Voters in two North Texas counties overwhelmingly approved ballot measures to protect local property owners from the unfair practice of forced annexation.

Both Ellis County, just south of Dallas, and Montague County, northwest of Tarrant, passed propositions on their May 4 ballots that impose countywide bans on involuntary annexation of unincorporated land by neighboring cities.

Ellis County voters adopted the property rights protection 87-13 percent. Montague County’s measure passed by an even wider margin, 91-9 percent.

Texas is one of just a handful of states that allows involuntary or forced annexation. Reforms enacted in 2017 created a two-tier system that only partially stopped the unfair practice.

Cities in counties designated “Tier 2” (with 500,000 or more residents) must ask owners’ permission before annexing their unincorporated property. In smaller “Tier 1” counties, cities can annex property without owners’ consent—unless local residents vote to adopt protected Tier 2 status. The law allows residents to petition for a vote on the issue by gathering signatures from at least 10 percent of their counties’ registered voters.

Six counties approved the state’s first Tier 2 ballot propositions last November. But in the vast majority of Texas counties, forced annexation is still allowed.

A bill to end forced annexation statewide is currently working its way through the Texas Legislature. State Rep. Phil King (R–Weatherford) filed House Bill 347 to extend the limited reforms enacted last session to all 254 Texas counties, eliminating the unequal two-tier system.

“If today it’s wrong to forcibly annex property in 16 counties, it ought to be wrong in all the other 238 counties in Texas,” King said at a committee hearing on the bill.

HB 347 passed the House and is awaiting a vote by the Senate.

Lawmakers should ban the practice of forced annexation statewide. Until then, Texans must continue taking action locally to protect their property rights.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.

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