In re Runoff election dates

The Houston Chronicle reports that a City Council committee, the Elections Committee, discussed a proposal to move election day in runoff elections to a Tuesday, and not the current system of Saturday election dates. This would not affect the 2013 election dates.

Early voting includes two days of weekend voting, with some pretty generous hours. In a wonderful irony regarding voter suppression, Texas actually has pretty great laws involving early votes. Massachusetts, by comparison, has no early voting, and absolutely no attempts are made to synchronize elections (e.g., there is a congressional special election in October three weeks before a regularly scheduled municipal election). However, one of the highlights of our runoff election system has been a Saturday election.

This is because, even though it is possible to otherwise vote on a weekend, some people really, really enjoy voting on election day. There is something special to them about being able to walk down the road and interact with everyone in the community. It is significantly easier to do this on a Saturday than on a Tuesday.

The Chronicle article notes that, because most voting locations (such as schools) are closed on Saturdays, the City must reimburse these locations for keeping the building open. David Feldman, the City Attorney, makes the note that shifting the election day could save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Additionally, last night’s poll also evidently measured support for this possible changes. 56% of respondents favored this change, and the number rose to 71% when the monetary effects were brought into the question.

Bob Stein of Rice, interviewed by both the City Council and the Chronicle, noted that this could depress voter turnout, most likely because of the aforementioned reasons.

The meeting showed rare harmony between the Parker administration and its biggest critic, Vice-Mayor Pro Tem C.O. Bradford. Feldman, assuming he is speaking on behalf of Parker, and Bradford were the proposals biggest backers, while Melissa Noriega and Mike Laster, two of the Council’s more liberal members, were far more opposed.

For what it is worth, I believe that any proposal like this that sacrifices voter turnout for a reduction of expenses is a repugnant action on the part of any Democrat. I agree that these “hundreds of thousands of dollars” spent is a problem, but perhaps it would be better to solve the source of the problem rather than assuaging its demands. It is absurd that HISD would charge for these elections, especially since the Board of Trustees holds concurrent elections. The real solution to this problem would be a negotiation between the City of Houston, HISD and Harris County that drastically lowers the amount paid for use the election facilities.

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