The Kingsville City Commission voted unanimously on Monday to move the May 2 election to Nov. 3 amid concerns of the novel coronavirus.
On March 18, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation for the State of Texas suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code to allow municipalities to postpone their 2020 local elections.
“I strongly encourage local election officials to take advantage of these waivers and postpone their elections until November,” Abbott said in a press release. “Right now, the state’s focus is responding to COVID-19 — including social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. By delaying this election, our local election officials can assist in that effort.”
Kingsville City Attorney Courtney Alvarez said the city received an e-mail from the Office of the Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs that advises local entities to postpone elections “in order to best protect the citizens, staff and also the election workers” from the spread of COVID-19.
Alvarez said after voting to change the election date, the city would need to have a resolution signifying the change at a future meeting.
The city would also need to notify all candidates of the change, as well as provide a notice to the Kleberg County Clerk to post the change on the county website.
Alvarez said depending on the decision made, the city will have to decide on other election related items at future meetings.
Because of the November General Election for Kleberg County, Commissioner Edna Lopez asked if the city and county ballot would remain separate if the date was changed.
Alvarez said her understanding is that at a future meeting, after calculating a cost estimate, the city commission would make a decision on whether to continue to use separate ballots or to have a joint election with Kleberg County.
Alvarez said the estimate would include costs for the city ballot, separate voting judges, separate voting machines and other factors for the election.
Kingsville Mayor Sam Fugate asked what would happen if the city decided to run on a separate ballot.
City Secretary Mary Venezuela said there are “a lot of cons” with choosing to run a separate ballot.
“Right now the county has their election judges locked in for two years, if I’m not mistaken,” Venezuela said. “A lot of their judges are judges we use, so automatically we’d lose those judges.”
Venezuela said the city would not be able to operate the election with the six consolidated polling locations, which would need to be open to all 15 precincts.
That would mean a set of three to four workers would have to be at each polling location, and the city would need to use county precinct locations, which could cost the city a fee.
Alvarez said the decision to sort out details can be made at a later time.
City Commissioner Dianne Leubert said for the safety of the citizens of Kingsville, and the uncertainty of what could happen day-to-day with the pandemic, “it would be best for everyone if we did postpone” the election.
The vote passed unanimously.
Alvarez said with the postponement, candidate filings will not be reopened per the Secretary of State.