A month ago, the Texas Secretary of State’s office advised municipalities to move their elections to November. On March 18, the governor’s office informed Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs he was suspending certain provisions of the election code — as is his prerogative under the state’s disaster declaration powers.
Most municipalities have moved their elections to November 3, but doing so creates an interesting conflict. The terms of elected officials who were up for re-election on May 2 expire shortly thereafter. Normally, they do not statutorily extend until November.
The question this raises is whether their terms are extended along with the election date extension, or whether there would be a period of time in which these seats would sit vacant.
Article 16, Section 17 of the Texas Constitution states, “all officers of this State shall continue to perform the duties of their offices until their successors shall be duly qualified.”
In fact, the state code informs this as well. Section 42.0052 (b) reads, “A governing body changing an election date under this section shall adjust the terms of office to conform to the new election date.”
An advisory from the Secretary of State’s director of elections, Keith Ingram, stated of “holdovers in public office,” that “the individuals who currently hold public offices that are scheduled to be on the ballot on the May uniform election date will continue to exercise the duties of those offices until the new officers take their oaths of office, following the November uniform election date.”
Therefore, despite the original terms of office ending, they are extended to match the election extension.
The secretary of state’s office does not track municipal elections.
This extension is one of a few ways Texas’ election system is being impacted by the coronavirus.
Political subdivisions have increasingly pushed voters to utilize mail-in balloting — something Attorney General Ken Paxton openly criticized and warned against — and now with all elections pushed back, they have more time to figure out how to adapt, if they permit it at all.
The last day to register for the November election is October 5.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.