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More angst over May elections

The Star Telegram adds to the litany of woe surrounding the upcoming changes to the state’s elections calendar.

Over three months, some voters would face a primary, followed by city and school elections, followed by primary runoffs, followed by city and school runoffs. And then, of course, the statewide and national general election next November.

“We have overlapping election cycles, and I am very concerned that voters are going to be confused,” Tarrant County Republican Party Chairwoman Stephanie Klick said. “With that confusion, it may impact turnout.”

“There’s going to be a lot of confusion,” agreed Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Maxwell. “You’ve got three elections that voters are showing up for in the space of about eight weeks.”


In Tarrant County, cities including Arlington, Haltom City and Keller and school districts including Fort Worth typically hold May elections in even-numbered years. Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn originally told those entities that he didn’t have enough voting equipment to handle both the nonpartisan elections and the primary runoffs in May.

Almost immediately, officials with several local entities made clear that they didn’t like their options. Moving elections to November would mean placing nonpartisan and partisan races on the same ballot, a shift that some worry may negatively affect the tone of the nonpartisan races.

Holding elections only in May of odd-numbered years, as cities including Fort Worth do, also poses problems, especially for entities that stagger their council terms so that only some seats are on the ballot each year.

Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes said that he has heard from almost all the cities in his Northeast Tarrant precinct and that they are against moving their election dates.

“I see some real problems with forcing our government entities to change their elections,” Fickes said at a recent meeting.

I’m not exactly sure what the problems are with holding elections only in May of odd-numbered years. One presumes they would have existed before now but were somehow coped with; the point is that the issue of primary runoffs being too close to them would not arise. Frankly, for any affected city that has two or four year municipal terms, I’d say that’s the best solution if moving those elections to November is undesirable. Cities whose Council terms are three years, like Austin, remain screwed, but you can’t have everything.

For what it’s worth, as recently as the 2003-2004 election cycle, the uniform election calendar was much busier than it is now. There were uniform election dates in January and September – the constitutional amendment election of 2003 was held in September instead of November because the Republicans that were pushing the tort “reform” amendment on that year’s ballot didn’t want it to take place at the same time as a high-turnout city of Houston Mayoral election – with special elections and runoffs occurring in December, February and April. Go see the SOS Election Results page and look at all of the elections that took place between the 2002 general and the 2004 primaries. The 2005 Lege cut all this back to the May/November with March primaries calendar we know now; at the time people fretted about how long it could take to fill legislative vacancies and stuffing too many elections onto the May and November ballots. The point I’m making is that we adjusted to that change, and we’ll eventually adjust to this one. It’ll be more painful (and expensive) some places than others, but we’ll figure it out.

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