Local voters approve horse race betting initiatives, alcohol sales in special election

TRI-COUNTY — Texas voters weighed in on a slate of statewide constitutional amendments in the November 2 special election, and Presidio County decided whether or not to legalize two types of horse betting.

Presidio County voters passed two referendums legalizing pari mutuel and simulcast betting in the area. This decision opens the door for a horse racetrack to be established in Presidio, if it can first receive approval from the Texas Racing Commission. Referendum 1, legalizing pari mutuel betting on simulcast races, passed 60% to 40% with a total of 318 votes. Referendum 2, legalizing pari mutuel wagering on horse races, passed 60% to 40% with a total of 321 votes. 

The referendums received more support from Presidio-area precincts and less from Marfa-area precincts. Precincts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, which cover south county, all voted a majority in favor of legalizing the betting, while precincts 1 and 7 in north county both cast a majority of their votes to reject the referendums.

In Jeff Davis County, voters approved the legal sale of all alcoholic beverages including mixed beverages, with 80% voting for and 20% against the initiative. The decision will allow for the sale of alcohol in all precincts, and resolves an ongoing issue in the county by unifying all precincts under the same law. Previously, various precincts allowed the sale of alcoholic beverages and others did not, causing confusion among visiting populations and complications for business owners in the area. 

Brewster County voters had nothing of local interest on the ballot and only voted on the statewide constitutional amendments. 

All eight statewide propositions to amend the Texas Constitution passed. Turnout was low with only 9% of registered Texas voters casting a ballot, according to the Texas Tribune.  

Propositions 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8 passed in Presidio County with an overwhelming majority, and Presidio and Marfa voters were aligned. Issues ranged from rodeo charity raffles to nursing home residents establishing essential caregivers for in-person visitations. 

Proposition 4 passed, 56% for, 44% against, but with some opposition — Presidio voters leaned against it, compared to those in Marfa. The amendment would require candidates to have 10 years of experience practicing law in Texas to be eligible for election to the Texas Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals or a Texas court of appeals. Currently, the law requires 10 years of experience but allows for out-of-state experience. Statewide, voters passed the proposition 59% to 41%.

Proposition 3, which would prevent the state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations, was the only amendment that did not get approval from Presidio voters, with 47% for and 53% against. Marfa voters showed stronger opposition to the amendment than elsewhere in the county. Statewide, voters passed the proposition 62% to 38%.