More Texans voted early in this year’s constitutional amendment election — weighing in on issues such as raffles, property valuations and reaffirming the right to hunt and fish — than in a decade’s worth of similar elections.
No constitutional election since 2005, when the issue of same sex marriages was on the ballot, has drawn more than 3.7 percent of Texas’ voters to the polls before Election Day, state records show.
This year, 499,012, or 5.55 percent, of Texas voters cast ballots in person and by mail as of Friday, the last day of this year’s early voting period. That tops the 2005 early tally when 405,718 Texans, or 5.21 percent, voted early, records show.
This is “a signal that voters care about these issues, especially when it comes to their pocketbooks and the quality of the roads,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, an associate political science professor at the University of Houston.
Texans have one last chance to vote on changes to the state constitution — and cast ballots for a slew of local issues — by heading to the polls Tuesday, on Election Day.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For any election information call the Tarrant County Elections Center, 817-831-8683.
Tuesday’s election includes seven proposed amendments to the state constitution that touch on issues such as transportation funding, property valuations, raffles at professional sporting events and reaffirming Texans’ right to hunt and fish.
Local races on the ballot include a school board election in Mansfield; city, water authority and library board of directors elections in Benbrook; charter propositions in Haltom City and White Settlement; and a road bond election in Keller.
I’m always surprised at how few folks are interested in voting.
Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University
Early turnout may be on the rise this year because voters are tuning in to politics, thanks to the upcoming 2016 presidential election, said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University.
“More attention to national politics might bring the amendments to the attention of some folks,” he said. “I’m always surprised at how few folks are interested in voting.
“These amendments can make differences in tax structure and tax rates.”
While there was one constitutional amendment on last year’s ballot, the last full constitutional amendment election was in 2013. That’s when Texans voted on nine amendments addressing issues including creation of a state water fund and approving reverse mortgage loans.
Constitutional amendment elections generally draw small early turnouts: 3.71 percent in 2013, 2.08 in 2011, 2.44 percent in 2009 and 2.82 percent in 2007.
But in 2005, the year the same-sex marriage proposition was on the ballot, 5.21 percent of Texans weighed in early, state records show.
This year’s early voting turnout got a bump from Harris County voters.
There, more than 9 percent, or 193,966, cast early votes, likely “because of a competitive mayoral race and controversial ballot initiatives,” Rottinghaus said.
In Tarrant County, 4.22 percent, or 42,308, Texans voted early, records show.
Bring photo ID
“Tuesday is a chance for voters to directly affect the state’s most important governing document,” Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos said. “These seven propositions were voted on by the Legislature, but it is ultimately up to Texas voters if they become part of the Texas Constitution.”
Election officials remind voters that they need to make sure to bring a photo ID with them to the polls.
Acceptable IDs include a driver’s license, a state-issued personal ID card, concealed handgun license, military ID card, citizenship certificate with photo or a passport. Any license that’s expired must not be expired for more than 60 days.
Anyone who doesn’t have one of the acceptable forms of ID may get a free election identification certificate at a driver’s license office.
To see a sample ballot, go to the Tarrant County elections website. For any election information call the Tarrant County Elections Center, 817-831-8683.
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE TEXAS CONSTITUTION
On Nov. 3, Texans will vote on seven proposed changes to the Texas Constitution. Other issues on the local ballot include city council races in Benbrook and White Settlement, propositions in Haltom City, a bond election in Richland Hills and more.
Here are the proposed constitutional amendments and what they mean.
Proposition 1 “The constitutional amendment increasing the amount of the residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation for public school purposes from $15,000 to $25,000, providing for a reduction of the limitation on the total amount of ad valorem taxes that may be imposed for those purposes on the homestead of an elderly or disabled person to reflect the increased exemption amount, authorizing the legislature to prohibit a political subdivision that has adopted an optional residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation from reducing the amount of or repealing the exemption, and prohibiting the enactment of a law that imposes a transfer tax on a transaction that conveys fee simple title to real property.”
What it means: This issue involves four parts. The amendment would boost homestead exemption amounts for school district property taxes from $15,000 to $25,000. It would also reduce the amount of taxes that could be levied on the homesteads of elderly and disabled Texans. It would prevent public officials from reducing or getting rid of already approved property tax exemptions. And it would keep the state from charging a transfer tax on the sale of the property.
Proposition 2 “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran who died before the law authorizing a residence homestead exemption for such a veteran took effect.”
What it means: This makes sure that widows of disabled veterans get the same exemption their spouse would have received even if the veteran died before the law allowing the exemption went into effect.
Proposition 3 “The constitutional amendment repealing the requirement that state officers elected by voters statewide reside in the state capital.”
What it means: The constitution currently requires some state officials to live in Austin while in office. This measure would remove that requirement.
Proposition 4 “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to permit professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct charitable raffles.”
What it means: Right now, nonprofits may operate raffles twice a year and can give away anything ranging from a car to a house — but not cash. Approving a 50-50 raffle, which means half the winnings go to charity and half to a lucky winner, would let charitable foundations for a number of professional sports teams in Texas award cash to winners. In some states, these raffles have raised around $8,000 per game, which would give a charity $4,000 and a lucky fan $4,000 as well.
Proposition 5 “The constitutional amendment to authorize counties with a population of 7,500 or less to perform private road construction and maintenance.”
What it means: This raises from 5,000 to 7,500 the maximum population of a county that may build and maintain private roads.
Proposition 6 “The constitutional amendment recognizing the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife subject to laws that promote wildlife conservation.”
What it means: Lawmakers said this measure is needed at a time when lawsuits are being filed nationwide attacking people’s right to hunt and fish. This measure offers constitutional protections for hunting and fishing in Texas, and it says hunting and fishing are the preferred way to manage and conserve wildlife in this state.
Proposition 7 “The constitutional amendment dedicating certain sales and use tax revenue and motor vehicle sales, use, and rental tax revenue to the state highway fund to provide funding for nontolled roads and the reduction of certain transportation-related debt.”
What it means: To help address growing transportation needs, this measure would require the Texas comptroller each year to dedicate the first $2.5 billion of vehicle sales use and rental taxes to the General Revenue Fund, dedicate the next $2.5 billion to the State Highway Fund and split between the two funds all revenue above that. Money in the State Highway Fund would be used to acquire right of way, build and maintain nontoll roads and bridges, and pay off general revenue Proposition 12 transportation debt, which is about $300 million a year.
Sources: Texas Legislature Online, Texas Legislative Council, Texas secretary of state