Each state in our union has its own rules for how to run elections at every level of government. The common thread among states is a democratic process that provides an equal and fair opportunity for all residents to vote for their municipal leaders, including disabled individuals and those who aren’t able to be physically present in their municipalities on election day.
Voters have the opportunity to vote in municipal elections in local towns, villages and cities. In general, local elections may be run by a single individual, a board or commission of elections, or a combination of two or more bodies. In Texas, municipal elections are divided according to political subdivisions. The county clerk and the county tax assessor or collector are responsible for conducting municipal elections.
To keep elections as fair as possible, Texas, like other states, has strict rules for both candidates who run for office and voters.
Common Types of Elected Positions for Municipalities
The elected positions vary based on the municipal government’s structure and the laws governing municipalities. Some of the more common positions that require municipal elections are:
- Mayor or other executive leader
- Council member
- School board member
- Library administrator
- County clerk
Running for Local Political Subdivisions
The state of Texas is divided into political subdivisions. Residents who are interested in running for a municipal office must meet the qualifications and learn about other requirements for the position they wish to hold and file their application during the designated filing period. One of the minimum requirements is to file the application for a place on the ballot with their political subdivision.
Candidates for local offices may only appear on the ballot as independent candidates unless their city charter specifically allows partisan candidacy.
Candidates are required to fill out their applications in writing and must have them sworn to by a person who is authorized to administer an oath under Texas law. The city’s secretary is allowed to administer the oath for applications to hold a place on the ballot. All candidates are required to meet certain qualifications for standard terms and vacancies.
Running for Municipal Election in Texas
Some cities have stipulations that require candidates for office to collect a certain number of signatures on a petition before filling out an application for a place on the ballot with the city secretary.
Qualifications for School District Elections
In Texas, candidates for school district elections must be U.S. citizens and must be at least 18 years of age. They must be a qualified voter by the required time and must also meet the other requirements listed under the Texas Election Code Section 141.001. School district candidates must file their application for a place on the ballot with the secretary of the school board.
Other District Elections
Certain municipalities may have additional elected positions, such as water district or hospital district officials. Candidates for these positions must also file an application for a place on the ballot with the secretary of the district board. This is a requirement for both regular and special elections.
Voting Requirements and Other Information for Voters
Voters must show proof of identification when they arrive at their polling places. The following types of identification are acceptable:
- Texas driver’s license
- Texas state identification card
- Texas handgun license
- S. Passport
- S. Certificate of citizenship with photo
- Texas election identification card
- S. Military identification card
The state of Texas doesn’t allow voters to register to vote online. Voters must register in person at the county voter registrar’s office. Alternatively, voters can fill out a voter registration application online, but they must print it, sign it and mail it to the county registrar. This process is meant to help ensure that voters are the same people who registered to vote.
Individuals who aren’t sure whether they’re registered to vote can check on the Texas Secretary of State’s website by entering their full name, birthdate, ZIP code and county of residence.
Election officials must compare the signature on the voter’s identification card with the signature on the official list of registered voters. For questionable signatures, it’s permissible for election officials to accept a signature that is “substantially similar” to the name on the official list of registered voters as long as the voter is willing to sign an affidavit acknowledging that they are the same person on the list of registered voters.
The state of Texas allows voters to vote by absentee ballot via mail as long as they meet certain requirements. This is a viable way for those who can’t be at their polling place on election day in person to vote. Absentee ballots make it possible for students attending school out of state and those who must be out of state for work or other important reasons to have the opportunity to vote. Voters wishing to vote by absentee ballot must reside in the county where they vote by mail. They can’t vote in the state or county where they will be on election day. To be eligible for an absentee ballot, Texas residents must be age 65 or older, disabled, or out of the county on the day of the election and during the time period for early voting by personal appearance. Individuals who are confined in jail, but who would be eligible to vote, may vote via absentee ballot.
The Texas Municipal League has a wealth of information about municipal elections. The League is overseen by a board of directors and has a membership of 1,158 Texas cities. The purpose of the Texas Municipal League is to provide services and to advocate for the best interests of Texas citizens and city officials.
Voting is a fundamental right of every United States citizen, and it’s one that allows citizens an opportunity to express their opinions about who should govern them. Elections are the cornerstone of our nation’s political foundation. At times, the voting process also gives citizens an opportunity to express their opinions about municipal budgeting, social issues, security issues, and other important matters that affect the quality of their lives within their communities. Voting gives voters a degree of control over the issues that matter most to them.