” and “prevent breaches of the peace.” That sounds a lot like the job of a law enforcement officer in many ways. While the election judges don’t have arrest powers, they may find themselves in the middle of a situation where lethal force is justified long before an officer can arrive.

Allowing those with licenses to be armed makes sense. Even if there’s no horrible attack on a polling place–though I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t happened yet, as well as thankful–there’s still plenty of reason why election judges in Texas should probably be carrying firearms.

However, I also suspect a few were carrying anyway, just in case.

May 27, 2022 1:15 PM ET