MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) — The city of McAllen has filed a lawsuit in Travis County, fighting a law that requires cities to hand control of local elections to Hidalgo County.
Joining in on the lawsuit is the city of Pharr. City attorney’s representing McAllen said the law is unconstitutional.
The 2009 Texas Law, Senate Bill 1402, required the city to contract with Hidalgo County to run their May elections.
“That’s troubling, if you’ve got nearly 70,000 voters in McAllen and only 20 have raised their hand. We cannot say that is the will of the people, on such a small percentage. Has the majority been represented? We don’t think it has,” said Issac Tawil, City Attorney of McAllen.
The law says if just one percent of people who voted in the most recent city elections, file a petition, the city must contract with the county to run elections.
Senator Juan Hinojosa, who wrote the bill, said it was meant as an oversight to allegations of voter fraud in the city of Progresso.
“The intent of the bill was intended to help smaller cities that don’t have their own voting equipment, machines, that don’t have the experienced staff or trained staff,” said Senator Hinojosa.
Hinojosa said sometimes the laws they pass do not meet the requirements of the Texas Constitution.
“They have every right to challenge the statute. Quite frankly anytime we pass legislation here in Austin, many times it’s manipulated or misused by groups,” said Hinojosa.
KVEO asked the Hidalgo County Elections Department for an estimate of how much it will cost the city to run elections. They did not have an answer, but McAllen city officials said it will cost more if the county does it.
“The city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in acquiring very sophisticated voting equipment, in training our personnel on the use, and operation of that equipment,” said Tawil.
The city said the law does not protect the rights of residents nor does it protect the integrity of the election.
“We’ve asked the court to enter an injunction allowing us, and we anticipate that McAllen will host their own elections. We will challenge the statute till the end of the lawsuit,” said Tawil.
Senator Hinojosa said lawmakers are looking to make some changes to the law to make it constitutional and focus on smaller communities.
The next city elections for McAllen will take place May 1, 2021.
UPDATE: 03/01 9:35 p.m.
During a regular city meeting on Monday, Pharr commissioners voted to approve a contract with a “counteroffer” to the Hidalgo County Elections Administrator.
“The city is looking into negotiating some of the expenses being charged by the county,” Michelle Lopez, chief communications officer for Pharr told KVEO.
No other information was disclosed, because the item was discussed during executive session.
This is a developing story and we will bring you more information as it becomes available.