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Jun 15

June 15, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #64

Posted on June 15, 2020 at 3:48 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


Has the Texas attorney general issued even more warnings to voting officials related to voting by mail?


Yes, last week the attorney general issued the following warning to county officials. We’ve included it here because a handful of cities will have special elections this summer. It’s also a preview of what city election officials may be dealing with in November.


AG Paxton Warns County Officials to Avoid Misleading the Public on Vote by Mail Laws


Following recent decisions by the Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Fifth Circuit, Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued another guidance letter to Texas county judges and election officials, warning that Texans may not claim disability based on fears of contracting COVID-19 to obtain a mail-in ballot. Due to inaccurate statements by public officials and private groups, Attorney General Paxton issued his first guidance letter on May 1.  


‘As the Texas Supreme Court held, mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are legitimately ill and cannot vote in-person without assistance or jeopardizing their health. The Texas Election Code is lawful, constitutional, and correctly protects our elections from fraud and voters from disenfranchisement,’ said Attorney General Paxton. ‘It is vital that we work together to preserve the integrity of our democratic election process and consistently follow the law established by our legislature.’ 


Today’s letter follows a Texas Supreme Court decision that held that a voter may not claim ‘disability’ for the purpose of casting a ballot by mail merely because the voter lacks immunity to COVID-19.


Additionally, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that Texas is likely to win arguments that the Election Code’s ballot-by-mail provisions are consistent with the Equal Protection Clause and the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Following these rulings, the Texas Democratic Party and other groups filed a motion to dismiss their state court lawsuit this week.”  


Further Updates


What information does TML have for cities as they start to prepare for the upcoming budget year?


TML has developed a special-edition, mid-year fiscal conditions survey to help cities navigate the upcoming budget planning process. With an unexpected public health crisis and an economic recession, most cities will have to make difficult decisions over the next coming months. Survey questions center on current budget shortfalls, as well as the anticipated impact on next year budgets.


The full text of the survey is available here, but we prefer that you complete it online.


We ask that one official from each city complete the survey no later than Friday, June 19. Please contact JJ Rocha with questions at or 512-705-3912. 


Can revenue received by a city from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) be used to cover the 25% local cost sharing requirement under the FEMA Public Assistance Program?


Likely so. Under the FEMA Public Assistance program, federal funds have a 75% federal, 25% local cost share provision. In other words, a city receiving FEMA public assistance dollars would need to be able to locally pay for up to 25% of the costs of an eligible expense. In contrast, the CRF created by the federal CARES Act has no similar cost sharing provision.


The White House has informally indicated that states may use CRF funds to pay for FEMA’s 25% cost share requirement. Based on League conversations with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the ability to use CRF revenue for FEMA public assistance cost sharing would likely extend to cities that have received CRF allocations. At this time, we are unaware of any additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury or FEMA regarding use of CRF funds. The League will provide updates on any such guidance when it becomes available.


Is a city required to use county election precincts for its election on the November uniform election date?


Yes. Election Code Section 42.0621 requires all political subdivisions, including cities, to use county election precincts for elections held on the November uniform election date. Even though many cities’ elections this November were originally scheduled for May 2020 before they were delayed due to public health concerns, the statutory requirement to use county election precincts still applies to any election of a political subdivision held on the November date. This includes an election postponed from May. This position is supported by the Secretary of State’s Elections Division in Election Advisory No. 2020-12.


In most cases, cities will already be using county election precincts in November pursuant to their election contracts with the county. In the governor’s initial proclamation authorizing political subdivisions to move their elections to November, the governor expressly requires county election officials to contract to furnish election services to cities that moved their elections from May, should the city request the county to do so.


City officials in cities holding elections this November should work closely with county election officials to make sure voters know that some traditional city polling places used in May might not be available for the November election.


Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?


TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.