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Why are the elections so late this year? This is an excellent question and complicated. As you recall, the Federal Census Bureau took a census in 2010. The results of the 2010 census revealed how the population had changed since 2000, basically how many people are now living in the United States and where they are living. The census also outlines where people of different ethnicity live. The population in Texas has grown so that Texas is allotted 4 more representatives in the Federal House of Representatives. The question is how to squeeze four more districts in Texas. The lines have to be redrawn. The lines need to be redrawn in a manner that represents the population and its ethnicity in Texans. The number of Texas senators sent to the Federal government does not change since each state has only two senators.
The same thing happened in regards to the Texas State government. The population has grown and it has shifted. Consequently, the lines for the Texas Senate Districts and the Texas House Districts must be changed. It is the responsibility of the Texas Legislature to redraw the state and federal lines. The Texas Legislature meets only every other year for six months. In the spring of 2011, the Texas Legislature redrew the lines for the federal and state offices. However, there are some groups who did not like the way that the lines were drawn because they felt the lines were not appropriately representative of the population of Texas and they filed suit in Federal Court in San Antonio.
There is another kink in the story. Texas is one among only eight states that are subject to review by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) for every change that is made to their election procedures. This requirement comes from the Voting Rights Act. So every district line change must be approved by the DOJ.
The Texas legislature set up the primary elections to take place on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in March. This means that candidates need to declare their intent to run by mid-December. This is important to know to understand the timeline.
The San Antonio Federal Court decided to ignore the maps drawn by the Texas Legislature and redraw their own map. The State of Texas appealed this decision all the way up to the Federal Supreme Court. Concurrently, the DOJ had not made a decision on the maps, so the State of Texas took the matter to the Washington DC Federal Appeals Court. None of this happened before mid-December 2011 which meant that candidates did not know what district they were running for because the lines were not determined.
Long story short, the Federal Supreme Court told the Texas Federal Court in San Antonio to redraw the maps, but they had to pay deference to the maps drawn by the Texas Legislature. The Court worked with the parties to the litigation to come up with the interim maps on which this primary election is based. This happened in February and it takes a minimum of three months to put together an election. In Texas the May elections were continuing, hence the elections are taking place late May. The DOJ decision is still outstanding.
The explanation I have provided is very straightforward, but the politics driving all the action is fascinating and should continue to be very interesting. Take into consideration who controls the state legislature, the federal government, the judges sitting in the various courts. Who you choose to lead your state, your federal government has an impact on you and your ability to choose your candidate. Your vote matters.
By Sonya Aston – Attorney with the Office of Stan Stanart, County Clerk and Republican Candidate for Judge for the 127th State District Court for Harris County. Sonya’s mission is to instill responsibility in others for self, family, business, community and government and promises that all who enter her court room will be greeted with respect and their time honored, when they leave they will feel that they received expeditious, fair treatment and that the law was followed. Please learn more by visiting her website at www.sonyaaston.com.