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A City Attorney’s Guide To Cancelling A General Municipal Election In Texas

Typically, general municipal elections in Texas are routine matters, however; every now and then, issues arise that require a City Attorney to dig deep into the Texas Election Code. One such statute deals with the cancellation of a general municipal election because there are unopposed candidates. So, what should your City do if the majority of candidates are running unopposed? Can a City cancel elections with unopposed candidates? Or do those candidates still need to appear on the ballot?

To answer such a question, your City Attorney will need to consult Chapter 2, Subchapter C, of the Texas Election Code. This subchapter is aptly titled “Election of Unopposed Candidates” and Sections 2.051-2.053 specifically address unopposed candidates on the ballot. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, these statutes are not the easiest to interpret and it takes a lot of head scratching to find the legal answer one is seeking.

Your City Attorney will find that a municipality can cancel a general election if all candidates running are unopposed in an at-large election.

To run unopposed means only one candidate’s name appears on the ballot and there have been no write-in candidates for any other office. However, if even one candidate is running opposed and the remaining candidates are running unopposed, then all candidates for each office must be listed on the ballot and the election cannot be cancelled.

Another important note to make here is that your City must wait until after the deadline for the placement of names on the write-in list has passed before the Council can take action and cancel the election. If there is no candidate running opposed and the deadline for write-ins has passed, the City Secretary simply needs to provide the City Council with certification that each candidate for office is running unopposed. Then City Council can declare the unopposed candidates as elected to their respective office. This can be done through order or ordinance, and upon approval, the election is considered cancelled.

Once the order or ordinance is approved by Council, it needs to be posted at each polling place being used or that would have been used had there been an election. Further, the decision to declare the election cancelled is entirely up to City Council and if they decide that they still want to hold the election with unopposed candidates, that is their prerogative and the election must proceed, even though all candidates are running unopposed.

A word of caution: the City Attorney must be mindful of the type of territorial unit involved in the election. According to Section 2.051(b), in an election where candidates for office are elected from territorial units, such as single-member districts, the election may be cancelled as long as each candidate running for office in that district is unopposed, and no proposition is to appear on the ballot.

Even for the most seasoned attorney, election laws can be confusing and hard to interpret. If your City finds itself in a situation where unopposed candidates were not included on a ballot, they need to contact their City attorney immediately in order to determine the status of those respective offices and the best course of action for the City moving forward.

Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Information about our commercial and business litigation practice can be found here.

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