Can’t get enough of elections? May offers two opportunities for Texans to vote
Voters in Texas can decide on several local ballot initiatives — plus two constitutional amendments — on May 7 before heading back to the polls on May 24 for primary runoff elections.
Texas voters will be treated to a “bonus” election in May during an election cycle that already features primary runoff elections and local ballot races.
In addition to the regular helping of local elections for city councils, school boards and other local government positions, two amendments to the Texas Constitution will also be on the ballot for the May 7 election. Then voters can return to the polls to cast their ballots in local and statewide runoff elections to determine which Democratic and Republican candidates advance to the November general election. Runoff election day is May 24 for both political parties.
This is a bit different than usual. Normally, the state constitutional amendment election would have been conducted earlier. But because Texas lawmakers met well into the summer of 2021, those initiatives were added to the May 7 ballot instead.
“The Legislature met really late last year and during those second and third special sessions of the Legislature, there were constitutional amendment propositions passed by two thirds of both houses,” said Sam Taylor, the assistant Texas Secretary of State for Communications. “So those, by default, automatically got put on the May ballot rather than the November ballot … when they usually appear.”
Taylor described this as “sort of have a bonus election that we usually don't get, which is those statewide constitutional amendment propositions in all 254 counties.”
Early voting kicked off on Monday, April 25 and runs through May 3.
What’s on the ballot on May 7?
The two constitutional amendment propositions involve property tax relief for some Texas homeowners. The first proposition, if approved, would annually decrease the amount of school district property taxes for senior citizens and disabled Texas. The second proposition, if approved, would increase a homeowner’s homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000.
In addition to the Constitutional amendment propositions, several local entities will have contests for municipal, school board and other positions, as well as some local propositions. The local ballot depends on where a person lives. For example, Austin residents will get a chance to weigh in on no-knock police warrants and penalties for marijuana possession, KUT reported. In North Texas, several local entities have races to decide city council and mayoral seats. And in San Antonio voters will decide the fate of several bond proposals for possible funding of roads, sidewalks, parks, recreational centers and more, Texas Public radio reported.
Taylor told The Texas Newsroom he’s hopeful turnout will be higher than usual because of the statewide initiatives on the May 7 ballot. In the past, not every county had a local election at the same time, so he thinks interest this year could increase.
“Because every single county will be voting and there are two big property tax related propositions on the ballot … I think we'll definitely have higher turnout than we usually have in a May election,” he said.
Taylor added that due to recent news about property valuation increases in some of the state’s metro areas, people will be more inclined to make their voices heard on anything related to property taxes.
“Looking at past Constitutional amendment elections that are in November, usually the turnout is in the single digits. It's somewhere between maybe five and eight percent, or sometimes even lower than five,” he said. “It really depends on what's on the ballot. But because property taxes are such a visible issue and an issue that a lot of Texans are talking about and thinking about, then I think that has the potential to drive voters to the polls.”
The May 24 runoff election
Later in May voters will return to the polls to finally set the ballot for the November general election. Several candidates for local and statewide offices failed to garner the votes needed during the March primary – 50 % plus one vote – to advance to the general election. Those races include the Republican primary for Texas Attorney General, which pits incumbent Ken Paxton against state land commissioner George P. Bush. The candidates for Texas Land Commissioner are also on the ballot, including Republicans Dawn Buckingham, a current state senator, and Tim Westley. Democrats Jay Kleberg and Sandragrace Martinez will also be on that party’s ballot.
Several local races may also be on May 24 ballot depending on where a person lives, including congressional runoffs and Texas House and Senate seats.
Early voting for the May 24 runoff election runs from Monday, May 16 to Friday, May 20.
Which primary can I vote in?
Texas law mandates that voters cast ballots in the same party election during the runoff as they did during the primary. That means a voter can only vote in the Republican runoff election if they voted in the Republican primary in March. The same goes for Texans who cast ballots in the Democratic primary.
However, if a voter didn’t cast a ballot in March, they are free to choose which party’s runoff election they participate in. Taylor said, given the way the current voting system is set up, it’s very difficult for a voter to switch parties during a runoff. But if that does happen, the voter could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, according to state law.
“It’s highly unlikely a voter would even get that far. Since voting history, including which party’s primary a voter cast a ballot in earlier in the year, is included in a voter’s registration file, the voter would not even be able to check in at the polling place to vote in a different party’s primary runoff, nor would an election official be able to issue a mail ballot for a different party’s primary runoff,” explained Taylor.