From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
July 21, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

New Law Encourages Uniform Election Dates to Increase Voter Turnout, Reduce Costs

AUSTIN, Tx. -- A new law by State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and State Rep. Jerry Madden (R-Richardson) will reduce election costs and increase voter participation by requiring local governments to hold elections on uniform election dates. The lawmakers said the new measure will streamline the election process by requiring city, county and public school and community college district elections to be held on uniform dates in January, May, August and November.

Ellis said that in 1996, there were seven different elections in Houston within twelve months, which is burdensome for voters and expensive to administer for local governments. The new legislation will allow local governments to hold elections together to increase voter participation and reduce costs.

"Allowing for uniform election dates will improve voter turnout and streamline election costs," said Ellis. "Increasing voter participation will be a significant step forward for Texas."

According to Texas Comptroller John Sharp, Texas has 26,813 elected officials and ranks third in the nation with 4,791 local governments, including 254 county governments, 1,171 municipal governments, 1,100 public school and community college districts and more than two thousand special districts. City of Houston officials said that fewer than 10 percent of voters participate in many special elections. In November presidential elections, however, approximately 55 percent of voters cast ballots.

"We want to encourage political subdivisions to hold joint elections to increase voter turnout and reduce taxpayer expenses," said Ellis. "When local governments hold elections jointly, they divide the costs and save tax dollars."

The new law also requires the Secretary of State to collect information on the number of elections held in communities throughout Texas and their administrative costs. Centralized election data will make it easier for local governments to identify opportunities for holding joint elections and will allow election costs to be tracked and made more efficient.