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December 16th, 2011
Political parties agree to April 3 primaries


Texas Democrats and Republicans agreed to hold unified primary elections on April 3, avoiding the costs and confusion brought on by litigation over new political maps for congressional and legislative districts.

The agreement moves all of the March 6 primaries — including the one for president — to the first Thursday in April. Texas voters would be left out of the Super Tuesday contests in early March.

The plan still needs approval from a panel of three federal judges in San Antonio, and the agreement assumes that the courts will have completed work on the maps in time to hold elections in April.

Under the agreement:

• Candidates will have to be residents of their state legislative districts by Feb. 1.

• Candidates have to file for office by Feb. 1. They’ll be able to change filings they’ve already made.

• The runoffs would be held on June 5.

A copy of the full agreement can be downloaded here.

The judges asked the parties to try to work something out after a day-long hearing Tuesday over what to do in the absence of legal maps for legislative and congressional races. Some wanted to split the primaries — leaving the presidential and other statewide elections alone and moving only the contests that needed maps. But that’s an expensive and complicated proposition, doubling costs of elections for counties and for the state, and endangering the precinct elections needed before the state political parties can hold their early summer conventions.

Three federal courts looking at different aspects of Texas redistricting — including the U.S. Supreme Court — have scheduled hearings on the maps next month.

Ross Ramsey is editor of The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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