Despite the order from the Secretary of State, the Port Lavaca City Council is not postponing its May 2 election to Nov.3. The election will proceed as scheduled for May 2.
On March 18, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code to allow political subdivisions to postpone their 2020 local elections. This means local governments now have the ability to postpone their May 2, 2020 elections until November 3, 2020, according to a press release sent by the governor’s office.
According to Point Comfort City Administrator Robbie Silva, citing a letter from Keith Ingram, Elections Division director for the Office of the Secretary of State, noted that the most recent executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott that extended social distancing and stay-at-home measures “prevent you from securing polling places, recruiting election workers, and allowing voters a safe way to exercise their right to vote.”
The letter also noted that failure to postpone an election could subject voters to health risks and potential criminal violations of the executive order as well as putting the election at risk of being contested.
The Point Comfort City Council approved postponing its upcoming May 2 Municipal Election until the November General Election.
Port Lavaca Mayor Jack Whitlow, who is up for reelection in May, stated in Monday’s city council meeting that he firmly believes it would be safer for voters to vote in May rather than November.
Moving the May election to November means the city would then have several polling places due to the city and county elections occurring on the same date, Whitlow reasoned.
“You will have many more polling places to protect instead of just one. It will be more difficult to get election workers,” Whitlow stated.
City Attorney Anne Marie Odefey agreed with the mayor, stating the secretary of state’s order doesn’t apply to Port Lavaca.
“I completely agree with Jack. We will have to use the county’s election precincts if we postpone to November. So, it will be a combined election. City Hall will not be used, and we will have to contract with the county for our election,” Odefey said. “It changes many things.”
Although she agreed with the Mayor, Odefey reiterated several times that the Secretary of State’s position is that the election must be moved.
The city is currently in a “Stay Safe, Stay at Home” order, so it will have to amend the order to allow for voters to come out, according to Odefey.
Odefey wanted the council to understand because if they get asked by the public, “You are asking us to come vote, but there is a stay at home order,” that they would have an answer.
Whitlow used past elections as an example of lower voter turnouts, and in turn, not many lines going from the voter’s box. He repeated that the city would be able to protect City Hall much easier, and if there is a line, they can keep voters at a safe distance.
City Secretary Mandy Grant said the last election yielded 600 to 700 voters.
Grant also said the city is prepared to disinfect booths every time a voter leaves, to use two booths rather than six, to use disposable pens, and to offer gloves to potentially keep voters safe.
The mayor is running against Sylvia Chapa, Incumbent Jerry Smith is facing challenger William Harris in District one, and Incumbent Jan Regan drew a challenge from Wayne Allen Tippit Jr. in District 3.
Two other elections are set for May. The Port O’Connor Water Improvement District has postponed its election pending board approval, according to Amy Ochoa, assistant elections administrator for the Calhoun County Elections Office.
And nearly lost in the shuffle is the May 26 runoff for Calhoun County Constable, Precinct 4.
Ochoa said that election had been delayed until July 14 by the governor’s executive order.