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Election filing date likely to be extended; no word yet on primary date

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 by Michael Kanin

On Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners’ Court declined to act on redistricting maps it prepared based on the actions of a federal court in San Antonio. The move effectively pauses the county’s redistricting process.


It came as the San Antonio court met to respond to a stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. In proceedings which lasted all day, the court – as reported by the Quorum Report – seemed  set to approve an agreement between lawyers for the Texas Democratic and Republican parties that would extend the candidate filing deadline for all Texas office-seekers until Dec. 19. It would also suspend all residency requirements until new districts are set and indicated that candidates would be allowed to amend their filings without the risk of penalty.


Prospective office holders would be required to state which map they’re filing under.


Under the agreement, the filing period would be reopened as soon as a firm ruling about the maps is handed down. The original filing deadline was set for Dec. 15. The date move will be particularly welcomed by Texas Republicans. The party had stopped accepting filings for office.


The San Antonio court is set to approve a final version of the agreement today at noon. According to redistricting expert Michael Li, the parties in the San Antonio suit will talk about primary dates on Thursday and the court will reconvene on Friday.


But as of Tuesday evening, there were many questions over primary timing. Though the San Antonio court discussed leaving the presidential primary on March 6 – and holding a primary for all other offices at a later date – it took no firm action. Lawyers are set to be back in San Antonio on Jan. 12 to hash out lingering issues.


According to the Quorum Report, a majority of Texas state senators on Tuesday released a statement calling on Attorney General Greg Abbott not to seek a split primary, citing voter confusion and additional costs to taxpayers.


Republican officials remain wary of a split primary. Should the presidential vote be separated from state and local primaries, they worry that Tea Party candidates could benefit from a low voter turn-out.


An additional primary would, of course, not be free. On Tuesday, the San Antonio Court heard testimony that offered a hint about what the extra election might cost Texas taxpayers. Travis County Clerk Dana De Beauvoir told the court that the costs for a primary and a runoff are about $350,000. Dallas County costs could be as much as $600,000.


Small counties could be devastated by the additional expense. Maverick County Judge David Saucedo reportedly told the court that his jurisdiction would have to come up with nearly $90,000—a prospect that could force layoffs.


The U.S. Supreme Court stepped in last Friday evening with an order that stayed the San Antonio court’s redrawing of the Texas Legislature’s redistricting boundaries. Abbott had argued that the San Antonio panel’s efforts represented an over-step. Attorneys for many parties who challenged the Legislature’s lines maintain that the original maps violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

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