Victoria County moves primary date to match state's

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

By MELISSA CROWE - Victoria Advocate
Jan. 9, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 9, 2012 at 7:10 p.m.

As New Hampshire voters hit the polls Tuesday, Texas voters continue to wait for their chance at the ballot.

Locally, Victoria County commissioners voted Monday morning to move the primary election from March 6 to April 3, a date set by a federal court in San Antonio last month.

The postponement comes from an early December agreement by the U.S. Supreme Court to grant Texas a stay of the short-term redistricting plans established by a federal district court in San Antonio for the Texas Senate, Texas House of Representatives and U.S. House of Representatives.

A panel of federal judges is deciding whether Texas' congressional and legislative district maps are fair to minorities under the Voting Rights Act, meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court heard its first arguments Monday in a dispute over the interim map, effectively leaving Texas without an election map.

According to a news release from the Texas Attorney General, by staying the district court's maps, the Supreme Court prevented 2012 legislative and congressional elections from proceeding under the district court's interim plans.

Attorney General Greg Abbott attended the hearing Monday in support of the original map.

"No court has, at any time, found anything unlawful about the redistricting maps passed by the Texas Legislature," Abbott said in a news release.

George Matthews, Victoria County elections administrator, said at this point, "there is no longer a best case scenario" for solving the election dilemma.

"Hopefully the Supreme Court will make a decision fairly soon," Matthews said. "If they wait until June to make a decision, it's way too late for all kinds of stuff."

The U.S. Supreme Court is not expected to hear final arguments in the redistricting dispute until Feb. 3.

Now that the original deadlines have passed, Matthews said his largest issue is how to prepare for the election.

Voter registration cards have not gone out because the districts are still undecided, Matthews said.

Without knowing definitively who will be on the ballot and in what order, ballots have not been prepared either.

Law requires that ballots be mailed out to military and overseas citizens at least 45 days prior to the election, making that deadline Feb. 13 to fit the April 3 election.

One of the issues still up in the air is filing for spots on the ballot.

Filing originally opened Nov. 12, but was extended from Nov. 28 through Dec. 19, Matthews said.

"According to the last federal court order related to filing, there is no date to start; filing is not currently open," Matthews said.

The court will set a new start date that will end Feb. 1, Matthews said, but he does not expect it will happen until later this month and only anticipates it to be open a week to give candidates a chance to join the race, drop out or update district information once the map is approved.

More than political boundaries, candidacies are at stake.

In the Crossroads, state Rep. Geanie Morrison is tied up between her district, District 30, drawn in the state redistricting map, and District 32, from the federal redistricting map. She has filed for the District 30 seat, but announced she would not seek the District 32 seat.

Filing will be open for all levels of positions, not just congressional seats, Matthews said.

According to a transcript of the hearing, it appears the Supreme Court justices would rather take their time than rush a decision.

"Are there insuperable problems with postponing the Texas primary so that the plan that is to be used can - doesn't have to be formulated until after the district court in Washington has ruled?" Justice Samuel Alito asked.

He continued, commenting on Texas' "very early" primary.

"States have them for congressional races in - in the fall, and the latest presidential primary I think is at the end of June," he said. "So why can't this all be pushed back, and wouldn't that eliminate a lot of the problems that we are grappling with in this case?"

Attorney Paul Clement, who is representing Texas, defended Alito's question.

"Texas has made its own determination that it wants to have a relatively early primary. That's not something that popped up for this set of elections," Clement said. "It's had that in place since at least 1988. And so the question is how much do you want to interfere with that judgment."

The 2012 Runoff Election date has been set for June 5, according to the Secretary of State's office.

For more on the Supreme Court struggles with Texas election case, click here.



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