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Significant Changes Proposed to Election Calendar

By Nanette Forbes
TAC Legislative Staff

Senate State Affairs heard SB 100 on March 14, a bill that could prompt significant changes to the elections calendar for primary elections and general local government elections conducted in May.

The bill, authored by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), aims to bring Texas election laws into compliance with the requirements of the federal Military Overseas Voters Empowerment Act (MOVE) to allow military and overseas voters sufficient time to vote in elections.

However, changing the primary filing deadline to December to accommodate military mail-in ballots poses a problem for certain district and county officers because it would require candidates to file applications earlier than they do under current law. Announcing their candidacy to run for a different office with more than one year remaining in the term would cause an automatic resignation of office due to the constitutional resign-to-run provision.

Jim Allison, general counsel for the County Judges & Commissioners Association of Texas, testified in opposition to moving the filing deadline.

“Moving the filing deadline to back into December creates a number of very serious problems,” Allison said.

Allison said the change would extend campaigns and reduce voter turnout. Most importantly, moving the filing deadline back will limit the number of candidates. Allison recommended looking carefully at other options.

Donald Lee, executive director of the Conference for Urban Counties, agreed with Allison and expressed preference for options that keep the filing deadline in the current year. Most important to his membership is pursuing compliance with the MOVE Act using the current election calendar.

Monday, the committee considered SJR 37 by Van de Putte, which was filed in an effort to resolve the resign-to-run effects of SB 100. The resolution would repeal Article XVI, Section 65, the resign-to-run constitutional provision.

Proposed significant changes to the election calendar compared to current law include:

Primary Filing Deadline: Dec. 5, 2011
(Current Law: Jan. 2, 2012)

First day of early voting in person: Feb. 20, 2012
(Current Law: Feb. 20, 2012)

Primary Election: March 6, 2012
(Current Law: March 6, 2012)

Deadline to run as a write-in candidate for May election: March 12, 2012
(Current Law: March 19, 2012)

Deadline to conduct ballot drawing for runoff: March 14, 2012
(Current Law: March 19, 2012)

First day to vote early in the primary runoff AND for the May uniform election date: May 14, 2012
(Current Law: First day period to vote early in the primary runoff: April 2, 2012)

Runoff primary election day AND May uniform election day: May 22, 2012
(Current Law: Runoff primary election day: April 10, 2012)
(Current Law: May uniform election day: May 12, 2012)

Runoff date for May uniform election date: July 31, 2012

The fiscal note for SB 100 prepared by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) reported “no significant fiscal implication to the state is anticipated.”

“Costs to counties would vary depending on the number of military personnel serving overseas who wish to vote but are not anticipated to be significant,” the LBB reported.

SB 100 and SJR 37 were left pending in committee.

“[We] will continue to try to work to build a consensus on where we are going,” said Sen. Robert Duncan, chair of Senate State Affairs.