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Early voting underway Seven constitutional amendments on Texas ballot

Early voting continues through Friday in the Texas Constitutional Amendment Election, with seven propositions on the ballot ranging from property tax cuts to funding for transportation projects.

The Texas Legislature proposed the amendments in its recent session, which ended June 1. This election occurs in odd years in November and voter turnout is normally substantially low.

Voter apathy in Texas isn’t anything new. The previous constitutional election in 2013 had a turnout of 8.55 percent, which is about 1 million out of 27 million registered voters, according to Ballotpedia.

Mark Kaswan, a political science assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said that Texans’ voter apathy has to do, in large part, with the state not providing enough information to the voters when it comes to election cycles.

“Every election in the state of Texas, it seems like from the perspective of the state, they just want to make sure that the right people vote,” Kaswan said last Tuesday. “That’s their primary concern as opposed to making sure that people have the information they need in order to vote, and encouraging them to vote.”

Dannae Gomez, a senior at UTRGV, expressed how it was frustrating to her that voter turnout for the constitutional election is low.

“I just think it’s crazy that 9 percent of registered voters decide this,” Gomez said. “These are things that affect Texans and only a small percentage of voters have a say. It’s so poorly attended and a huge lapse in the democratic system.”

Proposition 1 seeks to increase the ad valorem tax homestead exemption for public school purposes from $15,000 to $25,000. Opponents cited in the Texas Legislative Council’s “Analyses of Proposed Constitutional Amendments” state that it “will provide only nominal property tax relief for homeowners … and it will cost the state $1.24 billion every two years to make up the revenue loss for school districts.” They suggest a cut in other state taxes. This exemption would save an average homeowner $126 a year, but opponents also argue that this tax cut won’t actually provide relief, but only a reduction in the rate of growth of property taxes.

UTRGV political science Professor Jerry Polinard said Proposition will likely pass because of the wording of the amendment.

“When you look at it, you’re saying, ‘Wait a minute, it’s going to increase the exemption from taxation. So that means I would pay fewer taxes,’” Polinard said. “Yet, the counter to that is it also notices the exemption for public school purposes. So, the opposition to this would argue that the money would have to be made up somehow to try to help
public schools.”

Proposition 2 attempts to revisea previous amendment in the Texas Constitution that allowed an exemption on property taxes for spouses of deceased or severely disabled veterans after 2011. This proposition seeks to include spouses of totally disabled veterans who died before the previous amendment took effect.

Proposition 3 would repeal the constitutional amendment that elected state officials are required to reside in the capital of Texas.

Proposition 4 authorizes the Legislature to allow professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct charitable raffles.

Proposition 5 seeks to increase from 5,000 to 7,500 the maximum population threshold of a county that may construct and maintain private roads.

Proposition 6 recognizes the right of people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife subject to laws that promote wildlife conservation.

Proposition 7 would allocate certain sales and use tax revenue and motor vehicle sales, use and rental tax revenue to the state highway fund to provide funding for non-tolled roads and reduce transportation-related debt.

Election Day is Nov. 3. Voters must bring a government-issued photo identification and a voter registration certificate to cast a ballot.

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