Action to move election will have to be taken by Board of Aldermen.
In light of an advisory email from the Elections Division of the Texas Secretary of State, Salado aldermen will likely revisit their split-decision vote on March 23 to continue to hold the Village general election on May 2. While the Village has not formally posted anything about a meeting to move the election date, aldermen were informed via text from the Village Administrator at 1:23 p.m. March 25 that an Emergency Meeting of the Board of Aldermen will be held at 9 a.m. March 26 “to consider moving May election to Nov, in light of correspondence from the Secretary of State.”
Despite the Village voting on March 23 to keep the May 2 election date, Mayor Skip Blancett took to social media March 24 to tell voters “an order has been given for 3 November.”
Mayor Blancett, in the video posted to Salado Local at 9:36 p.m. March 24, stated that “a telephone call came about noon (March 24) to our Village administrator Don Ferguson and it simply said ‘an order has been given for 3 November.’ All elections, federal, state and local will be 3 November. And so, our election, our local election for Mayor and two aldermen will not be 2 May but will be 3 November.” Salado Local is a public Facebook group of 491 members with Gayle Blancett and HB Davis as Administrators.
Don Ferguson told Salado Village Voice at 10:50 a.m. March 25 that “I did not get a phone call from the state. I got an email from the state.”
The March 24 email from Christina Worrell Adkins, Legal Director of the Election Division of the Texas Secretary of State, refers to Governor Greg Abbott’s March 18 proclamation “to allow political subdivisions that would otherwise hold elections on May 2, 2020, to move their general and special elections for 2020 only to the next uniform election date, occurring on November 3, 2020, without otherwise adjusting the term of office.”
Adkins further states in the email that “many local political subdivisions are enacting shelter-in-place orders, this has a significant impact on elections. If your entity or your county has issued such an order, you need to move your election; otherwise you are putting your election at risk of an election contest due to voters not being able to exercise their right to vote.”
Adkins further states that “some political subdivisions have enacted fines for violating their local ordinances; if your order does so and there is no specific exemption for voting or conducting elections, you put your voters at risk of criminal penalty for leaving their homes to vote.”
On March 23 County Judge David Blackburn issued Directive #3, a Shelter in Place order. However, the order did not include a criminal penalty in it. County Commissioner Bobby Whitson said this “was inadvertently left out” of Directive #3 but added that the Judge “is making changes to the directive that will put the same penalties in place similar to the 2nd Directive and a few other modifications for clarity.”
Bell County Directive #2 states: “Failure to comply with this Directive is an offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 per day or confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days.”
The Shelter in Place Directive #3 ends at midnight on April 3. In-person early voting for a May 2 election begins on April 20. Unless Directive #3 (or Directive #2 dealing with assembling in groups of 10 or more) are extended beyond April 20,
The Secretary of State email reconfirms that “The Governor’s proclamation only authorized a move to November 3, 2020. There is no authority for a local political subdivision, on its own order, to move an election to any other date.”
However, if an entity would like to move to a date other than November 3, there are “likely only two ways to do so,” according to the Secretary of State office.
The first way — a direct request to the Governor — would not apply to the Village General Election. It only applies to Special Elections.
The second would be for the Village to seek a Court Order for an alternative date.
Some have questioned why the Village general election cannot be held concurrently with the Primary Election Run-off, which was postponed by Gov. Abbott until July 14, 2020 — the same date as the special election for Texas State Senate District 14. Sec. 41.007.d of the Election code states that “No other election may be held on the date of a primary election.”