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Runoff rules

Council Member Mike Sullivan sheds some light on my confusion about runoffs in school board elections.

As a former school board member, I know the answer well.

In short, in the state of Texas, a candidate for school board has to only achieve a plurality to win. It is not necessary to win by the conventional “50% + 1″ to win an election. You only have to receive more than one vote that everyone else in the race to win.

While this may seem like a strange, or archaic method, it has served this state well. There almost 1100 school districts in the state, and as they say, “you do the math”. It would be expensive, time consuming, and certainly a financial burden for almost school districts if the election law was written any other way.

I appreciate the feedback. I assumed Alief ISD would have a runoff because HISD has them. Checking the statutes, however, makes it clear that HISD is the exception and not the rule:

Sec. 2.001. PLURALITY VOTE REQUIRED. Except as otherwise provided by law, to be elected to a public office, a candidate must receive more votes than any other candidate for the office.

So there must be a provision elsewhere that allows for or requires HISD elections to need a majority. And I believe this is it in the Education code.

Sec. 11.057. DETERMINATION OF RESULTS; OPTIONAL MAJORITY VOTE REQUIREMENT. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (c), in an independent school district in which the positions of trustees are designated by number as provided by Section 11.058 or in which the trustees are elected from single-member trustee districts as provided by Section 11.052, the candidate receiving the highest number of votes for each respective position voted on is elected.

(b) In a district in which the positions of trustees are not designated by number or in which the trustees are not elected from single-member trustee districts, the candidates receiving the highest number of votes shall fill the positions the terms of which are normally expiring.

(c) The board of trustees of an independent school district in which the positions of trustees are designated by number or in which the trustees are elected from single-member trustee districts as provided by Section 11.052 may provide by resolution, not later than the 180th day before the date of an election, that a candidate must receive a majority of the votes cast for a position or in a trustee district, as applicable, to be elected. A resolution adopted under this subsection is effective until rescinded by a subsequent resolution adopted not later than the 180th day before the date of the first election to which the rescission applies.

So the default is “most votes wins”, but a district may make its own rule that requires a majority. Which is I presume what HISD has done. I looked around but didn’t find such a resolution for HISD, so if anyone happens to know where to look for one, I’d appreciate it.

So there you have it. Note also that for city elections, you apparently need a majority to win in Bellaire, even though state law does not require that of them. Days like this make me think I should have gone to law school, if only so I could have a better understanding of how stuff like this works.

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