Two Texas counties violated state law by not holding runoffs, but won’t be punished without a formal complaint


Exhausted by the intricate dance that is Texas politics, party officials in Sterling and Oldham counties decided to sit the Tuesday runoff out.

Their separate decisions not to hold runoffs are violations of the state election code, according to a story today by Texas Tribune. The Secretary of State, in charge of elections across the state, however, has no legal authority to do anything about it, spokesman Rich Parsons told Texas Watchdog this morning.

The office had received at least two calls from voters in those counties inquiring about the lack of an election, but as of Friday no complaint had been filed, Parsons says.

“Certainly, if someone felt the failure to conduct a runoff maybe had an effect on an election, an inquiry could be made,” Parsons says.

Not very likely. In rural Sterling County, population 1,150, roughly between San Angelo and Midland, 327 people, 315 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted in the May 29 primary .

The Republican Party in Oldham County, home to 2,060 people west of Abilene, scored a clean sweep with 252 votes to zero for the Democrats in the primary.

The chairs of both parties in Oldham County said they had no interest in holding runoff elections, County Clerk Becky Groneman, told the Tribune. "We haven't had a runoff election in several years. The last time we had one, two people voted," Groneman said.

When the Republican chair in Sterling County moved out of the county, Republicans were unable to find a replacement before the July 31 runoff, County Clerk Susan Wyatt said. The Democratic chair didn’t have that excuse, just plain deciding not to have a runoff, Wyatt said.

A few folks complained, Wyatt said, but when she asked if one of the complainers would volunteer to serve as the Republican chair for the next election, “they would back out the door."

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of the 'No votes' by flickr user gaelx, used via a Creative Commons license.