As cancellations and social distancing dominate news and conversation, scheduled local city and school elections on May 2 and a May 26 runoff are inching closer.
Earlier this week, Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia urged the Secretary of State to go to mail-ballot elections in May.
“An all-mail election, in which county election officials mail a ballot to every registered voter, is the only option that guarantees Texans’ right to vote while also protecting public health,” Garcia said in an email to supporters.
In Nacogdoches County, the demand didn’t seem out of the question.
“I believe if anyone can handle it, (County Elections Administrator) Todd Stallings and the team at the Nacogdoches County Elections Office can do it with precision,” said Bradley Reynolds, chairman for the Nacogdoches County Republican Party.
But with regard to the May 2 elections, Stallings on Wednesday received an advisory he described as a game changer: Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized all political subdivisions with May 2 elections to postpone them until Nov. 3. The Texas Secretary of State issued the notice that also stressed that such postponements won’t happen automatically.
“The governing body of the political subdivision must take an official action for such a change to be effective,” the notice reads.
“The way I understand it is they don’t have to, but they can if they want to,” Stallings said.
As of Wednesday, the City of Garrison had planned to go forward with the May 2 election, said Stallings, who had not yet heard from the other entities.
Should they opt for May 2, smaller communities such as Garrison, Appleby, Cushing and Chireno are unlikely exceed gatherings of more than 10 people, since even election day brings no more than 50 to 100 voters spread out over a 12-hour day, Stallings said.
“If it were NISD or the City of Nacogdoches, they could potentially have a lot more voters gathered in a room at the same time,” he said. “With the smaller entities I’ll leave it up to them, but the risk probably isn’t as high for them.”
As far as the May 26 primary runoff, which only applies to Democrats, Stallings says he is awaiting marching orders.
An all mail runoff wouldn’t be a bad idea, he said, but it would be more suitable to send mail ballots to those voters who participated in the Democratic Primary, and then to those eligible to vote in the runoff who make a request to vote by mail.
“All voters are not eligible in our case, because if you voted in the Republican primary, then you can’t vote in the Democratic runoff.”
This way, he said, anywhere from 3,500 to 4,000 mail ballots would be sent out.
“That’s something I believe we can pull off here if the state chooses to go that direction,” he said.