Citing public safety concerns and the related logistics of conducting an election during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Katy City Council voted unanimously to postpone the city’s …
Citing public safety concerns and the related logistics of conducting an election during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Katy City Council voted unanimously to postpone the city’s elections to Nov. 3. The elections were originally scheduled for May 2 and saw Durran Dowdle, Janet Corte facing multiple opponents while Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harris was set to win due to no opponents stepping forward to challenge him.
“I think – while it is sacred to vote – I think it is also a responsible, adult thing to not have people congregating at the polls just like we don’t have people congregating at church. As sacred as it is, we have to prioritize health and safety. While I struggled with this as a conservative – as a constitutional person who cherishes the Constitution – I also cherish [City Secretary] Becky [McGrew] and all the work that she does and I just can’t envision – I’ve talked to people and I’ve asked, ‘Well, how do we do this?’ What could we do to sanitize every surface after every voter?”
Council discussed the possibility of moving the election for about 20 minutes with members asking McGrew, City Administrator Byron Hebert and City Attorney Art Pertile questions about the logistics and legality of holding the election in May.
McGrew said that – under normal circumstances – an election costs between $25,000 and $30,000 for the city to hold but sanitizing surfaces and ensuring poll worker safety would add an unknown amount to that.
Pertile said any complications such as a runoff election could add as much as $10,000 to that figure.
Hebert added, in response to a question from Carrol regarding needed supplies, that orders of gloves for first responders for the Katy Fire Department were already on hold, so getting supplies to sanitize polling stations could be challenging if not impossible.
McGrew also explained that budgeting for an election was a concern. If council had moved the vote on the proposed postponement, which she said she had asked Mayor Bill Hastings to put on the agenda, she would have run through much of the city’s election budget by the time the decision was made.
Hebert said budgeting could be more of a challenge as sales tax revenue the city is dependent upon may be stunted because of business closures such as the businesses at Katy Mills which all closed last week.
Harris, in a Facebook post made immediately after the meeting said he voted for the measure to protect the safety of citizens and to ensure the city was following Tex. Governor Greg Abbott’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. He added that he feels the Nov. 3 election date will allow county authorities to assist with the voting process to ensure safety.
Abbott issued a proclamation last week indicating that he encouraged municipalities to delay May elections to the fall.
Mayor Bill Hastings remained neutral on the issue prior to the vote and acknowledged that the decision to postpone the election was not an easy one for council members.
“We’re going into a period of time where we’re going to have to make decisions that not everybody is going to like,” Hastings said. “These are tough decisions. They weigh heavy on our hearts to make these [decisions].”