Should We Have Secret, Nonpartisan Local Elections in Texas?

November 1, 2022
TFR Staff
Local Elections

As we find ourselves in the midst of election season, it is a great time to talk about how elections are conducted in Texas.

In my time traveling the state and speaking to taxpayers about a myriad of issues related to our politics and elections, it is abundantly clear that Texas taxpayers need more education regarding how those same elections are conducted.

The first thing I noticed is that many voters do not understand that the election itself is all but decided in the vast majority of Texas’ gerrymandered districts during the primary. Many voters have never voted in the primary election and don’t even know what it is. In our partisan system, the primary is where each political party chooses its candidate to run with its moniker in the November general election.

The second surprising thing to me is the lack of knowledge of how our local elections work. I have said many times that our local elections are secret, “nonpartisan” elections that suppress voter turnout. This favors big government bureaucrats that want to do not want to be held accountable as our school boards and cities spend an increasing amount of taxpayer money. You might notice as you go to the ballot box this November that elected offices like judges, district and county clerks, and justice of peace are all partisan, meaning they are part of the primary elections in March and must declare a political party or be independent. Having local elections in May or surrounding months suppresses votes and allows political insiders in local political subdivisions to elect like-minded officeholders with a fraction of the votes they would need in November.

When we look at how many problems have come from these local political subdivisions in the last year, Texas should be asking itself whether the problem is the corrupt officials or the electoral system that enables them. In the last few years, we saw cities mandating masks and locking people down during the COVID pandemic. We have also seen school boards enabling pedophiles and pornography in school libraries, to which many of our youngest students have access. These are all direct results of local, nonpartisan, secret elections.

The laws that govern our elections should be partisan and uniform. We should strive to make electing representatives as easy as possible for people, not requiring them to show up at the polls sometimes six or more times a year with primary, local, special, general, and even runoff elections. The vast majority of conservative districts that have found themselves trapped with big government liberals running their cities and school boards would benefit greatly from this. To show how abysmal the voter turnout is in the majority of local elections, I pulled the last election results from the county I reside in, Tarrant County:



In Tarrant County, one of the most populous counties in Texas, a Bedford ISD candidate won with 295 votes (392 total in the election). The Bedford City Council was not much better, with less than 1,000 people electing the winner. Similar numbers are very common around the state, and the main reason they are so low is that people simply do not know these elections exist. Sure, we could task our inefficient government with an education campaign wasting millions of dollars trying to push voter turnout in these hidden elections, but I think a more efficient way to increase turnout is to simply make all elections in Texas partisan and uniform in November.

This would mean all elections in Texas would be part of the primary in March, and all elections would culminate in the November general election. This simplifies the electoral process, saves the state money by not having to run more elections, and gives clarity to voters on what set of principles the candidates embrace—whether that is Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, or Independent. We should all call on the Legislature to finally make elections in Texas simple and efficient. Pass partisan, uniform elections for all offices in Texas.

What else can you do to get involved?

The next legislative session is set to begin in January 2023. Your elected officials need to hear from you.

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