The Nov. 7 ballot is important for people who care about the constitutions — the state and local constitutions, that is.
But don’t bet on a big turnout. Texans may make a lot of noise about the constitution and their constitutional rights, but they don’t vote. In the 2015 state constitutional election, just 8.9 percent of Denton County’s eligible voters showed up to vote, a wee bit higher than the 8.3 percent who showed up statewide.
One reason why voter turnout in Texas is so poor is that Texans must register to vote long before they are thinking about the election. This year the deadline to register is Oct. 10 even though Election Day is six weeks away.
Civic-minded people are doing creative things to help others get registered. For example, Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day, a new initiative that began during the 2012 presidential campaign. Longtime resident Sandy Swan, a volunteer deputy voter registrar, set up on the Square on Tuesday to provide information and applications to people.
Denton schools got into the act, too, tweeting a reminder Tuesday to students (and faculty) that there was still time to register to vote for the November election.
Mario Zavala, spokesman for Denton ISD, said the district makes voter registration forms available at each high school campus so students can pick them up throughout the year.
Elections officials encourage people who have moved recently, or who haven’t voted in a while, to check their registration status at the Denton County Elections Administration website, votedenton.com.
State constitutional amendments
This year, the 85th Texas Legislature sent seven propositions to the statewide ballot. Until recently, the Legislature was drafting an average of 15 propositions every other year, according to Ballotpedia, a nonprofit, nonpartisan online encyclopedia of American politics.
While Texans typically don’t show up to vote in constitutional elections, those who do say yes to the constitutional changes. Between 1990 and 2013, 88 percent of Texas ballot measures were approved by voters. Just 24 of the 197 propositions put before voters were defeated.
On November's ballot, Propositions 1 and 6 make certain property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and the surviving spouses of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Proposition 2 relaxes restrictions on home equity loans. Proposition 3 addresses the terms of political appointees. Proposition 4 specifies the steps courts must take when a state law faces a constitutional challenge. Propositions 5 and 7 allow sports charities and banks, respectively, to hold raffles.
Denton city charter amendments
The Denton City Council is sending five propositions that would change the city charter to Denton voters.
The city charter functions like a constitution for local government. The propositions were written after a citizens’ committee studied several governance issues, including ethics reforms, for about six months.
The propositions are identified by letter, instead of number, to differentiate them from the statewide election.
Proposition A beefs up language that requires council members to live in the city, and their respective district, for one year before running for office. Proposition B increases the number of signatures required on a petition to force a council member's recall: 35 percent of the total votes in their last election, up from 25 percent. Proposition C beefs up language that requires the City Council to appoint an internal auditor.
Proposition D requires the City Council to adopt an ethics ordinance with clearer and tougher language. The city’s current ethics policy has proved unworkable.
Proposition E provides for a major change at City Hall: monthly stipends to the mayor and council members. Currently, Denton doesn't pay its elected officials.
Staff writer Caitlyn Jones contributed to this report.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.
On the Ballot
Voters will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the following changes to the Texas Constitution:
The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead and harmonizing certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution.
The constitutional amendment to establish a lower amount for expenses that can be charged to a borrower and removing certain financing expense limitations for a home equity loan, establishing certain authorized lenders to make a home equity loan, changing certain options for the refinancing for home equity loans, changing the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, and allowing home equity loans on agricultural homesteads.
The constitutional amendment limiting the service of certain officeholders appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate after the expiration of the person’s term of office.
The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to require a court to provide notice to the attorney general of a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute and authorizing the Legislature to prescribe a waiting period before the court may enter a judgment holding the statute unconstitutional.
The constitutional amendment on professional sports teams' charitable foundations conducting charitable raffles.
The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.
The constitutional amendment relating to legislative authority to permit credit unions and other financial institutions to award prizes by lot to promote savings.
Denton voters will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the following changes to the city charter:
Shall Section 2.02 of the City Charter be amended to clarify that councilmember residency qualifications apply to the councilmember’s domicile (principal residence), where the councilmember must have resided for at least one year prior to the election?
Shall Section 4.13 of the City Charter be amended to increase the percentage of petitioners required to trigger a recall election from twenty-five percent (25%) to thirty-five percent (35%)?
Shall Section 6.04 of the City Charter be amended to clarify that the internal city auditor shall be a permanent, full-time position and clarify the responsibilities?
Shall Sections 14.04 and 14.05 of the City Charter be repealed and replaced with a provision requiring the adoption of an ethics ordinance by the city council in accordance with Texas law and adheres to certain minimum standards?
Shall a section be added to the City Charter providing for councilmembers to receive an initial monthly stipend of seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00) and the mayor to receive an initial monthly stipend of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) during their respective terms of office and providing for restrictions on subsequent increases to the stipend amount?
FEATURED PHOTO: For National Voter Registraton Day, Sandy Swan, deputy voter registrar and a volunteer with the local Democratic Party, sits outside the Courthouse on the Square on Tuesday registering locals to vote and offering education about the Nov. 7 election.