Monday, January 23, 2012

Judges deciding TX redistricting feel deadline pressure, pass it down

This just has the air of turning out badly for everybody.

Federal redistricting judges in San Antonio want to see if they can get agreement from the parties on political maps in time for an April 3 primary and said they are "giving serious consideration" to split primaries if no agreement can be reached by the first week of February.

The three federal judges said in an order issued this afternoon that they will meet with the parties on Friday instead of waiting until Feb. 1.

The five-page order is full of dates and deadlines:
  • The judges say they will almost certainly move a candidate filing deadline (my emphasis) now set for Feb. 1.
  • They said the parties should confer and submit agreed-upon interim maps for legislative and congressional elections by Feb. 6 if they "wish to maintain the current election schedule." If they can't agree, the judges want a list of districts in the Legislature's maps that each party no longer objects to.
  • The parties are involved in hearings in Washington, D.C., where a separate panel of three federal judges is deciding whether the Legislature's maps violate preclearance provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act. Ideally, the San Antonio judges would have that court's ruling in hand before it approves redistricting maps. It's asking the lawyers to give the Washington court a nudge: "With high respect for the importance of that proceeding and the prerogatives of that court, this Court hereby requests both sides in the San Antonio proceedings to request, on behalf of this Court, that the D.C. Court attempt to rule on the Section 5 issues in time for this court to incorporate those decisions into its ultimate decision on the redistricting plans for the 2012 elections for the Texas House of Representatives, the Texas Senate, and the U.S. Congress."
  • The Texas judges say they are giving "serious consideration to whether a so-called 'split primary' will be required" for this year's elections, and asked the lawyers to be ready to talk about it at the end of the week. They also want lawyers for the state to be ready to say whether the state would be prepared to reimburse counties and the political parties for the "substantial additional expense of a split primary."
  • The judges asked for comments on the idea of a presidential primary on April 3 with most or all other elections held later. The earlier presidential primary would relieve the Republican and Democratic political parties, which hope to have the primary elections well before their state conventions in June. The Republican Party of Texas has suggested the split primary on several occasions; the Democratic Party, in filings this week, said it would prefer a unified primary if possible.

Hustled-up court decisions, rushed maps, split primaries, new voting requirements ... it all adds up to confused voters and poor turnout.

More from Michael Li. Shorter Michael Li, from Facebook:

BREAKING: Court says to keep unified April 3 primary, parties will need to agree on interim maps by 2/6. Otherwise, court giving 'series consideration' to split primary; wants to know if state will commit to reimburse added costs. Court considering presidential only primary on 4/3 or presidential + countywide/whole county on 4/3.

Election officials from your local precinct all the way to the Secretary of State will be pressured to make decisions -- or wait for decisions to be made. Candidates, potential and incumbent, won't know what the districts they intend to represent will look like -- and neither will the voters, until very late in the process. All while Republicans keep doing their dead-level best to gum up the works, disenfranchising even their own voters as they do.

This is what one-party rule looks like, from the bottom up.


When the San Antonio court set Feb 1st as the candidate filing deadline for a April 3rd election date organizations representing Texas counties told the court in a pleading that they had “serious reservations and concerns” about their ability to comply with the April 3rd election schedule. The county organizations said that compliance would be “extremely difficult and expensive” if even physically possible...” The counties said the Feb 1st — April 3rd timeline wouldn't leave them enough time to prepare an election that usually takes six to seven weeks to prepare. Today, the Republican Party suggests lopping another week off the April 3rd timeline.

County election officials must have election precincts mapped, voter registration cards printed and mailed, ballots prepared, and voting machines programmed and delivered to polling locations not by April 3rd, but a few days before March 19th, the first day of early voting for the April 3rd election date.

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