by Felicia Cravens, Contributor
By now, political people in Texas are acutely aware that the primary elections are in limbo; the issue kicked from court to court, mappers in a holding pattern, the Civil Rights Act holding Texas voters hostage. First, the original maps created by the legislature were challenged, then new maps were drawn by judges, then the Supreme Court stepped in and rejected those maps, sending the issue back to the judges in San Antonio.
County officials across the state scrambled to prepare for an April 3rd primary, rather than the original date in March, only to learn this week that the judges in San Antonio are likely awaiting the outcome of a related trial in Washington D.C. that claims the districts were drawn to dilute minority votes. Thus, the likelihood of a timely primary is diminishing each day, and Texas voters are forced to sit and wait for all the legal issues to be decided. Michael Li has been following the whole thing, and gives his latest opinion about the likelihood of an April primary.
Consider the following: if the primary doesn’t happen by the April dates (as late as April 17 by some guesses) then the primary will likely have to wait for late May or June, due to the municipal elections in May. A June primary would still allow voters in Texas to participate in the primary, but the presidential candidates will likely be chosen by then. Still, the state and local offices must also be decided by the primary election, so they must be conducted.
What’s going unnoticed and unremarked in all this is how the changes will affect the convention schedule in Texas. Compared to primary participation, the number of people who participate in the Texas convention process in either party is quite small. Yet the convention process is where the leadership for the parties is chosen. While it may seem like a small issue compared to the right to be able to cast a vote in the primary, the convention process is hugely important in a presidential election year.
Currently, the Republican Party of Texas has scheduled its state convention for June 7-9. But before the RPT can conduct a convention, the precincts and counties must hold their own conventions in order to establish credentials for the people who will attend the state convention. Should the primary be delayed, the party would be forced to move the convention back further into summer. The Republican National Convention is scheduled for August 27 in Tampa, however, so there’s only so much wiggle room allowed to the RPT. And the RPT must conduct its convention in order to send delegates to that national convention.
In the meantime, with no districts set, county officials are unable to plan the logistics of their local elections, which could further delay the primary and convention process at the local level for the largest counties, or the ones anticipating the largest number of changes.
Thus, despite huge Republican electoral victories in 2010, Texas elections are effectively held hostage to legislation passed over forty years ago, by inevitable lawsuits, and federal judges with no effective means of removal.