Shifts in Election Requirements
Local elections in Texas are a crucial aspect of the democratic framework, allowing residents to elect officials who directly impact their day-to-day lives. These elections typically cover positions such as mayors, city council members, school board trustees, and county officials. They serve as the core of the democratic process, ensuring that communities are represented and governed by those who understand their specific needs. From time to time the Texas legislature finds it necessary to tweak the local democratic process. In this past legislative session, a number of bills passed impacting local elections. This blog will address the new bills specifically aimed at providing more transparency with regard to campaign funding as well as voting and election results. Each of these bills went into effect on September 1, 2023:
House Bill 3372 amended the Election Code to set out guidelines for reporting political contributions made by credit card. Political candidates or officeholders who accept political donations by credit card are required to report the amount received as a political contribution and must also report any processing fee charged by the credit card issuer as a political expenditure. However, if the credit card fee is paid by the person making the political contribution, a candidate must only report the amount the candidate actually accepts, not including the processing fee paid by the donor.
House Bill 2626 amended the Election Code to require a campaign finance report filed with any political subdivision to be made available to the public on the political subdivision’s website for a period of five years beginning not later than the 10th business day after the date the report is received.
House Bill 5180 amended the Election Code to require the custodian of records to make images of voted ballots or cast vote records available for public inspection beginning on the first day after final canvass of an election. It also requires that original voted ballots be made available for public inspection beginning on the 61st day after election day. Finally, this bill includes a provision requiring the custodian of records to adopt procedures to ensure that any personally identifiable information of voters contained on a ballot is redacted before making the voted ballots available for public inspection.
Senate Bill 825 amended the Election Code to extend the deadline for submitting a petition for an initial recount from 5 p.m. on the second day after the date of local canvass to 5 p.m. on the third business day after the local canvass. The bill also provides for the deadline to roll over to the next regular business day if the deadline to file a recount petition falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or official state holiday.
This gives voters at least one additional day in which to submit a recount petition. Similarly, the bill provides that for expedited recounts, the deadline for submitting a recount petition is 2 p.m. on the second day after canvass.
While these changes are not a major overhaul to our democratic process, it is important for both candidates and local governments to stay apprised of these shifts in the election requirements. For many local bodies, elections are an annual event and it is easy to fall into a routine of the way things have always been done.
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.