Early voting begins today in the November election. On every Texan’s ballot will be eight proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.
Houston Public Media politics and government reporter Andrew Schneider spoke with Texas Standard about what all Texas voters need to know about those amendments. Listen to the interview in the audio player above or read the interview transcript below.
This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.
Texas Standard: Where did these proposed amendments come from?
Andrew Schneider: Most of them, they had to originate in the legislative session because they had to pass as joint resolutions of both houses first, in fact, very closely. We’re seeing some efforts to try and pass some last-minute resolutions now for elections that will take place next year.
Proposition 3 – what would that do?
Schneider: That would prohibit the local governments from limiting or prohibiting any kind of religious services or religious institutions. It’s basically an outgrowth of some developments that took place early on in the pandemic, when local governments like Harris County tried to stem the spread of the disease by temporarily closing down houses of worship.
So Prop 3 would prohibit any governmental entity from closing down a house of worship?
Schneider: Effectively, yes. And it’s actually complementing a law that passed during the regular session of the Texas Legislature, which Gov. Abbott signed in June. I believe that’s the Freedom to Worship Act, which essentially does the same thing. This just strengthens that.
Prop 6 – that would allow someone in a nursing home or an assisted living facility to have a so-called essential caregiver?
Schneider: It would allow residents of nursing or assisted living facilities to have a someone who could not be denied in-person access under any circumstances to come and help them. It’s basically seen as a compassionate measure, as in a platform of which many elderly people have been forced to live in isolation over the last year.
Proposition 4 here has to do with the rules surrounding elected judicial positions. This would mean that potential judges – in other words, lower court judges or lawyers who might be eligible – would have to be a Texas resident and would have to have practiced in Texas for 10 years before being eligible for elected court positions?
Schneider: Right. And that effectively would make it difficult for younger and more diverse candidates to become judges in Texas. It’s, effectively, a Republican reaction to more Democratic or progressive lawyers beating Republican candidates in recent years in urban counties.
There are a couple of propositions here that have to do with property tax. Could you tell us about Propositions 7 and 8?
Schneider: Proposition 7 provides a property tax break for the surviving spouse of a disabled individual. This is, effectively, a compassionate measure. Proposition 8 is is fairly similar; it’s designed to help the provide property tax breaks for the surviving spouses of people who were killed while serving as members of the military.
Do you think that the Texas electorate is focused on these amendments? How much how much attention are they getting?
Schneider: This is what you’d call an off-year election. I think probably most people are not paying attention to this. I think you’d be you’d be hard pressed to find somebody who could name one of the amendments, so turnout this year is probably going to be on the low side.
Is there anything else that we should focus on when it comes to these propositions?
Schneider: There was one. It wasn’t particularly controversial, but it struck me as rather interesting, and that’s Proposition 1. Effectively, it would allow rodeos to conduct charitable raffles. So, like I said, it’s not particularly controversial, but it’s something that could could be put to good use.
Early voting runs Oct. 18-29. Election Day is Nov. 2.