by Jerrie Champlin
President, League of Women Voters of Comal Area
Several bills being considered by the current 88th Texas Legislature seek to usurp or interfere with local control in a number of areas including election administration.
The proposed legislation would rewrite the rules that have governed state and local relationships for decades.
Lawmakers are debating sweeping legislation preempting local ordinances in significant areas such as natural resources, finance, and labor. These changes would be enforced through private action at the expense of local government.
The same pattern is found in bills dealing with election administration. Real and perceived issues with election administration in Harris County in 2022 are being used as an excuse to subject election officials and election workers across the state including in Comal and Guadalupe counties to everything from increased criminal and civil liability to outright takeover by the state.
- Legislation allowing the Secretary of State to directly administer county elections based on a ‘good cause to believe,’ not actual evidence of fumbles in election administration;
- Legislation giving the Secretary of State the same power as a district court judge to order a new election;
- Legislation creating elections marshals to police local elections;
- Legislation allowing the prosecution of election-law violations in counties other than the county in which the alleged violation occurred.
Texas is a large and diverse state.
One size does not fit all, and while these election bills are being justified by issues that arose in one large county, most provisions apply to the whole.
We elect local officials to decide what is best for our communities because we can easily communicate our needs to them. State law and state officials cannot address every locality’s varying needs. Local elections run by local election officials and workers are essential to our democracy, and the State should not interfere with local authority.
As Thomas Jefferson said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.”
The League of Women Voters encourages Texans to contact their state lawmakers about these issues. An easy-to-use and quick online contact tool with more information about these bills is available at lwvtexas.org/take-action.
Here is a list of bills LWV is most-concerned about:
- Prospectively preempt local ordinances – HB2127/SB814
- Preempt local election administration by expanding the power of the Secretary of State – SB1933, HB2020, SB1993
- Preempt local prosecutorial discretion by disciplining local prosecutors – SB20
- Preempt certain discretion of local judges through disciplinary proceedings – SB21
- Intimidate local election workers – SB1910,1039,1807, 1911, 1938, 1950
- Preempt local enforcement of election code – SB220
- Preempt prosecution of local election law violations by allowing forum shopping – HB5053
The League of Women Voters is a 501(c)3, nonpartisan, political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy.