I know y’all are crazy happy that it’s Mueller Time, but please do remember that there’s an election happening right now. And more to the point, if you’re reading this you’re probably not one of those who we need to reach the most. But I hope you’ll carry the message to those who need to hear it.
Because I know you’ve been paying attention to our Facebook posts, what’s in The Rally, and looking at our calendar, I know that you know that there’s an election for amendments to the Texas Constitution November 7, and early voting continues through this Friday. And, depending on where you live there are other issues to vote on – such as a big bond package for the city of Dallas. But I have to ask you this – do you know enough about all of this to tell your friends, family, and co-workers why they need to vote? My guess is that you don’t, so here’s a bit of background on the Constitutional Amendments and why people need to vote this election.
First, I hear it asked frequently – why are we always asked to vote on amendments to the Texas Constitution? The answer is interesting, and it goes back to the period after the Civil War when Texas was emerging from Reconstruction. Those writing the new Constitution had such a mistrust of government (in part a reaction to the measures imposed on them during Reconstruction) that they wanted to severely limit the power of the state government. That’s one of the reasons that the Governor actually has less power than the Lieutenant Governor! And it takes a lot more detail and a lot more words to say very specifically what the government can and can’t do than it does to leave a lot of the details to the legislature. The down side is that the Constitution is so detailed that sometimes it takes an amendment to change a relatively minor thing. For example, abolishing the office of County Surveyor in any particular county used to require a Constitutional amendment. That was done for Collin County in 1985. Thanks to some cleanup in 1999 it doesn’t require and amendment anymore, but the cleanup itself required an amendment. You can see the full history here.
Secondly – The proposed amendments do have an impact on some people’s daily lives. There is an amendment on the ballot to make getting a home equity loan more easily. There are two about reducing property taxes for veterans or their widows/widowers under certain circumstances. While these might not sound particularly significant to you, you can bet they are to those vets and their families, and you can bet there will be ripple effects if more and more Collin County residents find themselves with home equity loans they can’t pay. The Texas Democratic Party hasn’t taken an official position on them, but some guidance has been provided. The House Research Organization has an excellent guide here. The TDP Executive Director notes that all votes were unanimous, except for Proposition 4 four Democrats voted no and for Proposition 5 six Democrats voted no. Progress Texas has a good guide here.
And finally – this gets to the heart of the matter – the most important political office in the land isn’t President. It isn’t even Senator, Congressman, or Governor. It’s citizen. And when citizens don’t execute the duties of their office by voting our entire democracy suffers. Look at what happened last November and what happened earlier this year in the Texas Legislature if you need convincing. We, especially Democrats, need to build a habit and culture of voting, and it starts with such mundane and obscure elections as Texas Constitutional Amendments.
I urge you to inform yourself on the amendments and whatever other issues may be on your particular ballot, make a very specific plan to vote, vote, and then make sure your neighbors, friends, and family do as well.