Has the Texas attorney general issued even more warnings to
voting officials related to voting by mail?
Yes, last week the attorney general issued the following warning
to county officials. We’ve included it here because a handful of cities
will have special elections this summer. It’s also a preview of what city
election officials may be dealing with in November.
“AG Paxton Warns County Officials to Avoid
Misleading the Public on Vote by Mail Laws
Following recent decisions by the Texas Supreme Court and the
U.S. Court of Appeals for Fifth Circuit, Attorney General Ken Paxton today
issued another guidance letter to Texas county judges and election
officials, warning that Texans may not claim disability based on
fears of contracting COVID-19 to obtain a mail-in ballot. Due to inaccurate
statements by public officials and private groups, Attorney General Paxton
issued his first guidance letter on May 1.
‘As the Texas Supreme Court held, mail ballots based on
disability are specifically reserved for those who are legitimately ill and
cannot vote in-person without assistance or jeopardizing their health. The
Texas Election Code is lawful, constitutional, and correctly protects our
elections from fraud and voters from disenfranchisement,’ said Attorney General
Paxton. ‘It is vital that we work together to preserve the integrity of our
democratic election process and consistently follow the law established by our legislature.’
Today’s letter follows a Texas Supreme Court decision that held that a voter
may not claim ‘disability’ for the purpose of casting a ballot by mail merely
because the voter lacks immunity to COVID-19.
Additionally, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that
Texas is likely to win arguments that the Election Code’s
ballot-by-mail provisions are consistent with the Equal Protection Clause and
the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Following these
rulings, the Texas Democratic Party and other groups filed a motion to dismiss
their state court lawsuit this week.”
What information does TML have for cities as they start to prepare
for the upcoming budget year?
TML has developed a special-edition, mid-year fiscal conditions
survey to help cities navigate the upcoming budget planning process. With an
unexpected public health crisis and an economic recession, most cities will
have to make difficult decisions over the next coming months. Survey questions
center on current budget shortfalls, as well as the anticipated impact on next
The full text of the survey is available here, but we prefer that you complete it online.
We ask that one official from each city complete
the survey no later than Friday, June 19. Please contact JJ Rocha
with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Can revenue received by a city from the Coronavirus Relief Fund
(CRF) be used to cover the 25% local cost sharing requirement under the FEMA
Public Assistance Program?
Likely so. Under the FEMA Public Assistance program, federal
funds have a 75% federal, 25% local cost share provision. In other words, a
city receiving FEMA public assistance dollars would need to be able to locally
pay for up to 25% of the costs of an eligible expense. In contrast, the CRF
created by the federal CARES Act has no similar cost sharing provision.
The White House has informally indicated that states may use CRF
funds to pay for FEMA’s 25% cost share requirement. Based on League
conversations with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the ability to
use CRF revenue for FEMA public assistance cost sharing would likely extend to
cities that have received CRF allocations. At this time, we are unaware of any
additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury or FEMA regarding use
of CRF funds. The League will provide updates on any such guidance when it
Is a city required to use county election precincts for its
election on the November uniform election date?
Yes. Election Code Section 42.0621 requires all political
subdivisions, including cities, to use county election precincts for elections
held on the November uniform election date. Even though many cities’ elections
this November were originally scheduled for May 2020 before they were delayed
due to public health concerns, the statutory requirement to use county election
precincts still applies to any election of a political subdivision held
on the November date. This includes an election postponed from May. This
position is supported by the Secretary of State’s Elections Division in Election Advisory No. 2020-12.
In most cases, cities will already be using county election
precincts in November pursuant to their election contracts with the county. In
the governor’s initial proclamation authorizing political subdivisions to
move their elections to November, the governor expressly requires county
election officials to contract to furnish election services to cities that
moved their elections from May, should the city request the county to do so.
City officials in cities holding elections this November should
work closely with county election officials to make sure voters know that some
traditional city polling places used in May might not be available for the
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.