Houston Mayor

Did Voters Know They Were Approving Extended Term Limits In Houston?

The ballot language didn’t tell the whole truth.

Whether the next mayor will be Sylvester Turner or Bill King, he will have the chance to stay longer in office than previous mayors.

Almost two-thirds of voters approved changing term limits for elected city officials from three two-year terms to two four-year terms.

That means their maximum time in office is now eight years, up from six.

Pre-election polling showed voters slightly favored the change, but not if they were told that it benefits sitting council members.

Rice University political scientist Bob Stein conducted the News 88.7/KHOU 11 News election poll.

“When we informed voters that the adoption of the two four-year (terms) would take place immediately in 2016 and advantage incumbent council members, support swung the other way and it was a deficit of 17 points against,” Stein said.

But that information was not in the ballot language.

In fact, it didn’t even mention that it would actually extend term limits.

Even Houston Mayor Annise Parker acknowledged that this week.

“I don’t know that they realized that they were giving council members more time in office,” she said.

Considering that a judge only a week ago ruled that Houston has to hold a new election on its drainage fund because of misleading ballot language, Stein said theoretically, the same could happen with this vote.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to see somebody complain about it and say, let’s go back and petition and have another referendum, which clearly explains what’s happening,” he said.

Stein pointed out that the unusually high black voter turnout also helped the measure pass. According to the election poll, African American voters still supported extended term limits when they had all the information.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter.Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters and the Houston Press Club.Florian is a native of Germany. His studies in Leipzig...

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