The city of Galveston is joining others across Texas in asking Gov. Greg Abbott to consider allowing local elections delayed by coronavirus to be held in July.
In a letter dated April 6, Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough asked Abbott to allow cities to hold municipal elections July 14.
“It is important to our community to have our elections and transitions of leadership accomplished as close to the normal May 2 local election date as possible,” the letter stated.
A summer election would allow municipal leaders to take office before their cities set annual budgets in the fall, according to the letter.
The letter was originally drafted by the city of Waco and has been distributed across Texas, Yarbrough said Wednesday.
Abbott announced March 18 he would waive part of the Texas Election Code to allow local elections scheduled for May 2 to be moved to Nov. 3, the same day as the 2020 national elections. Abbott encouraged cities to move their elections in the name of promoting social distancing and limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
Shortly after Abbott’s announcement, the Galveston County Clerk’s Office announced it would not conduct local elections on behalf of cities and other entities that had contracted with the office. The announcement essentially forced local entities such as cities and school districts to delay their elections.
The Galveston City Council on March 24 officially postponed its municipal elections. But council members at the time said they hoped to find an option that didn’t require waiting another six months.
“Given the action of our council and personal sentiment, I had no problem with us saying ‘yes’ to signing the letter, Yarbrough said. “We’ll certainly support Waco’s effort.”
The Waco plan aims to have local elections moved away from Abbott’s proposed November date to July 14. That’s the day when Texas already plans to hold primary runoff elections that were originally scheduled to happen on May 26.
If Abbott allows cities and other entities to have their elections in July, it would accomplish two things, Yarbrough said. First, the wait would be much shorter in cities anticipating leadership changes.
Yarbrough is term-limited after spending six years as the city’s mayor. Similarly, Texas City Mayor Matt Doyle and Dickinson Mayor Julie Masters had announced plans to step down from their long-held positions in the May election.
Moving the date of the local election would also not tie nonpartisan local elections to what’s most likely to be a divisive general election in the fall, Yarbrough said.
It was unclear Wednesday how many other cities were joining the call to move municipal elections to the summer. Officials in Waco did not respond to messages seeking comment about the effort.