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Recently Posted News & Analysis

Democrats File Second Lawsuit Seeking Mail-ballot Clarity

The Texas Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit today (Tuesday) seeking increased access to ballot-by-mail voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. The party filed a similar lawsuit in state court on March 20. A hearing in state district court is scheduled for April 15.

Section 82.002, Election Code provides that a voter is eligible for ballot-by-mail voting “if the voter has a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood … of injuring the voter’s health.” The question becomes whether people’s lack of immunity to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 qualifies as a “physical condition” that prevents a voter from appearing in person creates a “likelihood … of injuring the voter’s health.” To date, no guidance from the Secretary of State has specifically answered that question. An advisory issued on Friday indicated voters may seek to use the pandemic as justification for requesting to vote by mail.

The League of Women Voters and other voting rights groups joined the state lawsuit as intervenors late last week.

“Voters desperately need the court to provide legal clarity that our state law permits all registered voters to vote by mail in light of this global pandemic,” said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas. “We are in unprecedented times, and the need to balance public safety with administrative efficiency cannot be underestimated. Counties need to begin processing applications now.”

Local Elections: Most local elections scheduled for May 2 have been postponed to November 3 or canceled because all candidates were unopposed. See our Municipal Elections page for details.

Wisconsin: The state held its primary elections today (Tuesday), becoming the only state with a primary election scheduled for April that was not postponed. Lines were several blocks long at the five polling stations in Milwaukee, while other polling places in less populated areas were largely deserted. National Guard members were deployed across the state to assist election workers. Results will not be announced until Monday.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

Despite Last-minute Drama, Wisconsin Primary Remains On

Despite consistently saying he lacked the authority to do so, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) issued an executive order postponing tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) primary election until June 9. Legislative leaders said they would challenge the order. The state supreme court, on a 4-2 party-line vote, blocked Evers’s order, permitting the election to proceed. The majority ruled Evers indeed did not have the authority to postpone the election.

The U.S. Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, overturned a lower court decision extending the period for ballots by mail to be returned. Only ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. tomorrow will be counted. A number of the more than 1.2M voters who requested mail-in ballots have not received them yet, so they will have to vote in person.

“The Court’s order requires absentee voters to postmark their ballots by election day … even if they did not receive their ballots by that date. That is a novel requirement,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent. “The Court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement.”

Nearly a half million absentee ballots had not yet been returned.

Subscribers can read the rest of this report.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

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Parties Push to Postpone State Conventions, Consider Digital Formats

The ongoing response to slow the spread of COVID-19 continues to interfere with election calendars. All four of the state’s qualified political parties are taking steps to postpone or alter the in-person nature of their state conventions, all of which were originally scheduled to occur within the next two months.

The State Republican Executive Committee proposed rescheduling the state convention by two months to July 13-18. It will remain in Houston. The move will need to be ratified at a yet to be scheduled in-person SREC meeting. State chair James Dickey appointed a working group to explore “systems to use in place of in-person meetings – if that becomes necessary – and how those systems might scale to our State Convention as well.”

The Texas Democratic Party will hold its convention, scheduled for June 4-6, digitally. “We view this as an opportunity to do something groundbreaking: by moving into a digital forum, we will make it easier for individuals across Texas to participate by removing barriers associated with travel costs, missed work, or physical ability,” state chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.

Subscribers can read the rest of this report.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

Texas SoS Asks Cities to Postpone Elections While Wisconsin Plows Ahead

The Secretary of State is instructing municipalities and other local jurisdictions still planning on holding elections on May 2 to postpone them to November. “If you don’t move your May 2nd election, you are subjecting voters to health risks and potential criminal violations,” said an advisory sent to local governments. “Failure to postpone your election will put your election at severe risk for an election contest.”

Gov. Greg Abbott postponed the May 26 runoff elections until July 14 and strongly encouraged local governments to postpone their May 2 general elections until November. Most have done so.

For those pressing on, early voting would begin April 20 while the state remains under Abbott’s statewide order to stay at home except for essential activities. Election workers are considered essential workers, but voters are not and remain subject to stay-at-home guidelines.

Ten of the 11 states with primary elections scheduled in April have postponed them. Wisconsin is going forward with its April 7 primary election after a federal judge declined to postpone it, saying it is not the “job of a federal district judge to act as a super health department for the state.” U.S. District Judge William Conley scolded attorneys representing the Republican-controlled General Assembly that it should have postponed the elections, saying that would have avoided what may be “a bad decision from the perspective of public health, and it could be excruciatingly bad.”

Subscribers can read the rest of this report.

Federal Fundraising Period Ends Amid COVID-19 Shutdown

Today (Tuesday) was the last day of the campaign finance period for federal candidates and officeholders. April quarterly reports will disclose contributions received and expenditures made between February 13 and March 31 for most filers. Reports for Officeholders not on the ballot this year will include the entire first quarter. Reports must be filed by July 15.

Because of the primary election and the relatively late onset of COVID-19, we expect most candidates’ reports to demonstrate typical fundraising results. We expect the July quarterly reports to show a significant downturn in contributions, especially from small and medium-sized donors, as economic uncertainty and a lack of public campaigning (read: fundraisers) cut into fundraising efforts.

The postponement of the runoff elections to July 14 has created an odd filing schedule for those candidates. Their runoff reports will be due prior to their July semiannual reports and the days covered by them will be greater. Runoff reports are due July 6 and include contributions received and expenditures made between February 23 and July 4. For all other candidates, their July semiannual reports are due July 15 and cover the period running from either January 1 (no primary opponent) or February 23 (contested primary) through June 30. We also expect to see significant downturns in fundraising in these reports, including for those candidates in runoffs.

Subscribers can read the rest of this report.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

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Election Update for March 30

We’ve been asked if there is any polling about the government’s response to the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 with relevance to the general election. It’s probably still too early to tell, and there isn’t much political polling going on (at least that’s publicly reported). Campaigns have largely gone into hibernation, relying on digital engagements, and some have shifted almost entirely to community service efforts.

A national The Economist/YouGov poll (PDF), which was in the field March 22-24, found 49% of “adult citizens” approve of the way President Trump is handling the outbreak and 44% disapprove. Predictably, approval follows partisanship:

  • 92% of Republican primary voters approve, and 6% disapprove
  • 17% of Democratic primary voters approve, and 81% disapprove

Independents are split down the middle with 42% approving and 45% disapproving.

Men (53/41) view his response more favorably than women (44/46). Voters under 30 (38/52) were less approving than voters 65 and older (53/40).

These are not surprising. We have seen this pattern of numbers throughout Trump’s presidency. Again, they’re national numbers, so not really applicable to Texas, but indicative of the overall political mood.

Federal Deadline: Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the last day of the current fundraising quarter for federal candidates and officeholders, in case your inbox hadn’t already alerted you.

CD24 open: Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro endorsed Candace Valenzuela in the Democratic runoff over Kim Olson.

CD31: National pundit David Wasserman has changed his rating to “likely Republican” from “lean Republican” for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock). “Democrats didn’t get the candidate they wanted through the primary,” he wrote, citing Tammy Young’s failure to make the runoff.

Local Elections: We have updated our Municipal Elections page to denote which cities have postponed their May 2 elections until November 3, and to identify a few who canceled them because all candidates were unopposed. We expect several other municipalities will delay their elections. Some may have postponed but have not updated their websites yet.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

Waco Presses for May 2 Election and Other News for March 25

Waco, Midway ISD and Waco ISD have told the McLennan Co. elections office they plan to go forward with holding their general elections on May 2. Elections Administrator Kathy Van Wolfe advised the jurisdictions to delay the election to November and that her office may not conduct the elections if held in May despite being contractually obligated to do so, reported the Waco Herald-Tribune’s Tommy Witherspoon.

Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver acknowledged Van Wolfe’s concerns were valid, but “we just feel like we can provide ways to mitigate those concerns and get the elections held and carried out in a safe and fair manner.” Van Wolfe said many of her usual election workers, most over the age of 70, said they would not participate in May.

Allen, Argyle, Denton, Harker Heights, Killeen, Pearland and San Benito all postponed their general elections to November 3.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) suspended portions of the Election Code to permit local governments to postpone their general elections to November 3 from May 2 and to require county officials to enter into contracts to administer those elections if requested. He encouraged municipalities and other local governments holding elections on May 2 to postpone them.

Subscribers can read the rest of this report.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

Local Governments Postpone Elections and Other News for March 24

Arlington, Bellaire, Bellmead, Clear Creek ISD, Dripping Springs ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Friendswood, Georgetown, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, Jefferson Co. Drainage Dist. No. 7, Lubbock, McKinney, North Lamar ISD and West Lake Hills were among the first local jurisdictions to vote to delay their general and special elections until November.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) suspended portions of the Election Code to permit local governments to postpone their general elections to November 3 from May 2 and to require county officials to enter into contracts to administer those elections if requested. He encouraged municipalities and other local governments holding elections on May 2 to postpone them.

The Hidalgo Co. elections administrator said her office will not conduct elections for any local government holding a May 2 election. Travis Co. has said the same.

SD14 special: Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt (D) has delayed her resignation to continue leading the county’s efforts to respond to COVID-19. Eckhardt automatically resigned when she announced her candidacy for the special election two weeks ago, but she continues to serve until a successor is sworn into office. Former County Judge Sam Biscoe (D) has been selected to succeed her.

Subscribers can read the rest of this report.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

Like Much of Daily Life, Election Activities Grind to Halt

The ongoing response to contain the severity of the spread of COVID-19 has impacted most aspects of a normal, daily life in the state’s largest counties. First of all, I hope each of you, your families and loved ones are safe, healthy and secure. As a small business, I thank you for your continued support even as the primary thing I deliver to you – election news and analysis – has slowed greatly.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last week postponed the May 26 runoff elections until July 14, the date he ordered for the SD14 special election, which normally would have in conjunction with the May 2 general election. Unable to postpone those elections on his own, Abbott  suspended portions of the Election Code and other codes to enable local governments to hold those elections in November. No local government has done so yet, as far as we can tell, but San Benito’s city council will discuss delaying its election at its meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

According to the Valley Morning Star’s Fernando Del Valle, the city manager said, “At a time that county, state, and federal officials are requesting social distancing, it appears that this option may be necessary to protect lives.” Del Valle reported that the candidates with whom he spoke were in favor of the postponement.

Campaigns are hamstrung by social distancing, limits on the size of gatherings and the economic pressures so many Texans are facing. Candidates are simply unable to campaign. Door-to-door blockwalking efforts have largely ended. Rallies can’t be held because of social distancing guidelines and prohibitions of events above a certain attendance. “Retail politics” is largely impossible.

They are also unable to raise money. I expect the July semiannual and quarterly reports will show a significant downturn in contributions compared to the same period in prior election cycles. Fundraising events cannot happen. Economic pressures and uncertainty affecting Texas families will sharply reduce the number of small donors. Candidates will likely be more reliant than ever on large donations or the ability to self-fund their campaigns. We may very well see this come into play in the runoff elections where candidates who have built a broad network of support are suddenly disadvantaged.

I expect campaigns will get created with digital campaigning, including video meet and greets and increased reliance on social media. Fundraising efforts will get creative as well, but they are facing a cascading uncertainty that will likely drive down political contributions. Creativity does not necessarily require money, so I expect we will see some innovative uses of cheap technology in the coming weeks and months.

I also expect the pandemic response will slow voter registrations, although we will not see this data for some time. The next statewide data point does not come until November, which we all hope is well after Texas has returned to business as usual. Depending on when that occurs, registrations may rebound.

In the meantime, there are signs that campaigns are shifting their grassroots efforts to community service from politics. “I will put my campaign’s grassroots team on the job of helping our neighbors across our huge district,” said CD13 Republican runoff candidate Josh Winegarner in a press release. “I want to help people and help Texans help each other.” Several other candidates have released similar statements, as has the Texas Democratic Party, which launched “ConnectTexas, an online community where folks can connect with people locally and statewide to communicate their needs, share resources, and create a sense of unity despite the uncertainty.”

I, as all Texans, look forward to returning to “business as usual.” For now, we must take care of ourselves and each other. Our coverage may be less frequent and have fewer insights and fewer items to report as this crisis continues, but we remain vigilant and will continue to cover Texas elections and candidates. We will not this nasty virus stop us, and neither will you.

Stay safe, stay healthy and take care of each other.

– Jeff

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

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Abbott Postpones Runoffs to July 14

Gov. Greg Abbott has postponed the May 26 primary runoff elections to July 14.

Holding the election in May “would cause the congregation of large gatherings of people in confined spaces and force numerous election workers to come into close proximity to others, thereby threatening the health and safety of many Texans and literally exposing them to risk of death due to COVID-19,” Abbott said in his proclamation (PDF). It “would therefore prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in containing the COVID-19 disaster.”

Abbott’s decision was telegraphed earlier Friday by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) during an appearance on the Mark Davis Show.

The Republican Party of Texas supported a delay “to allow for time to ensure that Texas voters and their votes are protected and safeguarded.” In a letter released publicly, the Texas Democratic Party said it wanted a process that “reduces the need for in-person voting and enhances Texans’ ability to vote by mail.”

The Democratic Party has since filed a lawsuit in Travis Co. (PDF) to expand ballot-by-mail voting, “instead of bringing our democratic process to a halt.” The lawsuit seeks to “allow any person who does not want to risk their health or that of their family’s [sic] during this coronavirus pandemic to vote by mail.” Specifically, the suit claims that Section 82.002, Election Code, already allows voters to cast ballots by mail “under the circumstances of this pandemic” and seeks a declaratory order.

The 2012 primary runoff elections were held July 31 after the primary elections, scheduled for March 6, were pushed back to May 29 as a result of redistricting litigation.

CD24: Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Addison) endorsed Candace Valenzuela in the Democratic runoff over Kim Olson.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

Abbott Encourages Local Governments to Delay May 2 Elections

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has suspended portions of the Election Code to permit local governments to postpone their general elections to November 3 from May 2 and to require county officials to enter into contracts to administer those elections if requested. He encouraged municipalities and other local governments holding elections on May 2 to postpone them.

Current officeholders would continue to serve until successors are elected, and the end of a term of office for any candidate winning a postponed election would be the same as if that person were elected in May (or a June runoff). Candidate filing periods would not be re-opened.

Abbott did not announce any policy decisions about the May 26 primary runoff elections but noted that they are state elections and thus under his authority. He has called a press conference for noon CT tomorrow (Thursday) that may include election administration measures among other steps to respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters asked Abbott to “act quickly to preserve Texas elections.” In a press release, the group asked Abbott to “strongly promote” ballot-by-mail voting for “any individual 65 or older, and all eligible citizens with disabilities,” which the group said be defined broadly to include individuals most vulnerable to COVID-19. The group also called on expanding the “number of trained poll workers and election judges to cover absences, and therefor prevent closure of polling places” and provide up-to-date polling place location information, including wait times, on the state’s VoteTexas website.

CD2: Elisa Cardnell has withdrawn from the Democratic runoff election. She had previously suspended her campaign. Sima Ladjevardian, who received 48% of the vote in the March primary election, is now the Democratic nominee to challenge U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston), and the Democratic runoff election is canceled for this race.

CD17 open: Four former rivals endorsed former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) in the Republican runoff over Renée Swann: Scott Bland, George Hindman, Todd Kent and Laurie McReynolds. Hindman finished third in the March primary election with 18% of the vote. Bland finished fifth (7%), Kent finished seventh (3%) and McReynolds finished in ninth place (2%) in the 12-candidate field.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

Vela Out of SD14 Race and Other Brief News for March 17

SD14 special: Attorney Chito Vela III announced he would not seek the seat being vacated by Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Auston) and would instead run for Austin council if council member Greg Casar vacates his seat to run for SD14. Casar would automatically resign from the council if he became a candidate for Watson’s seat. He has established a campaign committee for the race but has otherwise not announced any plans to run. Vela narrowly lost the 2018 Democratic runoff for HD46 to Sheryl Cole, 51%-49%.

Upcoming Elections: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said “everything is on the table” for potential changes in how the May 26 runoff elections will be conducted in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Abbott said his office is trying to determine whether he has legal authority to order changes for the May 2 uniform elections, or whether only local governments can make any changes. He said he expected to make decisions “shortly.”

Citing the pandemic, Abbott delayed the SD14 special election to July 14. It would have otherwise coincided with the May 2 uniform election.

Nationally, five states have postponed primary elections, including Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine (R) issued the order the night before voting was set to begin. Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maryland have postponed their primaries to late May or June.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC

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Jeff Blaylock

Jeff Blaylock

Publisher

Jeff is a political junkie, longtime public policy wonk and former Texas Legislature staffer who has worked political campaigns in Texas and several other states, ranging from school boards to legislators to governors to referenda. He is a public and government affairs consultant based in Austin, Texas, who offers his keen insights about Lone Star State politics as Texas Election Source.

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