Midway City Secretary Debra Newkirk, who was a driving force behind Representative Trent Ashby’s proposed House Bill 1067, testified on the bill’s behalf in Austin on Monday in front of the House Elections Committee.
HB 1067, which was filed in January, would allow city officials to remove deceased candidates from their election ballots. Current law states that in order to remove a deceased candidate, their death must have occurred at least two weeks before the filing period.
“(Ashby) presented the bill to the committee and I was called forward to tell how the bill came about,” said Newkirk. “I stressed to them why I felt it was important. If we are striving for openness and transparency in all things, then we should keep it in our elections as well. If someone is deceased, they do not need to be on the ballot. And if they have not been printed, you should be able to take them off.”
The issue first came about last year when Jimmy Cook, a long-sitting council member in Midway, passed away prior to the election but after the filing period. When Newkirk contacted the Secretary of State’s office, she was informed that his name would have to remain on the ballot.
But Cook still won reelection, creating a vacancy on the council. Newkirk then got in touch with Ashby and his staff to address the issue before she wrote out her proposed change to allow names of deceased candidates to be removed from consideration before the ballots are printed. Her words were ultimately written up and filed by Ashby and can be found in HB 1067.
Newkirk testified on behalf of the bill on Monday in front of the House Elections Committee in Austin and answered questions proposed by select members, some of whom were hoping to add additional language to the bill.
“In small towns, we do not have primaries,” said Newkirk. “Some of the questions stemmed from the belief that there are party politics playing a role in small-town city elections, which there is not.”
Newkirk was not the only one in support of the bill. Also voicing their support for the proposal was the Texas Municipal League, which strives to advance and sustain the interests of the cities of Texas.
“There are a lot of people who support this bill that I was not aware of,” said Newkirk, who attended the hearing with her husband.
The bill remains in committee until the members decide to vote and would then move to the Senate. The Texas House Elections Committee is comprised of nine members with jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to the right of suffrage in Texas; primary, special and general elections; revision, modification, amendment, or change of the election code; the secretary of state in relation to elections and campaign finance.