PROPOSED LEGISLATION COULD ELIMINATE THE MAY UNIFORM ELECTION DATE
Senate Bill 100 by Senator Leticia Van de Putte and its companion bill, House Bill 111 by Representative Van Taylor, are designed to bring the state election process into compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. The MOVE Act, which was passed by Congress in 2009, changes the way military and overseas voters register and vote in federal elections. The major change brought about by the MOVE Act is that federal ballots now must be transmitted to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election for federal office or any election held in conjunction with a federal election, including a primary and primary run-off election.
Current state law does not provide for 45 days between the primary and primary run-off dates. That makes compliance with the MOVE Act impossible. S.B. 100 and H.B. 111 were filed to remedy the discrepancy between the state and federal laws.
The bills, as originally filed, would have minimally impacted city elections. However, proposed changes could prove problematic for the hundreds of Texas cities that hold their general election in May. The committee substitute for S.B. 100, which was recently reported from the Senate State Affairs Committee, would eliminate the May uniform election date (the second Saturday in May) in even-numbered years. The committee substitute for H.B. 111, which was considered by the House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday, would essentially do the same thing. Under both committee substitutes, Texas cities would be permitted to hold elections on either the second Saturday in May in odd-numbered years, or on the first Tuesday following the first Monday of November in both odd-numbered and even-numbered years.
The rationale for eliminating the May uniform election date in even-numbered years is not clear. The MOVE Act does not, directly or indirectly, require the State of Texas to change the May election date. The practical effect of either committee substitute would be to shift city council and mayoral elections from May to November. That would be true- even though the May date remains available for even-numbered years- because most cities conduct elections every year as a result of staggered terms for the mayor and councilmembers. (In other words, it would be a practical impossibility to use the May election only in odd-numbered years.) Further, the elimination of the May election date in even-numbered years means that cities would lose the flexibility to hold elections on ballot propositions and charter amendments on the current dates.
The League’s legislative program provides that TML will oppose efforts to eliminate any of the uniform election dates. Thus, the League has testified against the proposal. Concerned city officials should contact their legislators.