In a press release this morning, conservative State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) announced his intent to file legislation requiring that “all property tax rate increase elections will be held on a uniform election date in November.”
Bettencourt’s announcement was spurred by multiple elections across the state hosted on “specially picked, low turnout election days in the dog days of summer.” Many of these elections are slated for late August and September, often less than two months before the November general election.
Holding elections on other dates increases costs on taxpayers, who are forced to shoulder the bill for conducting an election which could have been tacked on to the later November ballot for pennies on the dollar, so why do local governments conduct them?
To quote State Rep. Mike Schofield (R-Katy), who has expressed interest in carrying similar legislation, “If you have elections that few people know about, it’s like you’re trying to avoid the voters.”
It’s like they’re trying to avoid voters because they are trying to avoid voters.
If you’re a tax-raising bureaucrat it makes sense. By holding elections in the dog days of summer, these entities are naturally limiting the electorate to a smaller base of voters where government employees and bond beneficiaries will make up a greater proportion of the voter pool.
But these entities—particularly school and hospital districts—can go even further to attempt to engineer the outcome by placing voting locations in areas sympathetic to the issue for days at a time, a process known as rolling polling.
Perhaps no more egregious example of this is North Texas’ Lancaster ISD, which is holding a tax ratification election on Saturday, August 25th and employing rolling polling to place voting locations exclusively in schools and administrative buildings—locations which happen to be chock full of sympathetic voters.
If that weren’t egregious enough, the school is also hosting several “campus welcome events” in which vendors are allowed to distribute giveaways and other promotional items.
As Texas Scorecard’s own Erin Anderson reports, the TRE rolling polling dates and locations are a near-perfect match with the welcome event dates and locations.
Ending rolling polling and holding elections on uniform dates are legislative priorities of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. Both Bettencourt and Schofield should be commended for their efforts to end these abuses.