Third-party parties, also known as minor parties, are political organizations that provide an alternative to the Republican and Democratic parties. For the past 170 years, citizens and elites have sought to create a different system than the two-party one. In Texas, the bipartisan system has made it difficult for third-party candidates to gain access to the ballot. It is illegal for campaign funds to be used for personal gain. Campaign funds cannot be used to pay for tuition, unless it is related to training campaign staff.
According to a report by Harris County elections administrator Clifford Tatum, the county's election systems need urgent improvements or replacements. Campaign funds cannot be used to pay dues for country clubs, gyms, recreational facilities, or other apolitical organizations, unless the payments are made in connection with a fundraising event at the organization's facilities. Personal use of campaign funds is any use of funds from a candidate's (or former candidate's) campaign account to fulfill a commitment, obligation, or expense of any person that would exist regardless of the campaign or the candidate's responsibilities as a federal official. Campaign funds can be used to pay for travel expenses related to the campaign or the candidate's duties as a federal official. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has expressed his disapproval of two bills that would only affect elections in Harris County, the most populous county in Texas.
Before this time, small green groups were active in major cities such as Houston, Dallas, and Austin; however, Ralph Nader's 1996 campaign helped boost the growth of the Texas Green Party. Harris County has been in the spotlight for months due to its electoral issues. In 1997-11, the Commission allowed a federal official to use campaign funds to cover the costs of an immersion class in Spanish that she attended in order to better communicate with her constituents. Dallas and Austin have been subject to conservative criticism for years; however, Harris County has attracted particular attention from Republican state politicians. After its establishment in Texas, the party launched electoral campaigns in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and California; however, it only achieved official party status in Texas state elections.
A federal judge blocked a 118-year-old state law that required minority political party candidates to collect more than 83,000 paper signatures in order to appear on the ballot. Campaign funds can be used to pay for a candidate's child care expenses that are directly related to campaign activities. The legislature also passed a bill that allows the Secretary of State to oversee election administration in certain counties when a complaint is filed and there is evidence of recurring problems with election administration or voter registration in the county. The party was so successful in Zavala County and other surrounding counties that it won two majorities on city councils, two majorities on school boards, and two mayors. A candidate cannot pay tuition with campaign funds unless it is related to training campaign personnel. The impact of third-party candidates on political campaigns in Harris County has been significant.
The Green Party has been able to gain access to ballots due to a federal judge blocking an outdated law requiring minority political party candidates to collect more than 83,000 paper signatures. This has allowed them to launch successful campaigns in major cities such as Houston and Dallas and even win majorities on city councils and school boards. Furthermore, Mayor Sylvester Turner has expressed his disapproval of two bills that would only affect elections in Harris County. Campaign funds can be used for travel expenses related to campaigns or duties as a federal official and child care expenses directly related to campaign activities. However, they cannot be used for tuition payments unless it is related to training campaign personnel or dues for country clubs or other apolitical organizations unless payments are made in connection with a fundraising event at their facilities.