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Austin rethinking its May election

Yeah, maybe that wasn’t the best decision.

Austin City Council members are again discussing whether to move the May council election back six months a politically fraught question that led city officials to trade thinly veiled insults earlier this year.

A [recent] U.S. Supreme Court decision revived the seemingly settled issue. The court blocked Texas from using newly drawn congressional and legislative election maps, throwing the spring primary election calendar into disarray. That uncertainty extends to municipal elections, which local officials now worry about conducting amid possibly shifting primary election dates.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir is not recommending that the city move the May 12 municipal election date but said the Supreme Court decision could create a number of problems. For instance, it’s possible Austin could hold its municipal election on a Saturday, followed by party primaries 10 days later. If that happens, early voting and runoff dates could overlap, and municipal, nonpartisan elections must be held separately from state and federal elections under state law.

“I really do think the Supreme Court will take long enough to make its decision that it will disrupt our elections,” DeBeauvoir said. The Supreme Court set oral arguments for Jan. 9, but the matter might not be resolved then.

The Austin City Council was supposed to take this up on Thursday, but I have not seen any further stories. As it turns out, the TDP/RPT agreement on a unified primary date in April probably eases the pressure on Austin, though it does mean they’ll have elections in three consecutive months; it’s also not clear how the June runoff for the primaries will affect any runoff dates for the May election. Good luck figuring it all out.

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