HD46: Republican Gabe Nila, who received 19% of the vote in the general election, said he intends to be a candidate for the 2017 special election that will be necessitated by Rep. Dawnna Dukes’s (D-Austin) expected resignation on January 10. He joins at two others who have publicly said they would seek the seat: attorney and former Austin council member Sheryl Cole and Austin attorney Chito Vela III. Austin political consultant Joe Deshotel (son of Rep. Joe Deshotel) and Travis Co. Democratic Party chair Vincent Harding have been mentioned as potential candidates.

Pre-filed Legislation: Today (Monday) was the first day that legislators and members-elect could file legislation for the upcoming legislative session. Numerous proposals were filed that could impact future elections, including various bills aimed at electronic and automatic voter registration. Other highlights include:

  • Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) filed a bill (pdf) that would permit voters aged 70 or older to use expired photo identifications for voting purposes.
  • Rep. Mark Keough (R-The Woodlands) filed a bill (pdf) that would shift and shorten the early voting period. Under the bill, early voting would run nine days and end on the Sunday prior to Election Day.
  • Keough also filed a bill (pdf) that would require the chief appraiser of each county to be elected every two years. Candidates for the office would appear on the ballot as independent candidates.
  • Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) filed a bill (pdf) to provide for a special primary election to fill a vacated party nomination. Under current law, vacancies are filled by the party’s relevant executive committee. Sen.-elect Borris Miles (D-Houston) and Rep.-elect Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) were selected by those districts’ precinct chairs to fill vacancies created by the selection of Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) to replace the late Harris Co. Comm. El Franco Lee on the ballot for county commissioner. In 2014, Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) was selected by his district’s executive committee following then-Rep. Charles Perry’s (R-Lubbock) promotion to the Senate via a special election.
  • Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) filed a bill (pdf) that would eliminate the May uniform election date used by many local jurisdictions. This would effectively place all candidates for office on the November ballot in odd- and even-numbered years.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick included revising the state’s Voter ID law among his ten top legislative priorities. Listing it at No. 5, the issue was framed, “Photo Voter ID – Nothing is more critical to our democracy than the integrity of the voting process. Photo Voter ID is essential.”

Hill Co.: Representatives of the Office of the Attorney General were in Hillsboro to conduct an examination of ballots from the March 1 primary election as part of a criminal investigation to account for discrepancies between the number of votes cast and the number of voters listed on the rosters as having voted. Hill Co. election officials have maintained that clerical errors resulted in nearly 1,800 voters not being listed on voting rosters.  The results of last week’s “recount” were sealed under court order until next week by 66th District Court Judge Lee Harris, who thought that releasing the results so close to the general election would create confusion. The investigation will not impact any outcomes of that primary.