Runoff Election Day Remains Saturday, May Be Moved To Tuesday Later

A Houston City Council committee today recommended keeping the city’s run-off election day on a Saturday. But committee members remained open for the possibility of changing it to a Tuesday in the future.

City Attorney David Feldman says the city first started discussing the topic in March. The reason: Holding elections during the week is cheaper.

“That expense arises from the fact that we use facilities, such as school buildings, where we are charged when those facilities are used on Saturdays but not charged when they are used during the week.”

Besides the question of cost, another important issue would be how moving the day would affect voter turnout. To learn more about that, the committee invited political science Prof. Bob Stein of Rice University.

Earlier this week, Stein presented results from the KUHF-KHOU 11 News Election Poll. As part of it, he asked likely voters which day they would prefer if a runoff election is necessary.

A runoff occurs if no candidate receives an absolute majority of votes and voters are then asked to decide between the top two candidates.

“Fifty-six – 55.9 percent of voters – said yes. Without any justification for the change, they went for Tuesday. No: 31 percent. Twelve percent don’t know, 1 percent refused.”

The numbers for those favoring a change to Tuesday are even higher when the reduced cost is mentioned.

Council member C.O. Bradford, who chaired the committee meeting, noted that moving the runoff election to Tuesday would save money and accommodate the majority of voters.

However, several council members expressed concern about recommending the change for this November’s election, because it would cut the early voting period short by two days, at least in this election cycle.

This is District J council member Mike Laster.

“My particular concern in this election cycle for 2013 is that we would be actually losing the Saturday and Sunday of early vote period, which has historically been a very high turnout two days of early vote.”

In the end, the committee decided not to recommend a change, and a spokeswoman for Annise Parker says the mayor won’t move the runoff election day this year.

C.O. Bradford says the city still needs to hear from actual voters, not just potential ones.

“So I think the right decision has been made in a recommendation to leave things as they are for this election cycle, collect more data during the election cycle that’s coming up and make some recommendation after that election cycle.”

This November, Prof. Stein will conduct exit polls to collect more reliable data on this topic.

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Florian Martin

Reporter/NewsLab Coordinator

Florian Martin is the KUHF NewsLab Coordinator. While guiding and overseeing interns, he works on his own stories and is always on call to cover breaking news and other media events...