Friday, February 3, 2012

Republican Party of Texas Doubtful On Unified April Primary Election

Echoing an advisory from Texas Democratic Party chair earlier this week, the Republican Party of Texas chair has today issued an advisory to party members cautioning that it may not be possible to have an unified April 3 - or even April 17 - primary. The advisory said in part:

"The schedule put forth by the court today does not lend itself to an April 3rd unified primary date," the release said. "While it is still theoretically possible to have an April 17th primary date (if the court issues a very quick decision after the February 15th hearing and immediately drew new maps), in all likelihood, this new schedule means that a new single unified primary date could not be held until at least April 24th."

Texas county election officials have already informed the San Antonio court that they are unable to accommodate an April primary after April 17 because they must begin programming and testing voting equipment for municipal elections. Early voting for municipal elections is scheduled to begin on April 30.

While it is still theoretically possible (barely) to have a unified primary on April 17, if the San Antonio court issues new interim districts maps by about Feb 17th and a few other things quickly line up, all parties have all but lost hope in that outcome.

The first day of early voting for a April 17 election would be April 2. It may be logistical difficult for county election officials to draw election precinct maps, obtain preclearance for those precinct maps, mail voter registration cards, prepare ballots, hire election Judges, Alternate Judges and Clerks, and program voting machines by April 2.

If the court makes maps available on Feb 17 that would allow a candidate filing period to run from Mon. Feb 24 through Mon Feb. 27. That, in turn, would allow ballot order draws to be held on Friday March 2. After that, it takes about three weeks to print ballots and program voting computers, which means that ballots and voting equipment might be ready to deliver to polling locations during the week of March 26 to ready early voting to begin on April 2.

Even then, it may not be possible for county election officials to find and contract for early voting polling locations in that short amount of time - while at the same time contracting for enough polling location for an April 17 election day.

Michael Li asks, "Is an April 17 primary realistic?" at his excellent Texas Redistricting blog.

The Hill reports that the Texas interim districts map negotiations in the San Antonio District Court case is on verge of collapse. According to The Hill, “Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) had approached the various plaintiffs last week, seeking a compromise. Most plaintiffs assumed that he would offer a plan close to what they wanted, since the courts have indicated they will throw out the maps drawn by the Republicans in the Texas Legislature. Abbott offered much less than they’d hoped for, leaving the compromise highly in doubt.”

When Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott initiated talks last week for a possible compromise on interim districts maps, he invited only the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and one other of the nine groups representing minority groups, or politicians representing minorities groups in the San Antonio District Court case, which angered the groups not invited. According to an AP news story, seven Texas members of Congress of Latino, African and Asian ancestry today wrote a letter to demand their inclusion in any negotiations and warned they would appeal a interim district map deal if they're excluded.

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