Leading The Effort

Councilman Chris Barbee, masked as a COVID-19 safety precaution, asks the El Campo City Council to consider an August election date if other cities are able to get the governor to agree to create a special date.

Other cities’ efforts to create an August election date for postponed May municipal balloting raises concerns even if the governor approves it, City Attorney Ronny Collins told Council during session.

“It’s a request for alternative election dates ... I do believe the governor has the power to reset or set a specific or special election, but I do not know if he has the power to reset a general election,” Collins said during the May 11 session, but added the city charter calls specifically for a general election date of May or November.

“I don’t know if he can overrule our home rule charter,” the city’s attorney said.

Council unanimously voted to table the issue until the outcome of a multi-city petition asking for an August alternative date is known. The effort was revisited Tuesday during council’s session, but comments were not available as of press time.

Councilman Chris Barbee brought the effort before council citing the petition drive by Round Rock, Cedar Park, Abilene, Allen, Anna, Big Spring, Fairview, Haskell and Providence Village as a potential way to hold the election before next fiscal year’s budget is approved.

A November election day is not a guarantee of safety from the COVID-19 pandemic or the flu, he added.

Barbee got support from Councilman David Hodges. “It doesn’t hurt to ask. We’re not committing to do this.”

New council members possibly coming on in August would be a concern, according to Mayor Randy Collins. 

“I think now is a really good time to have veteran council members. Who knows better than a veteran council member what’s going on in the city,” he said.

Having already served 10 consecutive years on city council, term limitations in the city charter should have required Collins to step down in May. Instead, emergency circumstances brought about by the pandemic found him receiving a six-month extension via a city council vote postponing the election to November.

Councilwoman Gloria Harris said she did not support a second change. 

“We’re looking to save money,” she said, adding the hypothetical August election would cost between $7,000 and $10,000 to conduct.

The potential change, Barbee said, could become a statewide order.

For now, Harris said, “If no one else in Wharton County is doing it ... we can sit back and wait.”

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