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We’re not going to be able to have our primaries in March

That’s the obvious conclusion from this.

Texas lawmakers will almost certainly be back for a rare special legislative session in the fall now that the U.S. Census Bureau has set a September deadline for releasing the 2020 census results.

Facing significant holdups in finalizing the decennial count, the bureau announced Friday that the detailed population numbers needed to redraw legislative and congressional districts to reflect the state’s growth in the last decade will be delivered by Sept. 30, a monthslong delay that could upend the next set of elections for seats from Congress down to local offices.

The bureau’s original plan was to get the data in lawmakers’ hands as soon as this month, giving them time to rejigger district boundaries and decipher Texans’ representation during the regular 2021 legislative session. But the census’ typical timeline was repeatedly upended by the coronavirus pandemic and interference from the Trump administration.

“If this were a typical decade, we would be on the verge of delivering the first round of redistricting data from the 2020 Census,” James Whitehorne, chief of the bureau’s redistricting and voting rights data office, said in a statement. “Our original plan was to deliver the data in state groupings starting Feb. 18, 2021 and finishing by March 31, 2021. However, COVID-19 delayed census operations significantly.”

Instead, the bureau is still working to release the population numbers that determine how many congressional seats are apportioned to each state by April 30 — blowing past the legal deadline for those numbers by many months. Census officials previously indicated the second set of more detailed numbers needed for redistricting wouldn’t be available until after July.

The current timetable puts the data delivery far past the end of the 2021 legislative session on May 31, meaning Gov. Greg Abbott would need to call lawmakers back for legislative overtime in the fall.

See here and here for the background. I’ve been operating under the assumption that there would be a special session for redistricting all along, but this puts to rest any doubt. Given the fact that our statutory deadline for filing for the primaries is December 13, and given the certainty of litigation over the new maps, there’s no way we can have something in place in time for the normal 2022 calendar. Expect the primaries next year to be in May, like they were in 2012, and hope it doesn’t need to be any later than that.

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5 Comments

  1. Lobo says:

    Re: our statutory deadline for filing for the primaries

    Question to Kuff et all in the know: If they are statutory, couldn’t the Lege change all the filing deadlines as necessary in the regular session, or even the date of the primaries? And weren’t the Governor’s rescheduling decisions in 2020 all based on the existence of a disaster?

    Lege action on dates and deadlines wouldn’t obviate the need for a special session for redistricting, but would affect Abbott’s role in the process, no?

  2. voter_worker says:

    VRs will need some sort of action to authorize a delayed sending out of everyone’s new voter certificates until they have had time to implement the new plans.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    Voter.

    Do we really need to even send out voter certificate these days? Personally, all these years, I have NEVER shown the voter card, instead, just the driver’s license I always carry. Since the voter card isn’t acceptable by itself, why do we still need to mail them out every year? Seems like an expensive anachronism these days.

  4. voter_worker says:

    Bill, it’s a mechanism used by the State of Texas to inform voters of their major district and municipality assignments. These are all shown on the face of the card. It’s also a mechanism used to assist in keeping the voter rolls more accurate than they would be if the system depended on voters to voluntarily update their records when they move. With this mailout, which is non-forwardable by the USPS, any that are undeliverable are returned to the VR, who then will mail a confirmation notice, which is forwardable, to those voters. All who do not respond within the stated time frame are then placed in suspense status. They will remain there for two federal election cycles. If they present to vote, they will be asked to update their record first. If they take no action, after the two federal election cycles are over, they will be purged.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Thanks, Voter!