Election? Apparently.

Texas has 11 new amendments and a thimbleful of voters

Congratulations: As of the Nov. 3 elections, Texas has 11 new constitutional amendments, with every item on the statewide ballot getting passed. Yet the underlying story may be that fewer than one in 10 registered voters turned up to rewrite portions of the Texas constitution. On Wednesday morning, turnout had barely scraped more than 1 million – 8.1% of the state's 13 million registered voters. Even with such supposedly hot-button topics as property-tax appraisal and eminent domain on the ballot, the turnout was the lowest in a constitutional election since 2001's low of 6.9% and was completely overshadowed by voter interest in 2005, when Texas banned gay marriage under Prop. 2. This year's issues lacked much resonance in Travis County, which broke its tradition of exceeding statewide turnout and actually trailed the statewide figure by half a point.

Surprisingly, the nearest thing to a close race was Prop. 1, which allows the use of tax increment financing districts to pay for development buffer zones around military bases, and it still passed by 10 percentage points. Next closest was Prop. 4: Creating a fund to help increase the state's number of Tier One research universities may have invoked conservative ire, but it still passed by 14 percentage points. Both results paled in comparison to Prop. 11, limiting the state's eminent domain powers from being used to transfer private property to a private entity. Originally authored by Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, it got a last-minute boost from a controversial TV spot featuring Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples that was supposed to be an impartial public service announcement but seemed like a campaign endorsement. It passed with more than 81% of the vote.

While there were no major races on the local ballot, there was still some tax business to be sorted out. The city of Rollingwood and the Village of the Hills rebalanced their tax rates to free up more cash for road maintenance, while Travis County Emergency Service District No. 11, covering the southeast portion of the county, raised its sales and use rate from 1% to 1.5%. However, voters rejected Lake Travis ISD's request to raise its property tax rate 2 cents per $100 of assessed value, leaving the district facing a $1.7 million deficit.

Statewide Results – Texas Constitutional Amendments

Proposition For Against
Buffer areas adjacent to military installations 55%45%
Regulate how property taxes are calculated 68%32%
Provide uniform standards for appraising property 66%34%
Fund emerging research universities 57%43%
Allow appraisal review board consolidations 62%38%
Bond authority for the Veterans' Land Board 66%34%
Texas State Guard may hold civil offices 73%27%
Authorize state funding of veterans hospitals 75%25%
Guarantee public access to public beaches 77%23%
Term limits for emergency service district boards 73%27%
Limit power of eminent domain 81%19%

Constitutional Amendment Elections: A Brief History

% turnout of registered voters in Texas constitutional amendment elections

2009 2007 2005 2003
Statewide: 8.1% 8.7% 18.0% 12.2%
Travis County: 7.5% 11.8% 25.7% 16.0%

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