Residents of a second Texas county are petitioning for a vote to stop forced annexation in their county.

Wise County citizens submitted their petition Monday — making Wise the second county to complete a municipal annexation reform “opt-in” petition under a new state law.

Volunteers with the group Wise Citizens for Property Rights (WCPR) started circulating their petition just six months ago, hoping to do what state lawmakers failed to: protect local property owners from being annexed into cities without their consent.

A limited annexation reform law enacted last year only protects landowners in the state’s largest counties, those with 500,000 or more residents. Unincorporated property owners in the rest of Texas, including Wise County, can still be subjected to forced annexation – unless residents vote to change their county to protected “Tier 2” status.

The provision that lets residents of smaller counties, like Wise, petition for a vote to adopt the law’s protections was added by State Rep. Phil King (R–Weatherford), who represents Wise and Parker counties and attended Monday’s petition filing.

WCPR’s organizers, including the group’s president Bryson Boyd, are confident they have more than enough valid petition signatures.

They needed at least 3,963 signers – 10 percent of registered voters in the county – to get the Tier 2 opt-in measure on the ballot. They exceeded their goal, collecting over 6,000 petition signatures from across the county.

Wise County Elections Administrator Sabra Srader officially accepted the petition, which filled a huge binder, on Monday afternoon.

The elections office has 30 days to verify that the petition contains enough valid signatures. Once certified, Wise County Commissioners Court will accept the petition and order the election.

Boyd, who is self-employed, told Texas Scorecard he is looking forward to taking a few weeks off to focus more on his business now that the petition has been filed. “We’re in a holding pattern right now while we wait for confirmation from the elections office,” he said.

But his team is ready to start on the next phase – persuading voters to turn out and vote for the ballot proposition.

“As soon as we get ballot language,” Boyd said, “we’re going to hit it hard, that’s for sure.”

Parker County residents were the first to file a municipal annexation reform petition, back in March, and an opt-in measure is already scheduled to be on Parker County’s November ballot.

Petition drives are also underway in Bell, Ellis, and Johnson counties.

“We’re excited to be the second county, and hopefully there will be about 240 more or the legislature will fix it,” Boyd said. “But we’re not waiting around for the legislature.”

Texans shouldn’t have to petition their government for protection of basic property rights. But until the legislature extends protected status to all Texas landowners, and not just those in a handful of counties, citizens will continue to work — county by county — to protect themselves from local government overreach.

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.