Photo by El Paso Matters
Early voting begins next week for the November 2 uniform election.
It’s an off-year for many political offices, but voters will be asked to weigh in on eight statewide ballot measures. Some El Paso County residents will also be able to select their next city of Socorro representative or decide whether to support Canutillo Independent School District’s bond proposal.
The two-week early voting period runs from Monday through Oct. 29. Voters can cast their ballot at any of the county’s 35 early-voting locations. Hours vary by location.
On Election Day, Nov. 2, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters can cast their ballot at any of the county’s 100-plus voting centers.
Voters must present a photo ID approved by the state.
If voting by mail, the elections department will accept a ballot until 5 p.m. Nov. 3 as long as it is postmarked by 7 p.m. Nov. 2. If it’s not postmarked, voters have until 7 p.m. Nov. 2 to drop it off at the El Paso County Courthouse, 500 E. San Antonio St.
Voters have until Oct. 22 to request a mail-in ballot from the elections department. The department must receive the application by that day.
Voting by mail is open to registered voters who are age 65 and older, have a disability, will be out of the county during the voting period, are in jail or are expected to give birth three weeks before or after Election Day.
Voters can check their registration status by looking here.
Texas ballot initiatives
Texas voters are being asked to decide on eight amendments to the state Constitution which were put forward from this year’s state legislative session. Voters will be asked to weigh in “For” or “Against” on the following initiatives:
State of Texas Proposition 1: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the professional sports team charitable foundations of organizations sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association to conduct charitable raffles at rodeo venues.”
A vote “for” supports amending the Texas Constitution to allow professional sports teams’ charitable foundations or professional rodeo organizations to hold charitable raffles at rodeos.
A vote “against” favors keeping the constitution the same on this issue.
State of Texas Proposition 2: “The constitutional amendment authorizing a county to finance the development or redevelopment of transportation or infrastructure in unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted areas in the county.”
A vote “for” would support amending the Constitution to allow counties to issue bonds to fund projects for roads and infrastructure in blighted areas. Bonds could not be used to build toll roads. Counties would be limited to using 65% or less of collected property taxes to make the yearly repayments on bonds.
A vote “against” would support only cities and towns having the power to issue bonds for these types of projects.
State of Texas Proposition 3: “The constitutional amendment to prohibit this state or a political subdivision of this state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.”
A vote “for” would support a new section to the Texas Constitution prohibiting the state or any smaller political body from enacting any law, rule, order or proclamation limiting religious services or organizations. During the coronavirus pandemic, El Paso was one of 10 Texas counties that issued health orders that limited gatherings, including religious services.
A vote “against” would favor leaving the state Constitution as is.
State of Texas Proposition 4: “The constitutional amendment changing the eligibility requirements for a justice of the Supreme Court, a judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge.”
A vote “for” would support increasing eligibility requirements for various judicial positions. Candidates would now have to be Texas residents and U.S. citizens. Candidates for the Texas Supreme Court or an appeals court would be required to have a decade of experience as a practicing lawyer or judge in Texas. Candidates for district court would be required to have at least eight years of experience in Texas as a practicing lawyer or judge. Candidates for any court would be disqualified if their law license was revoked or suspended during that time. If approved, this would take effect for candidates elected or appointed after Jan. 1, 2025.
A vote “against” supports leaving the constitution as is.
State of Texas Proposition 5: “The constitutional amendment providing additional powers to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct with respect to candidates for judicial office.”
A vote “for” would favor extending the State Commission on Judicial Conduct’s powers to investigate and discipline candidates for judicial offices and sitting judges. Currently, the Constitution allows the agency to discipline sitting judges through letters of caution, private and public sanctions, suspensions, public warnings and forced resignation.
A vote “against” would favor leaving the constitution as it is and leave the commission to oversee only judicial officeholders.
State of Texas Proposition 6: “The constitutional amendment establishing a right for residents of certain facilities to designate an essential caregiver for in-person visitation.”
A vote “for” supports amending the Constitution to establish the right for residents in nursing facilities, assisted living facilities and state-supported living centers to have an essential caregiver who cannot be prohibited from visiting in person. The amendment would allow the Texas Legislature to set facility guidelines for essential caregiver visitation policies. Lawmakers passed this amendment in response to state restrictions during the pandemic that prohibited non-essential visitors from accessing the state’s more than 3,000 facilities.
A vote “against” the proposition supports leaving the policy as is.
State of Texas Proposition 7: “The constitutional amendment to allow the surviving spouse of a person who is disabled to receive a limitation on the school district ad valorem taxes on the spouse’s residence homestead if the spouse is 55 years of age or older at the time of the person’s death.”
A vote “for” supports adding surviving spouses of disabled individuals to the groups who are allowed lower property tax rates — called a homestead exemption — if that spouse was age 55 or older at the time of the person’s death and lives in that home.
A vote “against” would leave the Constitution as is, making those spouses ineligible for the tax limit.
State of Texas Proposition 8: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.”
A vote “for” would support allowing spouses of military members killed or injured in military training or other duties to claim a homestead property tax exemption on their deceased spouse’s house.
A vote “against” would favor limiting the exemption to surviving spouses of military members killed in combat.
City of Socorro
The Socorro City Council has two seats up for election on its seven-member council. A district map can be found here.
In Alderman District 1, incumbent Cesar Nevarez faces challengers Ernest Gomez and Rene Rodriguez.
For AldermanDistrict 2, incumbent Ralph Duran faces challengers Alejandro Garcia and Roberto Hernandez.
Canutillo ISD bond election
The Canutillo Independent School District is seeking approval to issue $187.5 million in bonds to renovate and build facilities across the 6,000-student district. The bond package is broken down into two separate proposals, each requiring approval.
Proposition A includes $177.5 million, which would go toward building a career and technology wing at Canutillo High School, a new classroom wing at Reyes Elementary School and multipurpose rooms at four elementary schools. Bond monies would also rebuild Alderete Middle School at a new site, as the district plans to repurpose the current campus as its administrative building. A permanent building for Northwest Early College High School would be constructed and the district would purchase land for a new, seventh elementary school. The remainder would go to improving athletic fields and bus areas and replacing outdated HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems.
Proposition B includes $10 million to refinance maintenance tax notes, or non-voter approved debt, that the district borrowed at the onset of the pandemic. Those funds were used to purchase student laptops and install districtwide wi-fi to support remote instruction. It would also be used to refinance money spent on LED lighting upgrades.
The district has said it can issue $187.5 million of new debt without raising its tax rate. That is based on projections of continued property tax growth from new construction and low interest rates. Even if the district’s tax rate remains unchanged, homeowners may see their tax bill rise in 2022 if their property increases in value.
Canutillo ISD last asked voters for a facility bond in 2011, when voters approved a $44 million proposal.
Danielle Prokop reports on environmental issues for El Paso Matters; Molly Smith reports on K-12 education.