Bloomberg News

Texas Asks to Delay Candidate Deadlines as Top Court Reviews

December 14, 2011

(Updates with Texas attorney general in third paragraph.)

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked a federal court to delay a Dec. 15 candidate filing deadline for state legislative and congressional races while the U.S. Supreme Court reviews new election maps.

Texas is fighting to prevent its 2012 legislative and congressional primary elections from using voter maps drawn by a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio last month. The judges created interim maps for next year’s elections after districts drawn by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature were challenged by the U.S. Justice Department and Hispanic voting activists as racially biased.

“Candidates cannot file for office, and election officials cannot proceed with their duties unless usable electoral districts are in place,” Abbott said in today’ filing.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Dec. 9 to hear Abbott’s emergency appeal on whether the lower-court panel overstepped its authority by creating districts that largely disregarded the Legislature’s maps. The high court blocked use of the judges’ maps in Texas’s legislative and congressional races until sometime after a Jan. 9 hearing in Washington.

Once workable electoral districts are in place, candidate filing can resume “immediately,” Abbott said. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, would be a candidate in the primary, now set for March 6.

Statehouse, Congress

As the Supreme Court review only affects Texas’s statehouse and congressional elections, Abbott hasn’t asked to delay municipal and school board primary elections. Voting rights activists complain that splitting up the primaries will require state and local governments to hold twice as many elections, which they can’t afford during a budget crisis that has already forced deep cuts in education and health care spending.

“Two primaries will cause there to be at least six elections from the first primary to the November general election,” Luis Roberto Vera Jr., lawyer for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said in a filing yesterday in federal court in San Antonio. “It is neither practical nor cost effective to place this burden on the taxpayers and the local county governments. Where is the money to come from?”

Vera said the county that includes San Antonio, spends roughly $300,000 to mail new voter registration cards and military ballots for a single election. That process must be repeated for every election and each time boundaries are redrawn.

‘Voter Fatigue’

“Multiply that times each county in the state to whatever the individual costs to each county, and we are talking about millions of dollars,” Vera said in the filing. “Voter fatigue is also an important factor for the court’s consideration.”

Texas gained four new congressional seats after adding nearly 4.3 million new residents since 2000. Hispanics comprised about 65 percent of that increase, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

The Texas case is Perez v. Perry, 5:11-cv-00360, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (San Antonio). The Washington case is Texas v. U.S., 1:11-cv-1303, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). The appellate cases are Perry v. Perez, 11A520 (state house map); Perry v. Perez, 11A521 (state senate map); Perry v. Perez, 11A536 (Congressional map); U.S. Supreme Court.

For Related New and Information: Stories on Texas and politics: {TNI TX POL BN <GO>} Stories on Rick Perry: {NI ?1915847 BN <GO>} Top stories: {TOP <GO>} Top legal news: {TLAW <GO>} Bloomberg legal resources: {BLAW <GO>}

--With assistance from Greg Stohr and Tom Schoenberg in Washington. Editors: Mary Romano, Michael Hytha

To contact the reporters on this story: Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston at laurel@calkins.us.com; Karen Gullo in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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