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Moving the May elections

Another possible method for coping with coronavirus.

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to grow in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday issued a proclamation that will allow municipalities to postpone their upcoming May 2 elections until November.

The move comes after Abbott issued a disaster declaration over the pandemic that paved the way for him to suspend parts of the state’s election code to allow for postponements. Notably, individual municipalities will still have to act to postpone their elections, but Abbott urged them to move them to November.

“I strongly encourage local election officials to take advantage of these waivers and postpone their elections until November,” Abbott said in a statement. “Right now, the state’s focus is responding to COVID-19 — including social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. By delaying this election, our local election officials can assist in that effort.”

[…]

The May 2 municipal elections are set to feature a litany of local political races from across the state.

Abbott had previously indicated his team was deciphering whether he had the authority to order changes for municipal elections. Unlike state contests, like the upcoming primary runoffs, municipal elections are ordered — and often run — by cities, school districts and other political subdivisions. The proclamation suggests he ultimately concluded he did not have that power to order the postponements himself.

The Texas secretary of state’s office, which oversees election in the state, sent local election officials an advisory shortly after the proclamation was announced offering guidance for entities choosing to postpone. The advisory indicates the elected officials holding offices that were on the ballot for May will continue to hold their positions until November if an election is postponed.

See here, here, and here for the background. The issue of the regular May elections versus the primary runoffs was discussed in that last post. Abbott has apparently concluded that he can’t order the localities that have elections on May 2 to move them or otherwise change how they conduct them, but he can do this. We’ll see what happens. As I’ve said in previous posts, these are small elections that don’t have their results reported to the Harris County Clerk (for those in Harris County), so I at least have no idea how many of them there are and how many voters may be affected. I do know that moving them to November, no matter what else is going on, will mean that the universe of potential voters for those races will be orders of magnitude larger than if they were to be held in May. It also may mean having these races conducted by the county elections administrators, so that affected voters don’t have to vote twice, potentially at two different locations, which would be a huge mess. Again, without knowing the specifics of the races involved, I can’t offer any speculation on what that might do to their results. There will need to be a lot of thought and work put into this, that’s for sure. Abbott’s proclamation is here, and Patrick Svitek has more.

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3 Comments

  1. Manny says:

    That would be the best solutions as it would allow people to properly plan for the elections, assuming that the virus is still around, Trump said it would disappear by April, I am sure that Bill is anxiously waiting for April to say I told you Trump is god.

    It is not just voters, it is also finding people willing to work the polls, election workers, will be tough. They tend to me older persons.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    I agree with taking strong precautions against the virus, and certainly believe that this will not resolve by the end of March, as many organizations suspended events until March 31st, which I thought a bit over optimistic.

    BUT, a few observations:
    1) I am glad that I am not in a position making these decisions which could cost lives, cost businesses to go under, and other big consequences.

    2) Many places are announcing additional restrictions or reductions in hours starting next week. That seems too late or maybe it is not necessary, who knows?

    3) The spread of infections in China slowed greatly, but that is not getting a lot of attention in the media here, nor are some other interesting observations about the pandemic.

    4) What is most worrisome is changing elections. Seems only a matter of time before Trump declares himself President For Life. Once all of the petty tyrants, both at the federal and local levels see how easily people follow all kinds of harsh restrictions on business, mobility, public gatherings, etc. I don’t expect them to give up their powers, ever. Their unquestioning servants such as security guards just love flexing their little bit of muscle, to block access or whatever little task has been assigned to them. Nobody questions what their bosses tell them. Maybe I just have a dark view of humanity, and should hope for some of the good changes that can come of this. Maybe we will realize that a service economy is a rather ethereal thing.

  3. Mainstream says:

    The Texas Election Code appears to provide that new precinct chairs and county chairs of the political parties take office 20 days after the primary run-off election, so one possible effect of delaying the run-off would be that the organizational meeting of the parties would be very later summer or early Fall, and the new county party chairs would take office later.