Friday, November 4, 2011

New Redistricting Maps And Candidate Filing Deadlines For 2012 Proposed order on election deadlines

Thursday evening, Chad Dunn, counsel for the Texas Democratic Party, submitted a proposal for adjusting election filing deadlines in light of the not yet complete process of drawing interim legislative maps. Dunn indicated in a footnote that the proposal had been worked on by both the parties.

Under the proposal submitted by Dunn:

  • The candidate filing period would run from November 28 to December 15 (rather than November 12 to December 12).
  • The requirement that a candidate for the state house or state senate live in his or her district for one year before November 6, 2012 would be modified to only require that the candidate have lived in the district from December 15, 2011 through November 6, 2012.
  • Counties would be given until December 13 to redraw precinct boundaries.
  • The ballot order draw in each county would remain December 20.

The San Antonio three-judge federal court panel adjudicating a Texas redistricting lawsuit signed a court order on Friday Nov. 4, 2011 to change 2012 election filing deadlines, in light of the not yet completed process of drawing interim redistricting maps. Here's the new deadline schedule:

November 28: Candidate filing period opens (had been November 12).

December 10: If an officeholder whose term is not up in 2012 resigns on or before this day, the office will be included on the March 2012 primary ballot (had been December 7).

December 13: Deadline for adjustments to precinct boundaries as a result of new legislative lines (was October 1).

December 15 @ 6 p.m.: Last day to candidate filing (had been December 12).

December 16: Last day a candidate can withdraw and have his or her name omitted from the primary ballot. A candidate who dies or is declared ineligible by this day also will be omitted from the primary ballot (had been December 13).

December 19: Last day to file for an unexpired term (unchanged). Also deadline for state chairs to deliver lists of statewide candidates and candidates for multi county offices to county chairs (had been December 16).

December 20: Ballot order draw in each county (unchanged).

December 22: Deadline for state and county chairs to deliver candidate lists to appropriate election officials (unchanged).

January 13: County election officials must send out new voter registration certificates by this date.

March 6: Democratic and Republican primaries (unchanged).

The Texas congressional map drawn by Republicans is almost certain to be thrown out for the next election, costing them a few seats in the House and increasing Democrats’ opportunities to try to retake control of the chamber next fall. The map needs to be approved by the federal government because of Texas’s history of racial discrimination, and members of a three-judge federal panel indicated at a Wednesday hearing that they will not allow it to go into effect immediately.

This will trigger a temporary court-drawn map in Texas that will not be nearly as favorable to the Republicans. “For Congress, that cheats us out of three seats,” one Republican was overheard griping to another after the hearing.

The Hill

At issue is whether the state's map meets requirements of the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters against discrimination. Texas Republicans might have overreached when they did not add any new minority-heavy districts to the new map, despite the state’s gaining four congressional seats because of its population growth, most of which came from Hispanics and African-Americans.

They also swapped out many Hispanic precincts in Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco’s (R-Texas) district to undercut Hispanic Democrats there and help Canseco win reelection, which could also be illegal.

If the Republican map became law, the GOP would likely enjoy a 26-10 advantage in the state House delegation, up from the 23-9 edge the party has now. But a court-drawn map will likely give Democrats 12 or 13 seats instead.

Republicans put themselves in this predicament with an aggressive gerrymander that might not pass legal muster. They also failed to pass a map with enough time to get it cleared in Washington, and opted to go through the courts instead of the Department of Justice, a much slower process.

The high stakes of the case could observed in the attendees: Top lawyers and strategists for both parties came to watch Wednesday’s oral arguments, as did Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
After judges questioned representatives of the state of Texas as well as officials from the Justice Department and civil-rights groups that are working to stop the map, they made it clear they would not approve the map early enough for it to be implemented in time for next year’s election.

They also seemed skeptical of the arguments Texas’s attorneys made about which factors should determine whether the state maps discriminated against minority voters — an ominous signal for the map down the road — and at times showed deference to Justice Department officials regarding some details of the case. Since those officials already have objected to aspects of the map, that is another bad sign for Texas Republicans.

Democrats and civil-rights groups are bullish on the prospect the map will be thrown out in the long term because it watered down Hispanic voting strength in parts of the state and failed to create new majority-Hispanic districts, while some Republicans privately expressed pessimism that their map would stand.

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