Texas REALTORS® Bring Clarity to Voting Process
In a democracy, it's in everyone's best interests that ballots are clear and straightforward. But when the names of propositions are duplicated on other propositions on the same ballot, as was happening in Texas, voters can become confused.
The Texas Association of REALTORS® (TAR) recognized that the commonsense solution was to mandate a simple system of naming conventions for all propositions admitted to a ballot in the state. The association had little difficulty convincing state lawmakers, and in late May, the Texas Senate and House of Representatives unanimously approved Senate Bill 957.
The good news continued on June 1, when Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law, effective immediately.
In Texas, the governor has up to 20 days after the legislative session ends to sign or veto a bill—bills that are not vetoed by then automatically become law. That date this year is June 18, so the governor’s quick action was notable.
“Historically, bills can take a while to make their way to the governor’s desk after receiving the Legislature’s support, and the governor often takes all 20 days,” says TAR Director of Legislative Affairs Daniel Gonzalez. “It’s unheard of that a bill like this would be signed in five business days, but that just reinforces the across-the-board support for this legislation.”
The new law will distinctly differentiate ballot propositions, bringing much-needed clarity to the voting process. Starting in the upcoming November election,
- state propositions will appear first on the ballot, followed by local propositions;
- all state propositions will have numerical names, while local propositions will have letters of the alphabet; and
- all propositions will begin with name of the entity ordering the election.
In the Texas Senate, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick described SB 957 as a “little bill with a big impact.”
The bill received bipartisan support throughout the legislative process. It was co-authored by two senators, one Republican and one Democrat; it was sponsored by representatives of both parties; and, in a rare display of unity, it was supported by the entire legislative body.
“We appreciate that every member of the 85th Texas Legislature voted in support of this bill all the way through the legislative process,” says TAR Chairman Vicki Fullerton. “SB 957 received bipartisan support in both chambers because lawmakers know voters deserve clarity about what’s on our ballots.”
This solves a years-long problem, adds Brandon Alderete, TAR’s Director of Political Affairs. As a recent example, he cites the November 2015 election, when REALTORS® were supporting a proposed amendment to the state constitution, known as "Proposition 1," which would increase the homestead exemption and ban real estate transfer taxes.
At the same time, however, a highly controversial local "Proposition 1" was on the ballot in Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city. The identical names muddied the waters and threatened the success of the constitutional amendment, which actually had substantial legislative and popular support.
With help of the REALTOR® Party, TAR launched an energetic voter awareness campaign to cut through the confusion and ensure the voting public in Houston could distinguish between the two ballot measures called "Proposition 1."
"In that case," says Alderete, "we had a political interest in the outcome of the vote. But in the bigger picture, the situation shined a light on the need for election transparency. No matter what issues are at stake, confusion at the polls is detrimental to the democratic process. The REALTORS® know, and clearly the legislators agree, that this is good for all Texas voters."
To learn more about how the Texas Association of REALTORS® took the initiative to bring clarity to the voting process, contact Brandon C. Alderete, Director of Political Affairs, at 512-370-2124.
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