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Texas Republicans, Democrats Delay State Primaries, Skip Super Tuesday

Texas won’t hold party primary elections on March 6 –- Super Tuesday –- a U.S. judge ruled after state Republicans and Democrats struck a deal to avoid holding multiple primaries.

“The two major political parties have carefully worked out the agreement giving rise to this order,” U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia said today on behalf of the three-judge panel that is overseeing Texas’s redistricting fight in federal court in San Antonio.

Texas will hold its 2012 general primary for all federal, state and local elections on April 3, with runoff elections set for June 5, according to the order. The court also extended the state’s candidate filing deadlines for a third time, until Feb. 1.

The delay means Texans won’t vote on Super Tuesday, when 10 other states are set to hold party primaries or caucuses. The day has heightened significance in the U.S. presidential primary contest, as more voters go to the polls that day than on any other in the 2012 primary election cycle.

Earlier, the Texas Republican Party leadership fought to keep Texas’s presidential primary on Super Tuesday, to preserve the state’s political influence and boost voter turnout for Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is running for president. The party leaders wanted Texas to hold multiple primaries for different races, most of which must be delayed while wrangling over Texas’s election maps plays out in three federal courts.

Primary Costs

Texas Democrats, 28 members of the state’s congressional and legislative delegations, including Republicans, and the Hispanic voting-rights groups involved in the redistricting fight urged the court this week to order a single, unified primary election, even if it meant dumping Super Tuesday. They said cash-strapped state and county governments couldn’t afford to spend scare resources to hold multiple primaries, which might also suppress voter turnout.

The debate was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a challenge stemming from complaints by Hispanic voting-rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department that election maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature are racially gerrymandered.

The U.S. high court will hear arguments on Jan. 9 at a hearing in Washington. The justices stayed implementation of both the Legislature’s election maps and temporary replacement maps drawn by the three-judge San Antonio panel until the high court decides whether the lower court overstepped its authority by creating maps that largely ignored the Legislature’s lines.

Gained Seats

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

Perry approved election maps drawn by the Legislature in June, shortly before he announced his candidacy for president. Critics said the maps created no new districts that improved election opportunities for Latinos, who provided the bulk of the state’s growth and who historically have voted more often for Democrats than Republicans.

Republicans hold 23 of Texas’s 32 congressional seats.

The San Antonio court is weighing the Hispanic activists’ challenge to the state’s maps, while a separate three-judge panel in federal court in Washington weighs a lawsuit filed by Texas seeking pre-clearance of the Legislature’s election maps.

Trial Scheduled

Texas, like all states with a history of voting-rights violations, must obtain pre-clearance from the Washington court or the Justice Department before implementing new election districts. The Obama administration opposes the state’s maps. The Washington court has scheduled a trial in the dispute starting Jan. 17.

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 case is Perry v. Perez, 11A536 (Congressional map); U.S. Supreme Court.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston at laurel@calkins.us.com

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

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