Low Voter Turnout Seen Across the State and Locally

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

EAST TEXAS – Voters in Texas went to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots in the statewide Constitutional Amendments election.

While the seven statewide propositions all passed – at the local level – two ballot measures in Houston County and one in Anderson County went down to defeat.

In Houston County, registered voters in the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) were asked to decide on, “The increase by the Houston County Hospital District of the maximum rate of annual taxes imposed for hospital district purposes to a rate not to exceed 75 cents on each $100 valuation of all taxable property in the district.”

The proposition failed by a margin of 764 votes (49.77 percent) for the measure and 771 votes (50.23 percent) against.

HCHD Board of Directors President Deborah Porth Blackwell was contacted after the election for her thoughts on the results.

“Obviously, we know it failed by seven votes. I would like to say I appreciate everyone getting out to vote. I’m very disappointed, however, the hospital district will continue its efforts to reopen the hospital,” she said.

“Even though we will not have the ability to raise taxes to a comparable level as other hospital districts,” Blackwell continued, “we will continue to look for financial support from other sources. Although this is not a fatal blow to the hospital, I don’t want to minimize the importance of not having the support of a significant portion of our tax payers.”

Asked specifically if she anticipated a recount of the vote – given the seven vote difference – Blackwell paused and then said, “With the vote being that close, I think it would be prudent.”

Voters in Latexo ISD were asked to decide on “Approving the ad valorem tax rate of $1.2040 per $100 valuation in Latexo Independent School District for the current year, a rate that is $0.00 higher per $100 valuation than the school district rollback tax rate.”

The proposition failed by a margin of 151 votes (47.34 percent) for the measure and 168 votes (52.66 percent) against.

Following the election, Latexo ISD Superintendent Dr. Stacy Easterly released a prepared statement.

“Obviously, we are disappointed in the results of the election,” the superintendent began. “The 13 pennies slated to move from the Interest and Sinking, money collected to make the bond payment, to Maintenance and Operations, money collected that benefits our students, were to pay off current debt left from security and building upgrades, continued updates of our facilities, updated curriculum, and to purchase a new school bus.  The TRE (tax ratification election) would have generated approximately $140,000 per year over the next 4 years or until the bond was paid off.”

Easterly explained once the bond was paid off in 2021, the tax rate would have automatically lowered by .034 cents.

“At that time, the school board could have returned the Maintenance and Operations tax rate to $1.04. In addition to receiving the additional $140,000 if the TRE would have passed, the small schools penalty that has plagued our school for over 30 years will be incrementally be done away with, and our school will receive more money over the next 7 years as a result of the HB 21 passing the legislative session. Receiving all of these funds would have gone a long way to assist the students of Latexo,” she added.

“We are going to continue to do what we always do in regards to welcoming students into the classrooms. Our teachers will continue to teach and make an impact on our students. That piece of it does not change at all. What we have heard from our community is that we will need to deliver those services based on the local funding that we currently have,” Easterly stated.

As we develop next year’s budget, we will continue to address the needs of our students and facilities. The challenge is how to go about budgeting the district’s needs in a manner that protects and preserves student opportunities to the greatest extent possible.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, the total voter turnout in Houston County was less than 13 percent of the 12,839 registered voters in the county.

Voters in the Palestine Independent School District  were asked to decide on, “Approving the annexation by the Trinity Valley Community College District of the following territory: Palestine Independent School District, and authorizing the imposition of an ad valorem tax for junior college purposes which is currently set at a rate of $0.13854 per $100 valuation of taxable property.”

The proposition failed by a margin of 308 against and 208 in favor.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, the total voter turnout in Anderson County was less than four percent of the 27,713 registered voters in the county.

As previously mentioned all seven statewide propositions passed.

The amendments to the Texas Constitution along with vote totals and percentages are listed below.

Proposition One which broadens the scope of homestead ad valorem tax exemptions for a disabled veteran or their spouse passed by a margin of 749,292 votes (85.99 percent) in favor and 122,034 votes (14 percent) against.

Proposition Two which prescribes conditions, fees, refinancing options, and eligibility for home equity loans passed by a margin of 588,457 votes (68.61 percent) in favor and 269,223 votes (31.38 percent) against.

Proposition Three which limits the service of certain gubernatorial appointees after expiration of term passed by a margin of 717,560 votes (83.14 percent) in favor and 145,470 votes (16.85 percent) against.

Proposition Four which relates to notice requirements to Attorney General regarding challenges to constitutionality passed by a margin of 549,550 votes (64.34 percent) in favor and 304,553 votes (35.65 percent) against.

Proposition Five which permits additional professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct raffles passed by a margin of 507,035 votes (60.34 percent) in favor and 333,258 votes (39.65 percent) against.

Proposition Six which provides homestead exemptions for a deceased (line of duty) first responder’s surviving spouse passed by a margin of 734,133 votes (84.62 percent) in favor and 133,336 votes (15.37 percent) against.

Proposition Seven which permits financial institutions to award random prizes to customers to encourage savings passed by a margin of 507,947 votes (59.67 percent) in favor and 343,253 votes (40.32 percent) against.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, the total voter turnout in the state of Texas was less than six percent of the 15,099,137 registered voters in the state.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.