Updated Nov. 3 10:30 a.m.: This story has been corrected to clarify that the Socorro City Council races will go to a runoff.
Texas voters overwhelmingly approved changes to the state’s constitution Tuesday, according to unofficial final election results late evening.
Some of the propositions on the ballot were inspired by local governments’ responses to the pandemic while others sought to impose stricter requirements for judicial candidates and extend property tax exemptions to certain widowed spouses.
Closer to home, voters rejected the Canutillo Independent School District’s $187.5 million bond proposal for campus renovations and new construction.
And in Socorro, the races for two open city council seats will go into a runoff, after no candidate clinched more than 50% of the vote.
Constitutional amendment elections usually have low turnout statewide, and this year was no exception.
In El Paso, just over 4% of the county’s registered voters participated, according to unofficial final election results. That number will increase slightly as mail-in ballots come in Wednesday, though it’s still below 2019’s 7.6% turnout. In addition to constitutional amendments, that year saw a city of El Paso bond, a special El Paso City Council race and a school bond election.
Statewide, voters approved all eight proposed Constitutional amendments. A majority of El Paso County voters also voted in favor of each proposal.
Lawmakers passed the proposed changes during the recent legislative session, which required voter-approval to take effect.
Proposition 1: Allows the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association to hold charitable raffles at rodeo events.
Proposition 2: Gives counties the same ability as cities to issue bonds for roads and transportation infrastructure projects in underdeveloped areas.
Proposition 3: Prevents all levels of government from prohibiting or limiting religious services, something some cities, including El Paso, did during the pandemic to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Proposition 4: Requires candidates for Texas Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals or a Texas court of appeals to have 10 years of experience as a licensed lawyer or judge in Texas and district court candidates to have eight years. Additionally, all judicial candidates must be Texas residents and U.S. citizens. These changes apply to all judges elected or appointed after Jan. 1, 2025.
Proposition 5: Extends the State Commission on Judicial Conduct’s power to investigate complaints against judicial candidates and issue reprimands, not just sitting judges.
Proposition 6: Allows residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities to designate an essential caregiver who cannot be denied in-person visitation, as occurred during the early months of the pandemic when these centers closed to all visitors.
Proposition 7: Allows the surviving spouse of a person who is disabled to receive that person’s homestead exemption for school district property taxes if the surviving spouse is 55 years or older.
Proposition 8: Extends homestead property tax exemptions to the spouse of a military member killed or fatally injured in the line of duty, regardless of whether that’s a combat situation.
Canutillo ISD bond election
Canutillo voters rejected the Canutillo Independent School District’s two bond propositions that totaled $187.5 million.
Proposition A included $177.5 million for construction projects and land purchases, including a new elementary school and administrative building. Some 65% of voters were against it, according to unofficial final election results.
Proposition B included $10 million to refinance maintenance tax notes — non-voter approved debt — the district incurred at the onset of the pandemic, when it installed district-wide WiFi, bought student laptops and took advantage of empty schools to install LED lighting. It also failed by nearly 65% of the vote.
Superintendent Pedro Galaviz expressed disappointment Wednesday about the results.
“We talk about our kids being our most precious resource, but we’re not willing to invest in them,” Galaviz said.
“We, as a district, gave this community two straight As (in state performance rankings). Our teachers work really hard and yet (voters are) not willing to invest in teaching and learning facilities, making sure we have optimal learning environments.”
Canutillo voters last approved a bond in 2011. Galaviz said district staff will determine which renovation projects to prioritize in the absence of bond funds. The district could put forth another bond as early as May, but that’s something trustees will need to decide.
City of Socorro
In Alderman District 1, incumbent Cesar Nevarez and challenger Ernest Gomez will face off in a runoff. Nevarez received nearly 47% of the vote and Gomez 35%, a difference of 21 votes, according to unofficial final election results. Rene Rodriguez trailed with 18% of the vote.
In Alderman District 2, incumbent Ralph Duran and challenger Alejandro Garcia will be on the runoff ballot. Garcia led by five votes, earning 37% of the vote to Duran’s 34%. Robert Hernandez had 29% of the vote.
The runoff election date has not been set.
Cover photo: The El Paso County Courthouse was one of more than 100 Election Day polling places in El Paso County. (Danielle Prokop/El Paso Matters)