The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Austin, July 31 – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton yesterday issued an opinion letter making clear that local officials may not postpone local elections that were scheduled to be held on May 2, 2020, beyond the November 3, 2020, General Election date. Paxton address the letter to Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan.
After moving its May 2, 2020, local election to November 3, 2020, as permitted by Governor Greg Abbott’s proclamation, the Round Rock City Council now wants to postpone the election—again—to May 2021. The City’s attorney claimed that local laws require the election to be held in May, not November, and that the Governor cannot suspend the provisions of a local charter.
“The governor’s proclamation allowed local elections that were scheduled to be held on May 2, 2020 to be moved to November 3, 2020. It was the Round Rock City Council’s decision to move its local election to November, not the Governor’s. Because the law does not allow the City Council to move its election a second time in these circumstances, the city must hold its election in November, as it said it would,” said Paxton in the letter to Mayor Morgan.
Paxton further clarified, “Under the Election Code enacted by our Legislature, elections must be held properly on the correct date, or the election is void. The right to vote is fundamental in nature, because it is the mechanism through which all other rights are secured. Infringing the right to vote undermines the basic concept of a republic. We must all work together to ensure that our democratic process is followed properly, freely, and fairly.”
Paxton noted further to Mayor Morgan that “…the Governor’s proclamation expressly declares that the otherwise-expired statutory deadline for changing an election date is suspended only to allow postponement to November 3, 2020, and no later.”
The Attorney General concluded his letter with a severe warning to Round Rock as well as other local governments in Texas:
“Finally, we note that holding an improper election can produce severe consequences. If an election is held on the wrong date, the election is void. If the City decides not to hold its election in November, the City may be subject to civil litigation. In addition, violating the City’s charter, such as by not calling an election in accordance with the law, may be grounds for a forfeiture of office. Finally, an unlawful officeholder may be removed from office through a quo warranto action.”