By Jonathan Neerman, Denise Rose, & Justin Lee
The COVID-19 pandemic is already having a significant impact on the conduct of elections in 2020. Policymakers, candidates, and election officials are working on possible strategies to mitigate transmission of the virus to voters and election workers. The goal, of course, is to balance the practical and legal questions of administering elections while simultaneously addressing the looming public health crisis.
On March 18, 2020, Governor Abbott issued a proclamation suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code and the Texas Water Code to allow political subdivisions to postpone their 2020 local elections that are currently scheduled for May 2, 2020, until November 3, 2020.
- While the disaster relief authority under Section 418.016 of the Texas Government Code authorizes the Governor to suspend laws that govern local elections, Texas law does not authorize the Governor to suspend the actual elections. Only the political subdivisions have such authority.
- The Election Division of the Texas Secretary of State released an election advisory that provides guidance to political subdivisions and county elections officials.
On March 20, 2020, Governor Abbott issued another proclamation, which postponed the runoff primary election—originally scheduled for May 26, 2020—until July 14, 2020.
- This postponement is likely to delay the state and national conventions held by the Republican and Democratic parties. The parties use these conventions to adopt their platforms and formally nominate their candidates for President.
These delays in elections have caused the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to revise its reporting deadlines. Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, and Ohio have postponed their primary elections.
- These postponements affect pre-election reports (including 48-Hour Notices for candidate committees), as well as the coordinated communications, electioneering communications, Federal Election Activity, and independent expenditure periods for primary elections.
- Importantly, affected campaigns may continue to accept primary contributions until the date of their rescheduled elections.
Federal, state, and local policymakers continue to assess the need for revisions to existing law in order to ensure the integrity of our election process. We continue to monitor actions taken by these offices to determine the impact on our clients.
For up-to-date information on legal issues implicated by the current public health emergency in Texas, visit Jackson Walker’s Coronavirus microsite.
- JW Coronavirus Insights & Resources webpage »
- COVID-19 & Your Business: Frequent Questions »
- e-Alert: Gov. Abbott Issues Executive Order to Mitigate Spread of COVID-19 in Texas »
- Webinar: “COVID-19 & Your Business: Families First Coronavirus Response Act” »
Jonathan D. Neerman is experienced in all phases of litigation, not only at the trial and appellate levels in federal and state courts but also in various alternative dispute resolution forums. Jonathan also regularly counsels individuals and businesses on the laws and rules pertaining to lobbying, political contributions, political action committees, the use of corporate resources for political purposes, and corporate guidelines on election issues. He has represented candidates and political parties in election contests and election law litigation. Previously, he served as the Chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party, where he counseled candidates and officeholders regarding compliance with state and federal campaign finance laws.
Denise Rose has been working in and around the Texas Capitol for over a decade. She is extremely well-versed in the legislative and appropriations processes, and has cultivated relationships throughout the Texas Capitol and in state agencies. Denise provides effective strategic counsel to clients on a wide variety of issues, including but not limited to Medicaid and hospital finance, special utility districts, occupational licensing, health care quality, and agency rulemaking processes and requests for proposals.
Justin V. Lee is a business litigator and aviation attorney who represents a wide range of clients, such as airlines, manufacturers, real estate firms, insurance companies, financial services institutions, music industry entities, technology infrastructure firms, and candidates for public office. Prior to joining Jackson Walker, Justin worked on the staff for a member of the United States Congress and served as a helicopter pilot in the United States Army in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Please note: This article and any resources presented on the Jackson Walker Coronavirus microsite do not constitute legal or medical advice.