Monday, August 8, 2011

An Attempt to Increase Election Turnout Could Cut It Instead

Texas Trib: In an effort to make it easier for military and overseas voters to take part in elections, lawmakers may have killed turnout in primary election runoffs in Texas and increased the electoral power of organized groups like the Tea Party.

Next year’s primary elections will be held nine weeks after the first of the year, which is to say that campaigning will start in earnest immediately after the holidays and Texas voters will head to the ballot box two months later.

Nothing new there — it has been that way for years. The change comes in the runoffs. Federal lawmakers stretched the timelines for elections to allow voters overseas and in the military more time to request ballots, to vote and to mail in their selections. Earlier this year, Texas legislators extended the election calendar to meet federal law.

One change is that candidates have to file for office earlier, by Dec. 12 instead of the first week of the new year. Another is that primary election runoffs, which historically come about five weeks after primary elections, will now fall much later. Instead of returning to the polls in April to finish off the remaining candidates, voters will wait until late May. The 2012 primaries will be held on March 6. The runoffs will be held 11 weeks later, on May 22.

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