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Stories about Texas

Austin voters will decide eight ballot measures on May 1, including ranked-choice voting and police oversight

On May 1, Austin, Texas voters will decide eight ballot measures. All but one, Proposition C, were put on the ballot through initiative signature petition drives.

Proposition A was sponsored by the Austin Firefighters Association, Local 975. The measure would amend the city’s charter to require the city and firefighters association to participate in binding arbitration when an agreement cannot be reached through collective bargaining regarding working conditions. The union is set to begin the negotiation process with the city for a new contract in the spring of 2022.

Proposition B was sponsored by Save Austin Now, a bi-partisan PAC founded by Cleo Petricek (D) and Matt Mackowiak, chairman of the Travis County GOP. The measure would make it a criminal offense for anyone to sit, lie down, or camp in public areas and prohibit the solicitation of money or other things of value at specific hours and locations. The measure is in response to a 2019 unanimous vote by the Austin City Council to repeal an ordinance that prohibited sitting, lying, or panhandling in the downtown area. The city council also voted 9-2 to prohibit camping in public areas under certain circumstances.

Save Austin Now campaign said on their website, “Incompetent policy has encouraged aggressive public camping and panhandling that creates unsafe living conditions on the streets and unsafe streets for everyone else.” The measure is opposed by Homes Not Handcuffs. The  Homes Not Handcuffs campaign said, “These laws also make the underlying problems that cause homelessness worse. People wrack up fines and fees that they cannot pay. They are saddled with criminal records, making it more difficult to get housing and employment.”

Proposition C was referred to the ballot in a 10-1 vote of the Austin City Council with Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly opposing the measure. Proposition C would amend the city’s charter to authorize the city council to determine how the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed or removed through a city ordinance. Currently, the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed by the city manager. Council Member Gregorio Casar, a sponsor of the amendment, said, “If we want police accountability, then we need our police oversight office to be as independent as possible. In other cities, the Office of Police Oversight is independently appointed or is overseen by a civilian board, but right now our options as a city are limited. By making this proposed charter change in May, the community and city council have the opportunity to create more transparency and accountability of our police department in the future.”

Austinites for Progressive Reform sponsored five initiatives related to elections and local governance: 

  • Proposition D would align mayoral elections with presidential election years instead of gubernatorial elections years beginning in 2024.
  • Proposition E would enact ranked-choice voting provided state law allows it.
  • Proposition F would change city governance from a council-manager system to a mayor-council system.
  • Proposition G would add an additional city council district, thereby increasing the total number of city council members from 10 to 11.
  • Proposition H would adopt a public campaign finance program that provides $25 vouchers to registered voters to contribute to campaigns of qualifying candidates.

Austinites for Progressive Reform said, “Our goal is to amend Austin’s city charter to enact proven campaign finance reforms, election reforms, and governance reforms. By doing so, we will increase political participation, increase voter turnout, and make sure our city works for everybody.” 

The last day to register to vote in the election is April 1. Early voting begins on April 19 and runs through April 27. On election day, the polls will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

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Mississippi lifts mask restrictions; Texas, Alabama announce dates for ending requirements

Thirty-nine states issued statewide mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, the governors of Alabama and Texas announced dates for lifting statewide mask requirements, and the governor of Mississippi lifted the state’s regional mask requirement. As a result, six of the original thirty-nine states with statewide mask requirements have now lifted or announced dates to lift them.

Mississippi had a statewide mask requirement from Aug. 5-Sept. 30, 2020, followed by a regional mask requirement that applied in 75 of 82 counties. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) lifted the regional mask requirement on March 3, though the state still requires masks in K-12 school buildings.

Reeves’ order also lifted gathering restrictions for individuals. Large indoor venues like arenas with ticketed seating are limited to 50% seating capacity. Previously, only 10 people could gather indoors and 50 could gather outdoors.

On March 2, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an order, effective March 10, ending the statewide mask mandate and allowing all businesses to open at 100% capacity. If COVID-19 hospitalizations get above 15% of hospital bed capacity in any of the state’s 22 hospital regions for seven consecutive days, then a county judge may impose some restrictions. Those restrictions cannot include capacity limits below 50%, however. The order also prohibits jurisdictions from penalizing people for not wearing face coverings. Texas’ mask order was first implemented July 3.

On March 4, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order, including the mask requirement, until 5:00 p.m. on April 9. Ivey said she will let the mask order expire on April 9. Ivey first issued the statewide mask requirement on July 16.

Thirty-five states currently have statewide mask orders, including all 23 states with Democratic governors and 12 out of the 27 states with Republican governors.



Candidate filing deadline passes in Texas’ 6th Congressional District

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District had until March 3, 2021, to file. The general election is scheduled for May 1.

The special election was called after Ronald Wright (R) passed away due to complications from COVID-19 on February 7, 2021. Wright served from 2019 to 2021.

As of March 2021, three special elections have been scheduled to complete a term in the U.S. House. From the 113th Congress to the 116th Congress, 50 special elections were held.

Texas’ U.S. House delegation includes 22 Republicans and 13 Democrats and one vacancy.

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Three candidates file for city council special election in Garland, Texas

The city of Garland, Texas, will hold a nonpartisan special election for District 1 on the Garland City Council on May 1, 2021. The filing deadline for the special election was March 1.

Jeff Bass, John Grimley, and Angie Whitney will face off in the special election. The seat is currently held by Ricky McNeal. He was appointed to the seat in December 2020 to replace David Gibbons. He will hold the seat until the May 1 election.

Ballotpedia will also be covering the Garland mayoral race and four other city council seats on the May 1 ballot. The filing deadline for those races was February 12. Garland is the 87th largest city by population in the United States.

Thirty-one mayoral elections are being held in the 100 largest U.S. cities in 2021. As of March 2021, the partisan breakdown of the mayors of the 100 largest U.S. cities was 64 Democrats, 25 Republicans, four independents, and seven nonpartisans.

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Governor sets special election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District for May 1

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called a special election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House. The special election will fill the vacancy left by Ronald Wright (R), who died from complications related to COVID-19 on February 7, 2021. The general election will be held May 1, 2021. The filing deadline is March 3, 2021.

Two other special elections have been scheduled for vacant seats in the 117th United States Congress, both U.S. House seats in Louisiana. Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District became vacant after Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) joined the Biden administration as senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District became vacant when Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R) died on December 29, 2020, from complications related to COVID-19 before he was sworn into office.

Fifty special elections to the United States Congress were held during the 113th through 116th Congresses. During that time, special elections were called for 16 seats vacated by Democrats and 34 vacated by Republicans.

As of February 23, Texas’ U.S. House delegation has 13 Democrats, 22 Republicans, and one vacancy. The U.S. House has 221 Democrats, 211 Republicans, and three vacancies. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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Voters in Texas House district to decide special election runoff on Feb. 23

A special general runoff election is being held on February 23 for District 68 of the Texas House of Representatives. Craig Carter (R) is facing David Spiller (R) in the runoff. Carter and Spiller advanced from the general election on January 23, earning 18% of the vote and 44% of the vote, respectively. Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation on February 4 to schedule the runoff.

The seat became vacant after Drew Springer (R) won a special election for Texas State Senate District 30 on December 19, 2020. Springer was elected to the state House in 2012. He won re-election in November 2020 with 85.5% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have an 82-67 majority in the Texas House. Texas has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of February, 26 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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23 candidates file to run for mayor, city council in Arlington, Texas

The filing deadline for candidates interested in running for mayor and city council member in Arlington, Texas, was February 12, 2021. The nonpartisan general election is scheduled for May 1.

Eight candidates—Doni Anthony, Kelly Burke, former city councilmember Michael Glaspie, Cirilo Ocampo Jr., Jim Ross, District 3 city councilmember Marvin Sutton, Jerry Warden, and Dewayne Washington—filed to replace Jeff Williams as mayor. Williams was elected as mayor of Arlington in 2015 and is unable to run for re-election in 2021 due to term limits.

In total, 15 candidates filed to run for four seats on the Arlington City Council.

District 3

Tamiko Brown, Nikkie Hunter, Alixis Lupien, Diana Saleh, and Dora Tovar filed to run for this open seat. Incumbent Marvin Sutton was elected to the seat in 2019. He filed to run for mayor instead of running for re-election.

District 4

Incumbent Andrew Piel will face Hunter Crow, Billy McClendon Jr., Nehal Mehta, Anne Nwaefulu, and Cheyenne Zokaie in the general election. Piel was elected to this seat in 2019.

District 5

Rebecca Boxall and Kennedy Jones filed to run for this open seat. Incumbent Ignacio Nunez was elected to this seat in 2019. He did not file for re-election.

District 8

Incumbent Barbara Odom-Wesley will face Chris Dobson in the general election. Odom-Wesley was elected to the seat in 2019.

Arlington is the 50th largest city by population in the United States. Thirty-one mayoral elections are being held in the 100 largest U.S. cities in 2021. As of February 2021, the partisan breakdown of the mayors of the 100 largest U.S. cities was 64 Democrats, 25 Republicans, four independents, and seven nonpartisans.

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Rep. Ronald Wright dies from complications related to COVID-19

Rep. Ronald Wright (R-Texas) passed away from complications related to coronavirus on Feb. 7. He was diagnosed with the disease on Jan. 21. Wright was first elected to Texas’ 6th Congressional District in 2018, serving until his death in 2021. 

Wright ran for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 3, winning with 52.8% of the vote to Stephen Daniel’s (D) 44%. Prior to joining the U.S. House, Wright served as Tarrant County tax assessor-collector from 2011 to 2017. 

According to Article I, Section 2, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution, “When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.” As of Feb. 8, two special elections to the U.S. House had been called: Louisiana’s 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts. With Wright’s death, the current partisan breakdown of the U.S. House is 221 Democrats, 210 Republicans, and four vacancies.   

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Special election runoff to be held on Feb. 23 in Texas state House district

A special general runoff election has been scheduled for February 23 in District 68 of the Texas House of Representatives. Craig Carter (R) is facing David Spiller (R) in the runoff. Carter and Spiller advanced from the general election on January 23, earning 18% of the vote and 44% of the vote, respectively. Governor Greg Abbott (R) issued a proclamation on February 4 to schedule the runoff.

The seat became vacant after Drew Springer (R) won a special election for District 30 of the Texas State Senate on December 19, 2020. Springer was elected to the state House in 2012. He won re-election in November 2020 with 85.5% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have an 82-67 majority in the Texas House. Texas has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of February, 26 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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Filing deadline approaches for Texas school board elections

The filing deadline to run for school board in 57 Texas districts is on February 12, 2021. The general election is scheduled for May 1, 2021. 

If no candidate wins the majority of the vote in the general election, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff election. The date of the runoff election varies by school district.

Some school boards in Texas hold elections in November. Six school districts covered by Ballotpedia will have general elections on November 2, 2021.

During the 2016-2017 school year, 1,955,339 students were enrolled in the 57 districts holding elections in May.

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