Extended terms for water board members not ideal, but necessary

Posted Friday, Aug. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Congress did a good thing in 2011 when it amended the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act to ensure that Armed Forces personnel outside the country were mailed absentee ballots at least 45 days before an election.

But that change in the law caused a chain reaction that had a major impact on local elections, particularly for nonpartisan entities that conducted balloting in even-numbered years. Because of the extra time for military voting, any runoffs resulting from March primaries would have to extend into May when many local elections were held.

The Legislature, to accommodate the new federal law, passed a bill allowing city councils, school boards and other local elected bodies to change their elections to odd-numbered years or to move balloting from May to November.

The Fort Worth school district, Tarrant County College and Tarrant Regional Water District boards voted to move their elections to odd-numbered years, meaning those members whose terms expired in 2012 got an an extra year. Because the TRWD board has four-year staggered terms, two members whose terms expire in 2014 will now serve until 2015.

A former candidate who has run several unsuccessful campaigns for the TRWD board filed suit claiming that while the law gives entities a right to change voting dates, it does not give them the right to extend members’ terms. John Basham wants the court to force the board to hold an election in 2014.

Ideally, terms should not be extended. But in order to separate the nonpartisan elections from party primaries and the general election, the change was necessary.

Besides, the Tarrant County Elections Department would be hard-pressed to supply the machines and personnel necessary if all the elections were held at the same time, as Administrator Steve Raborn said. He also noted that it saves money when these entities can share costs by having elections on the same date.

In order to keep staggered terms, and thus continuity on the water board, the one-time extended term is in the best interest of the water district and the community.

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