The Frisco City Council voted during a special meeting Friday to postpone the city’s general election for mayor and Places 5 and 6. The Frisco ISD Board of Trustees met virtually Wednesday morning and likewise voted to postpone its election for Places 4 and 5.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation March 18 suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code to allow cities to postpone their 2020 elections.
"I strongly encourage local election officials to take advantage of these waivers and postpone their elections until November," Abbott said. "Right now, the state's focus is responding to COVID-19 – including social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. By delaying this election, our local election officials can assist in that effort."
Under Section 418.016 of the Texas Government Code, the Governor suspended Sections 41.0052(a) and (b) of the Texas Election Code and Section 49.103 of the Texas Water Code to the extent necessary to allow political subdivisions to move their elections for 2020 only to the next uniform date.
“It’s certainly not what we consider ideal,” Mayor Jeff Cheney said. “We like to have our municipal elections on a different date so that those candidates’ voices can be clearly heard.”
Council Member John Keating said the question has been raised as to why the election can’t be moved to July when the presidential primary runoff is scheduled.
City attorney Richard Abernathy said May and November are the only options for general elections, and primary elections are handled by the respective political parties. Council Member Will Sowell said the governor’s office was “not amenable to entertaining those conversations.”
Council Member Shona Huffman also said both Denton and Collin county election divisions have said they will not conduct elections in May, so the city would be forced to do its own.
“This is not something, as council members and local municipal elected officials, that we think is the best method of doing municipal elections, and we will certainly be looking in the future to make sure that it stays in May, which is what our charter says,” she said. “But this year our hands are a little bit tied.”
Cheney had one parting request at Friday’s meeting after the vote.
“I never thought that there’d be a topic that all 200,000 residents in our city would actually agree on, but I’m pretty sure all 200,000 residents would agree that candidates should take their signs down in the interim and put them back up closer to the election, and don’t leave them out for nine months,” he said. “Even though we don’t have the authority to do that, I think that would be certainly a nice gesture by the candidates.”
While the FISD board voted to postpone, their conversation was somewhat different, as Board President Chad Rudy said school officials are working with the governor’s office to try to find an alternative special election date prior to the November election.
As a relatively new trustee herself, Rene Archambault expressed concern for school board candidates running during a presidential election.
“It’s very hard for local candidates to have any type of ability to reach that many voters, so I worry about non-partisan positions being on a partisan ballot and being able to move the needle at all on telling voters about your platforms and your positions,” she said.
Tim Nelson abstained from the council vote, and Anne McCausland abstained from the board vote because neither will be running for another term, which means each will have their respective terms extended as a result of the postponement.