Nine amendments to the Texas Constitution passed easily on Tuesday, including measures that would fund water projects to address the state's ongoing drought and population growth, and that would give military veterans and their spouses tax breaks in the event of death or injury.
The off-year election drew less interest than the fanfare-filled votes for president or governor, but it has not been without controversy. The election marked the first time that Texas enforced its new voter ID law, requiring voters to present identification such as a driver's license or passport to vote. Opponents of the law worried it would prevent some voters from casting ballots, while supporters said the measure would ensure integrity in the system.
Some hard-fought local elections added some excitement to the low-key election. In Houston, Mayor Annise Parker fended off a challenge from former City Attorney Ben Hall. Voters there are leaning against a $217 million plan to overhaul the Astrodome and turn the fading 1965 structure into an events center and exhibition space.
Voters in Austin and Travis County were choosing from four candidates vying to serve the remainder of state Rep. Mark Strama's term. Strama, D-Austin, resigned earlier this year to lead Google Fiber's project in Austin. In HD 50, Republican Mike VanDeWalle and Democrat Celia Israel are headed for a runoff.
Find county-by-county election results on the constitutional amendments on our interactive election results map.
Early voting results for the HD-50 special election have been posted by the Travis County Elections Office. Mike VanDeWalle (R) leads with 39.8 percent. Celia Israel (D) is second with 31.6 percent. Jade Chang Sheppard (D) is third with 15.9 percent, and Rico Reyes (D) is fourth with 12.6 percent.
First early voting numbers are up on constitutional amendments. Prop 6 is winning 80.7 percent to 19.3 percent. Prop 1 is winning 88.8 percent to 11.2 percent. Prop 4 is ahead 88.1 percent to 11.9 percent.
All constitutional amendments are ahead by comfortable margins in early returns. The closest ones are Prop 3 with 59.2 percent in favor and Prop 5 with 64.5 percent in favor.
Prop 6 is winning big in Harris County — a key bellwether — in early returns. It's ahead 77.8 percent to 22.2 percent.
Harris County has posted its early voting results, giving us our first numbers on the race for mayor and the proposed $217 million overhaul of the Astrodome. Incumbent Annise Parker nabbed 56.61 percent of early and absentee early votes. City Attorney Ben Hall, her biggest challenger, drew 27.91 percent. On Proposition 2, the Astrodome overhaul, 53.69 percent said no.
Early voting figures show Midland mayoral candidate Jerry Morales took 63.13 percent of the vote. John James is second with 25.38. The two minority candidates are considered the front-runners in the mayoral race. Either of their wins would make this a historical race as the winner will become Midland's first non-Anglo mayor.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and area legislators were scheduled to speak at a downtown Austin press conference on Proposition 6 at 7:45 p.m. Event organizers say the conference is now expected to start at 8 p.m.
The AP calls all statewide propositions, including Prop 6 to take $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to finance water infrastructure projects.
House Speaker Joe Straus is now speaking at a downtown Austin press conference on Proposition 6, which would amend the Texas Constitution so that $2 billion can be taken from the state’s savings account to help finance water infrastructure projects. Straus says he credits the Legislature for coming together on Proposition 6 and the people of the state of Texas. "I'm very, very proud of Texas and of our state Legislature for taking this very strong step forward," Straus said.
Straus says he expects implementation of the State Water Plan to begin "very soon." He says he has talked to Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and she is ready to transfer money from the state's savings account. He said that while technology changes every few years, and the State Water Plan will have to change with it, Proposition 6 will provide a permanent funding mechanism for the plan.
Here's a statement from Laura Huffman, state director of the Nature Conservancy, on the passage of Prop 6: "We have seen firsthand how, in an instant, drought can devastate our economy, our quality of life and our natural resources. This bold action — by both voters today and state leaders during the last legislative session — is reminiscent of the sweeping response our state made during the Drought of Record in the 1950s."
Texas Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, says today's vote on Proposition 6 is "probably the most important vote" Texans will ever make.
"They, by their vote today, they are going to supply a good supply of water to their children, grandchildren and all future Texans, so all of them and Texas can continue to grow," Fraser said.
In Harris County, the Astrodome's fate doesn't look good. With 7.8 percent of precincts reporting, 53.6 percent of voters say no to the overhaul. Meanwhile, Mayor Annise Parker still has a commanding lead over City Attorney Ben Hall. She has 56.8 percent of the vote to Hall's 27.9 percent.
Gov. Rick Perry on Proposition 6: “Today, the people of Texas made history, ensuring we’ll have the water we need to grow and thrive for the next five decades, without raising state taxes. Now it’s time to get to work on the projects that’ll help us meet our growing water needs, preserving and improving both our economic strength and quality of life.”
Heather Harward, executive director of H2O4TEXAS, an organization advocating for implementation of the State Water Plan, says she is unsure about the future of her organization with the passage of Proposition 6, but she would like to see it continue.
She said she would like to see it monitor implementation of the State Water Plan.
Harward said she is unsure of when Texans will begin to see results from the passage of Prop 6, but expects the Legislature and Water Development Board to move quickly.
“The Water Development Board is already cocked and loaded and is getting ready to implement Proposition 6, should it pass, but they are going to have to go through a rule-making process and that takes time,” Harward said. “There will be very meaningful things happening immediately because of the commitment of the Legislature and the Water Development Board to move this process forward.”
The first batch of election day votes in HD 50 race are in. Mike VanDeWalle (R) has 39.5 percent and Celia Israel (D) has 31.9 percent; they're still comfortably headed for a runoff.
Hall has conceded, handing Parker her third term as Houston mayor, according to the Houston Chronicle. "This does not end this journey. We shall continue to fight for all of the dreams in this great City." Hall said on his Twitter account.
The Astrodome still appears doomed. With 36 percent of precincts reporting, 53.4 percent of voters oppose its $217 million overhaul.
State Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels, says he wants the Legislature to now engage the Texas Water Development Board to ensure that things move forward smoothly following the passage of Proposition 6.
He said Proposition 6 is the only way the state can continue to see the economic prosperity it has seen in the past, as business endeavors require a strong water system.
“The people of Texas, I believe today, showed that they are forward thinking and they want this state to continue to be as prosperous as we have been in the past,"” Miller said.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz released a statement on Mayor Parker's victory: “As a woman holding elected office myself, I was enormously proud when Annise was elected, and over the last four years, it’s been inspiring to see her lead the city as a problem solver. I had no doubt that the voters of Houston would reward her hard work."
With 11,025 votes tabulated in HD-50, Mike VanDeWalle (R) has 39.3 percent and Celia Israel (D) has 31.6 percent. They are close to punching their tickets to the runoff.
The Astrodome is likely headed for demolition. The AP has called the vote on Proposition 2. With two-thirds of Harris County precincts reporting, the no's have it with 53.5 percent.
The AP has Democrat Celia Israel and Republican Mike VanDeWalle headed to a runoff in HD 50
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