Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
None of the nine candidates running for mayor of San Antonio was able to get more than 50 percent of votes during the May 4 municipal elections, so Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) will go head-to-head in a runoff election scheduled for June 8.
Voters in City Council districts 2, 4, and 6 will also choose between two candidates.
The Rivard Report, Bexar County Elections Department, and other organizations have been getting a lot of questions from voters and would-be voters about how runoffs work. We had a few ourselves. So we’ve compiled several common questions about the runoff here – with answers, of course.
Can I vote in the runoff if I didn’t vote in the May 4 election?
“That’s the most frequently asked question,” said Jacquelyn Callanen, Bexar County elections administrator. “They absolutely can vote.”
Any registered voter in the city of San Antonio can vote in the mayoral runoff. For City Council district races, you must be registered to vote at an address within the district boundaries. Click here to look up who represents you.
You are not required to have voted in the May 4 election to vote in the runoff, according to State law. Typically, slightly more people vote in local runoff elections.
What decides the runoff election date?
The City of San Antonio sets the official date for municipal runoff elections. City Council must first canvass, or certify, the votes and then call for an election. The City’s charter says City Council members elected through regular election must be sworn in by June 1.
This year, all incumbents will be sworn in on Wednesday, May 29, at 5:30 p.m. The new representatives will be sworn in after the runoff vote is canvassed in June.
When is early voting?
Early voting will start Tuesday, May 28, and polling places will be open every day except Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Tuesday, June 4. During that time, voters can cast their vote at any location. On election day, they have to vote at their designated precinct locations.
The City of San Antonio dictates which locations will be open during early voting and on election day but will be posted on the Elections Department website.
What are overvotes/undervotes?
Neither overvotes nor undervotes count toward any candidate.
Overvotes occur when someone selects more than the requested number of candidates or answers – most of the time it’s just one – in a race or issue.
Undervotes occur when a voter did not make any selection in that particular race.
For instance, there were seven overvotes in the May 4 election for mayor, meaning seven people voted for two or more candidates, and 521 voters decided not to choose any of the nine candidates.
Can anyone vote by mail?
No. Only if you:
- will be traveling during the time period of both early voting and election day;
- are sick or disabled and can’t make it to a polling location;
- are 65 or older on election day; or
- are being held in jail but eligible to vote.
The Bexar County early voting clerk must receive the ballot by 7 p.m. on election day in order to be counted. Click here to apply for a mail-in ballot, which must be sent to the Elections Department by 5 p.m. May 28.
Mail-in ballots are included in early vote totals.
Voters 65 and older and those with a disability can check an “annual application” box on the application that will cover any elections for the year. Think of it as a mail-in ballot subscription.
How much does it cost to host a runoff election? Who pays for it?
It’s not cheap, and whatever entity requires the runoff – in this case the City – pays for the election. So technically, taxpayers pay.
The total cost of the May 4 election, which hosted races for about 20 different taxing entities, was about $1.68 million. The City paid an estimated $700,000 of that, Callanen said.
The City will take on the entire bill for the runoff.
“It’s going to cost an unbelievable amount,” Callanen said, but there were too many variables to estimate how much as of Monday. Those details include which polling sites will be open and how many voting machines will be needed, decisions City officials will make.
“We’re the facilitators of these spring elections, not the decision-makers,” she said.
What happens if two candidates get the same number of votes?
Basically, they flip a coin.
Chapter 2 of the Texas Elections Code states: “The tying candidates may agree to cast lots to resolve the tie. The agreement must be filed with the authority responsible for ordering the election. That authority or, if the authority is a body, the body’s presiding officer, shall supervise the casting of lots.”
It could be a coin toss, a card or straw drawing, or anything that levels the playing field to simple chance, Callanen said. “Basically they roll the dice, or whatever that entity [in this case, the City] chooses.”
This is extremely rare in big cities, she said, but she’s heard of a small city that had the candidates pick which hat a ping pong ball was under.
In 2012, Jeannette Crabb won a coin toss to become Seguin’s District 2 Council member after picking “tails.”
What happens if a candidate wants a recount?
A recount in the mayoral race is unlikely, Callanen said, because of the size of the electorate and the cost of the election must be paid for by the candidate that’s calling it.
They have to pay $100 per precinct, she said, plus another $100 for early voting. There are 562 precincts in the City of San Antonio – that means a minimum $56,300 bill. According to State law, they could also be liable for other costs and fees.
There are several grounds for which a candidate can call a recount and only a few would apply to a mayoral race in San Antonio.
Recounts are more likely in smaller districts or municipalities. During the May 4 election, Leon Valley City Council candidates Donna Charles and David Edwards received 422 and 421 votes, respectively. That district has five precincts.
“If you think one vote doesn’t make a difference,” Callanen said, “try to tell [those candidates] that.”
In San Antonio, one of the closest vote counts of note was in District 2 between Jada Andrews-Sullivan and Denise Gutierrez-Homer with 1,157 and 1,098 votes, respectively. Andrews-Sullivan is slated to face former appointed interim Councilman Keith Toney (who received 1,456 votes) in the June 8 runoff.