The Austin City Council gave initial approval this morning to keeping city council elections in May. Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Members Mike Martinez and Chris Riley cast the dissenting votes.
Council members who supported the measure, including Bill Spellman and Laura Morrison, argued for keeping city elections in May rather than November would to prevent city issues from being overwhelmed by state ballot measures. They also said that holding city elections in November ran the risk of disenfranchising certain voters by extending the terms of current city council members without a vote of the people.
Supporters of a November voting date argued that a late fall election date would allow the city to share costs of holding an election. Mayor Leffingwell told his colleagues that the drive behind Senate Bill 100 was to make sure service members stationed overseas would have sufficient time to vote in both regular and runoff elections.
A bill passed by the legislature earlier this year changed the date for runoff elections for the March statewide primary. That new date--45 days after the primary election--falls in the middle of the voting cycle for Austin elections, traditionally held in mid-May.
Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, the county's chief elections officer, told council members that the effective sandwiching of city elections between the primary and the primary runoff shocked many elections officials across the state. She added that other towns in the county are considering the move to November elections, and that Austin could be the only town on the springtime ballot. The price tag for that would be around $300,000.