When Two Elections Are Better Than One
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
September 11, 2003

If elections are good, why not have two instead of one?  On this Saturday, Texans will go to the polls to vote in the first of two back-to-back elections.  In an era of professed allegiance to the notion of consolidation of governmental functions, we have a deviation from this lofty principle.  The State of Texas started off proposing a limited number of constitutional amendments on a separate September ballot with the remainder going to the November ballot for consideration.  Why this rare September ballot is a mystery to me.

The State mandates that counties underwrite the cost of these constitutional elections.  So quite naturally the counties put up a ruckus about being saddled with two elections instead of the usual one election.  In response, the State pulled the previously scheduled November state constitutional amendments over to the September ballot.  This left us here in Bexar County with the bond issues of the Northeast Independent School District, the County and the City of San Antonio and then the Bexar Metropolitan Water District director elections being presented on the November ballot by themselves.

One might ask: Why can't the State wait a month or so and present the  constitutional amendments in November?  After all, this extra September election is estimated to cost Bexar County $272,029.00!  And while it seems a pittance relative to our $463.2 million annual Bexar County budget, this is over a quarter of a million dollars for an election that could easily have been combined into the November election, which itself will cost another $979,042.69 to the four entities sponsoring that election.

These isolated elections like the September one are designed for one thing and one thing only: low turnouts.  My question: is why couldn't the State wait?  I would like to know.

Incidentally according to the Texas Legislative Research Library in Austin, there have been 584 Texas constitutional amendments that have been submitted by the Texas Legislature to the people since 1876.  Of that number, 410 were adopted. 174 were defeated. This does not include the current 22 proposed to the voters today.  In contrast, according to the San Antonio Library Information Line, the number of U.S. Constitutional Amendments since 1787 is 27!

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