So what are your plans for Nov. 5? It’s a Tuesday, so no football on TV. Run the kids to school, go to work. Maybe Domino’s for dinner, if your spouse’s starvation diet hasn’t killed you by then.
Wait, why do we ask?
Well, it’s also Election Day in Texas. As long as you’ve registered, you can join dozens of Texans in exercising your civic franchise on local issues and, of course, amendments to our Texas Constitution.
Our state has many things going for it, but our constitution probably isn’t one. Mostly, it’s a relic of a bitter, bygone era after the Civil War and Reconstruction left Texans in ill humor when it came to trusting state leaders.
The solution was a constitution that takes power from the elected and gives it to the electorate. That may sound well and good, but in Texas, voters must return to the polls every two years, usually the November after a Legislature, to ratify or reject many issues that barely register on statewide public radar.
Turnout is typically less than 10 percent — often far less. Does an entire state need to weigh in on whether El Paso County can tax itself to create a parks district (2011)? Important, perhaps, in El Paso County, but the other 253 have their own situations.
This year, every Texas voter can help decide whether to repeal a constitutional provision on creating a hospital district in Hidalgo County. Again, no small issue there, but elsewhere? Still, it’s on the list as Proposition 8 among nine amendments on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Unlike the U.S. Constitution — which has been amended 27 times — the Texas Constitution functions as a limiting document. With no equivalent of the “necessary and proper clause,” our state’s document has grown like kudzu. It may not be the longest in America, but it’s a contender (Alabama and California are even worse).
After Nov. 5, Texas voters will have weighed in on more than 660 amendments, many of the intensely local or fabulously obscure variety. To date, about 73 percent have been approved.
The least our leaders could do is give some serious thought to whether this is any way to run a state. If nothing else, asking each of Texas’ 254 counties to hold these elections every two years costs money that could better go elsewhere.
We recognize that every serious attempt to streamline or modernize the Texas Constitution has fallen like the Alamo, but the logic remains pristine. Our state, quite different than it was in the 19th century, deserves a governing document that doesn’t need tire patches every two years.
The Dallas Morning News