McKinney City Council to potentially change city charter to make recall elections easier

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include more information about the potential charter change. The headline has also been updated.

The majority of McKinney City Council came to a consensus to potentially change the language of the city charter related to the removal of a member from City Council. Council directed the city attorney during a meeting Dec. 18 to draft language for a charter amendment election related to the city’s recall process.

In order for the city charter to be amended, residents must vote to approve the change. For the amendment to appear on the May 4 ballot, council must call for an election by Feb. 15.

Discussions about the recall procedures took place nearly two weeks after City Council Member La’Shadion Shemwell was arrested Dec. 6 on suspicion of continuous violence against the family.

Shemwell said he agrees a recall election by residents should be achievable but that what happens in someone’s personal life does not impact residents or decisions made on council.

In a previous interview with Community Impact Newspaper, Mayor George Fuller said issues that have come to light over the last month have led to inquiries from residents about the recall process.

“This [charter]is something that will live far beyond this council,” Fuller said.

Current charter

The city’s charter states a recall petition must be signed by at least 25 percent of the total number of voters who cast ballots in the last regular municipal election, provided, however, that the petition contains the signatures of at least 15 percent of qualified voters, or whichever number is higher.

Qualified voters are those at least 18 years or older who are a U.S. citizen, have not been determined to be mentally incapacitated, have not been finally convicted of a felony, are a resident of Texas and a registered voter, according to the city.

There are 105,653 registered voters in McKinney. During the last municipal election in May 2017 there were 11,376 votes cast, City Attorney Mark Houser said. For a recall petition to be valid under the current charter, the 15 percent rule would apply meaning the petition would need more than 15,000 signatures in 30 days.

The city charter related to recall petitions has not been updated since 1959, Houser said.

Potential change

On Dec. 18 council discussed changing the charter to require a recall petition to have signatures from at least 30 percent of voters who cast ballots in the last regular municipal election. The recommended amendment also allows residents to have 45 days to turn in signatures to the city secretary, as opposed to 30 days stated in the charter.

Should council call for a charter election, Houser said residents would vote on the potential change in May. If the amendment is approved, fewer signatures would be needed on a recall petition. If 11,376 residents—the number of voters in the May 2017 election—vote in the May 2019 election, approximately 3,400 signatures would be needed to trigger a recall election. That compares with the 15,000 signatures needed under the current charter.

A recall election may be called for as soon as November. Should a council member be recalled, he or she may run for re-election during the next municipal election in May 2020 and would remain in his or her respective seat until that time, Houser said.

If a recall election is called for by residents, filling the vacant seat may only be voted on by residents living within that given district if the seat is not at large.

In an email to Community Impact Newspaper, Houser said he has not seen a recall election in his 34 years working with the city of McKinney.

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Cassidy Ritter
Cassidy graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 with a degree in Journalism and a double minor in business and global studies. She has worked as a reporter and editor for publications in Kansas, Colorado and Australia. She was hired as senior reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's Plano edition in August 2016. Less than a year later, she took the role of editor for the McKinney edition.
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