Voters Tuesday will decide seven statewide constitutional propositions and two local Smith County measures.
In addition to the statewide propositions, Whitehouse voters will decide whether to change language in the city's charter, and Overton residents will vote on expanding alcohol sales to include liquor.
Every registered voter in Smith County is eligible to vote on the statewide propositions that would amend the Texas constitution. Voters within Whitehouse and Overton city limits are eligible to vote in their respective local elections.
During the 10-day early voting period that ended Friday, 2,100 votes or 1.6 percent of the county's 127,678 registered voters, cast a ballot.
Elections Administrator Karen Nelson said those numbers eclipsed 2013 early voting, which saw turnout of 1,571, or 1.3 percent of 122,698 registered voters. The final constitutional election ballot count in 2013 was 4,093, or 3.3 percent of registered Smith County voters.
Constitutional amendment elections typically draw dismal voter turnouts. In the 2012 presidential election 58.6 percent of the state's 13.6 million voters cast ballots. During the 2014 gubernatorial election, almost 34 percent of 14 million Texas voters visited polls. By comparison, the 2013 constitutional amendment election drew 8.5 percent of voters statewide.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Tuesday at all locations. Residents will be able to vote at any of 34 locations during this election regardless of voting precinct.
Voters are not required to bring their voter registration cards to vote. But residents are required to bring a form of photo identification, such as a Texas Driver's License, Texas Election Identification card, Texas ID card, Concealed Handgun License, military identification, citizenship certificate with photo or U.S. passport.
Proposition 1 would change the homestead exemption amount for school district property taxes on residences from $15,000 to $25,000. The proposition is part of a $4 billion property tax relief package championed by conservatives, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, during the most recent legislative session.
Proposition 2 would exempt property taxation for surviving spouses of disabled veterans 100 percent.
Proposition 3 would repeal the requirement that Texas' executive officials, including the governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, attorney general and land commissioner, reside in the state capital, Austin, while in office. The requirement has been a constitutional requirement since 1876.
Proposition 4 would allow professional sports teams to run charitable raffles through separate foundations. Raffles would only be allowed at home games of the sports teams associated with the foundations. Any sports-related charitable foundations forming after Jan. 1, 2016, would not be granted the privilege to conduct raffles. Currently, conducting a raffle is illegal for all entities but nonprofit organizations.
Proposition 5 would authorize counties with populations of 7,500 or fewer, according to the most recent federal census, to construct and maintain private roads if the counties impose reasonable charges for the work. Revenue received from private roadwork would be used for right-of-way acquisition and the construction and maintenance of public roads. It is legal in Texas for counties with populations of 5,000 or fewer to provide such work.
Proposition 6 would provide for a right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, including by the use of "traditional methods." The measure also would designate hunting and fishing as "preferred methods of managing and controlling wildlife."
The proposal contains language about what the amendment cannot be construed to mean. The right to hunt, fish and harvest does not affect current laws related to trespass, eminent domain or property rights, nor does the right affect the Legislature's power to authorize municipalities to regulate firearm discharge in populated areas.
Proposition 7 would dedicate $2.5 billion of revenue from the sales and use tax annually to the State Highway Fund starting on Sept. 1, 2017. Beginning Sept. 1, 2019, 35 percent of revenue from the sales and use tax on motor vehicles exceeding $5 billion would be dedicated to the State Highway Fund annually. For example, if $6 billion came in from this tax source, then 35 percent of $1 billion, or $350 million, would be dedicated to the fund. This allocation would expire on Aug. 31, 2029.
Whitehouse voters will consider language changes to 13 items within the city's charter, which is effectively its rulebook.
The range of changes this election includes adding and striking language related to various matters. City officials say they are housekeeping items to clear up language.
The most substantive changes involve Propositions 1, 3 and 4.
Proposition 1 clarifies the charter's rules about elected officials' terms in office by striking out convoluted language related to a "half or more of any portion of a term." Officials still will be limited to three consecutive terms and must vacate the position at least one term before becoming eligible to serve in the same capacity.
Proposition 3 moves the city manager's annual evaluation by the council to July rather than Sept. 30 to better suit the council's fiscal year and budget process.
Proposition 4 would add "or Department Heads" to the list of people affected by nepotism rules. Anyone related within a second degree to the mayor, city council members and city manager are not to be appointed to a permanent or temporary position as the charter reads now.
Last November, city voters approved beer and wine sales by a comfortable margin. On Tuesday, they will decide whether to expand sales to liquor for take home sales and mixed drinks in bars.
Supporters say the revenue from alcohol sales is needed and that alcohol represents progress. Opponents say the positive financial impact for the city would be minimal and that liquor stores and bars could be detrimental for a bedroom community of 2,500 residents.
SMITH COUNTY VOTING LOCATIONS*
Arp First Baptist Church, 304 S. Front St.
Bullard First Methodist Church, 204 Rather St.
Flint Baptist Church, 11131 FM2968 West
Hide-a-Way Member Service Building, 101 Hide-a-Way Lane Central
Lindale Public Library, 200 E. Hubbard St.
Cameron Jarvis Library, 102 S. Georgia St.
Bell Elementary School, 1409 Hankerson St.
Rose Heights Church of God, 2120 Old Omen Road
St. Louis Baptist Church, 4000 Frankston Highway
Boulter Middle School, 2926 Garden Valley Road
Glass Recreation Center, 501 W. 32nd St.
The Heritage Building, 1900 W. Bellwood Road
R.B. Hubbard Center, 304 E. Ferguson Ave.
Jones/Brashear Elementary School, 3450 Chandler Highway
Austin Elementary School, 1105 W. Franklin St.
Bethel Bible Church, 17121 U.S. Highway 69 South
Broadway Church of Christ, 100 Cumberland Road
Noonday Community Center, 16662 County Road 196
Owens Elementary School, 11780 CR168
First Church of the Nazarene, 3700 Old Bullard Road
Three Lakes Middle School, 2445 Three Lakes Parkway
Shiloh Pines Mobile Home Community, 2525 Shiloh Road
Dover Baptist Church, 21166 FM1995
New Harmony Baptist Church, 10251 FM724
Historical Aviation Memorial Museum,150 Airport Drive
Red Springs Fire Department, 16759 FM14
Chapel Hill High School, 13172 Texas Highway 64 East
Jackson Elementary School, 16406 FM2767
Crossbrand Cowboy Church, 11915 FM2015
Hillcreek Baptist Church, 14749 Texas Highway 110 South
Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 10519 FM344 East
Whitehouse Municipal Court, 311 E. Main St.
Starrville Church of the Living God, 18396 Texas Highway 271
Victor Kay Gymnasium, 605 Wildcat Drive
*Smith County registered voters may vote at any polling location.
Source: Smith County Elections Office