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AG announces temporary voting maps, sticks to April 3 primary

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By Matt Kelton
Pioneer Sentinel

Attorney General Greg Abbot announced in a press release Monday that his office will agree to temporary voting maps, saving the April 3 party primaries from yet another postponement.

Boundaries for voting precincts in Clay County remained unchanged by the state legislature, but the redistricting process is affecting local elections. Primaries have already been delayed once, from March to April, said County Clerk Sasha Kelton, and Monday’s announcement does not make the guarantee elections administrators across the state are looking for.

“No one knows when the Primary will be.  It changed from March 6 to April 3, and may change again,” said Kelton.  “After today’s decision, it seems as though the April 3 date may actually be possible, however, following that schedule, the Republican and Democratic Chairs’ ballot and coding forms would have been due to our election vendor last week.”

Abbott said the new maps are a result of an agreement between the State of Texas and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, which includes Texas LULAC, MALDEF, GI Forum, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, Domingo Garcia, The Mexican American Bar Association of Texas, and La Fe Policy Research and Education Center, and reflects a consensus among state leadership in the Republican Party.

The press release noted that although the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC), the Black Legislative Caucus and the NAACP have not agreed to support the proposed maps, those maps include modifications that address some of the primary concerns those plaintiffs raised during negotiations with the state.

Last summer, several influential minority groups filed a lawsuit claiming redistricting maps drawn by the Republican controlled legislature were discriminatory, ignoring a growing Hispanic population in Texas. The argument was carried before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The proposed maps minimize changes to the redistricting plan passed by the Legislature and, as the U.S. Supreme Court required, makes changes only where necessary. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has worked with a wide range of interest groups to incorporate reasonable requests from all parties to the extent possible without compromising the will of the Texas Legislature,” the press release stated. Even though these proposed interim maps aren’t fully supported by all interest groups, modifications have been incorporated based on requests made by all parties. Today’s maps should allow the court to finalize the interim redistricting maps in time to have elections in April.”

The task of putting together an election was complicated even more in December when Secretary of State Hope Andrade announced a second filing period for candidates after the new year. An opening date for the filing period was not announced, and the closing date of Feb. 1, announced with the second filing period came and went.

“The whole process of ordering ballots, having machines programmed, securing polling locations and recruiting poll workers takes weeks, and without knowing when Election Day will occur, everyone is just waiting,” said Kelton. “The new MOVE Act requires the County Clerk’s Office to have all military and overseas voters’ ballots mailed out 45 days prior to Election Day.  Ballots cannot be even be styled or ordered until the second filing period has opened and closed, so that a candidate list can be completed.”

The temporary voting maps require the approval of a three-judge panel in San Antonio. A date on which the panel might accept or reject the proposed maps has not been announced.

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The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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