Spring 2012 Election Calendar (How's that May Election Look Now, Council?)

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With Friday's announcement that SCOTUS stayed the redistricting maps and will review the case, it looks like the primaries for Congress and both houses of the Legislature will move to the May primary run-off date, since the maps won't be set — and filing may not be extended or resume — in time to let candidates file for whatever districts we end up with.

From Michael Li's excellent Texas Redistricting blog, here's the election calendar as it looks for the early voting periods for the partisan primary, municipal elections, and partisan run-offs and simultaneous Congressional, legislative primaries. Read the full post here. I added a few additional dates in [brackets].

February 21-March 2:  Early voting period (for now) for the March 6 primary.

March 6: Primary election day (for now).  

March 6-11: The Democratic and Republican parties hold their precinct conventions to select delegates for senate district and county conventions.

March 24:  Democratic and Republican parties hold their senate district and county conventions and select delegates by senate district for their state conventions.

April 7:  Deadline for counties to send mail ballots for the May primary runoff to military and overseas voters.

[April 30-May 8: Early voting for Austin City Council elections. added by KH]

May 12: Municipal and local elections in many Texas jurisdictions.

May 14-18:  Early voting for primary runoffs and congressional/legislative primaries. (The state has not suggested a period for early voting for legislative and congressional primaries, but the normal primary early voting period is 10 days, which would cause it to overlap with the May 12 municipal elections.)

May 22:  Primary runoff election day in Texas.  This is also the date the state has suggested for legislative and congressional primaries.

[June 11-June 19, 2012: Early Voting, Austin municipal run-off election, if needed added by KH]

[June 23, 2012: Election Day, Austin municipal run-off election, if needed added by KH]

[Late July or early August:  Primary run-offs for congressional and/or legislative primaries, if needed. added by KH]

I'm posting this not only to update y'all on what's happening here, but also to remind everyone that the Austin City Council decided in a 4-3 vote to keep our municipal elections in May, rather than use the state-provided opportunity to move them to November 2012. Laura Morrison, Kathie Tovo, Sheryl Cole, and Bill Spelman were the four votes for May — just want to make sure all y'alls' Google alerts on your own names catch this!

Their rationale for preserving a May election and its usual abysmal below-10% turnout at a cost of almost $2 million to the City of Austin taxpayers was in the name of “upholding the charter” — even though SB 100, the State Law that prompted election calendar switches, specifically allowed Austin to move their election without violating the charter. So basically that rationale was false. But, whatever. They also said it should be up to the will of the voters, but grassroots genius Mike Blizzard found a little-known measure approved by the Austin voters decades ago that allows the City Council to move the election if necessary. But, again, whatever — all of these facts are meaningless in the face of an effort to preserve a no-turnout electorate that guarantees their re-election.

At the time, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said that in her professional opinion, it was best to move the Austin municipal elections to November to save money in contracting fees and purchase of soon-to-be-obsolete voting machines. Now, thanks to Abbott, SCOTUS, and the redistricting lawsuits, it is exceedingly likely that we are going to have a primary run-off / Congressional and Legislative primary election that begins two days after the Austin City Council elections end.

And that's only if the state truncates the Early Voting period for the primary run-off and congressional/legislative primary — if the state gives the voters the full 10 day period, there would be overlap in early voting for partisan races and the municipal election.

Hey, I'm just glad I'm not going to be running any vote-by-mail programs this cycle. Three to five rounds of applications and ballot chasing? YIKES.

During the debate about whether or not to move the Austin municipal elections, Bill Spelman specifically said that holding non-partisan municipal elections alongside partisan November elections would confuse the voters. Color me crazy, but I am pretty sure that the election calendar we're going to have now — statewide and county primary, municipal election, statewide and county runoffs and Congressional and legislative primary — is going to be much more confusing.

It's unclear right now how much more money this election calendar shift might cost Austin taxpayers. Partially that depends on the time frame set for early voting for the statewide/primary run-offs and congressional/legislative primary elections. We won't fully know until March 6 anyways, because if any primary races go to a recount that will put all of our county machines on “lockdown” so none can be used for the May municipals. That means Austin would have to buy even more voting machines. That costs money in an exceedingly tight budget cycle when Council is already struggling to keep our libraries, parks, and pools open.

Oh, and if any of the congressional or legislative primaries go to a run-off, or any of the Austin municipal elections go to a run-off, we'll vote for a potential fourth and fifth time.

Remind me again why it was such a bad idea for a majority of our Council to exercise leadership and save money, increase turnout, and simplify the election calendar?


Previously On Burnt Orange Report:


About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

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