Texas Town Rejects Easing Recall Requirements

AUSTIN -- Bastrop voters on Nov. 8 rejected three proposed charter amendments that would have lowered signature requirements for recalls, referenda and initiatives -- all of the ways the public can force a vote on legislative action or the removal or replacement of elected officeholders.

However, voters did approve two charter amendments requiring that signatures for initiatives and referenda be collected within 180 days -- a standard rule absent from the Bastrop charter.

Bastrop voters were asked on the ballot whether to reduce the percentage of signatures from registered voters for initiatives from 20 percent to 5 percent, for referenda from 20 percent to 5 percent, and for recalls from 25 percent to 10 percent. They rejected the measures by 56 percent, 58 percent and 54 percent, respectively.

Because the two measures setting the 180-day standard passed, Bastrop will not be able to amend its charter again for another two years, according to laws of the Texas Constitution.

"We got three out of five," Judy Hoover, treasurer for a political action committee opposing the charter changes, said Wednesday. "I think the more critical three were the ones about the percentage requirements, the lowering of the threshold. I think that the public realized that that would cause unnecessary chaos in the system."

Changes in signature requirements could have made the recall of elected officials much easier by requiring support from one in 10 voters, instead of one in four.

Many contended ahead of the election the change was too low a threshold and would have allowed a small group to force special elections based on personal disagreements.

The charter election was the result of a petition drive this summer by Independent Texans, a political action committee, which turned in 337 signatures to the city secretary in August to place the five items on the November ballot.

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