Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Republican Party of Texas Primary Election Schedule Defense is, uh, Interesting.

There was something that struck FHQ as odd in the filing the Republican Party of Texas submitted to the San Antonio Federal District court on Monday. [That filing was released today. -- via txredistricting.org]

Now, this is the same court whose decision in the Texas redistricting case was met with a stay from the US Supreme Court late last week. That decision has sent the lower court -- and the state parties in Texas -- scrambling to square the disarray the uncertainty into which the redrawn maps have thrown the 2012 primary season across Texas. The Republican Party of Texas wants to maintain the March 6 primary for the presidential nomination and a host of other statewide races and push the primaries for other offices -- those requiring the redrawn maps -- to May 29. RPT placed the greatest emphasis on the impact moving the presidential primary would have on the local party level:
Munisteri cannot emphasize enough to this court that moving the date of the Texas presidential primary, aside from placing difficulty, nay nearly impossible burdens on the administration of the Republican Party at all levels, but especially at the most basic level where it is wholly conducted by volunteers, will cause this court to likely change the result of the national Republican nomination for President of the United States. 
To be clear, the Republicans were most concerned in this filing with the possibility of the presidential primary being moved back to May 29 as well; a date that would make completing the process prior to the early June state convention difficult. The party also argued that moving the presidential primary would force local elections officials to find alternate venues for precinct conventions and pay for those from personal funds. But then came the interesting argument from the party: That abandoning the March 6 presidential primary date would affect the balance achieved by the Texas legislature in setting that date to "preserve this States' [sic] voters a voice in the nomination of the Republican and Democratic nominees for President of the United States." The party goes on to argue that it even changed from winner-take-all delegate allocation rules to proportional in light of requirements from the Republican National Committee in order to preserve that voice.

Now sure, moving the presidential primary all the way back to May 29 would more than likely push Texas out of the window of decisiveness in the Republican presidential nomination race. And that would make the shift from winner-take-all to proportional rules all for naught. But it appears as if the Texas Democratic Party was ready with a counterproposal that would keep all the primaries on one date -- the position they want. Instead of May 29 as the consolidated primary date, the Democrats are arguing for an April 3 primary date.

That date grabbed FHQ's attention. [In fact, I may be the only one.] Why? That was the date that some Republican legislators were pushing to move the primary to back in the spring during the legislature's regular session. Not only that, but that was a date that the Republican National Committeeman (and now RNC legal counsel) Bill Crocker and Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri argued for in a hearing on the primary date legislation before a House committee. Look at what FHQ had to say about that hearing in April 2011:
The committee substitute to HB 111 discussed in the hearing would move the presidential primary back to first Tuesday in April. That move was supported by both Republican National Committeeman from Texas, Bill Crocker, and Texas Republican Party Chairman, Steve Munisteri. Both cited the need to comply with national party rules concerning timing and stressed the potential penalties associated with violations (half or more of the delegation). That is not a concern on timing but is based on the rules regarding Republican delegate allocation in the state. As was the case for the Republican National Committee in every post-reform cycle but 2012, the Republican Party of Texas cannot change its rules except at its convention and the party would need to change its winner-take-all allocation method to comply with the RNC rules if the state maintained a March primary. In other words, the state party could not make the necessary change to its method of delegate allocation until its convention following the primary in 2012. This concerned both Republicans for the potential penalties associated with an inability to make that change. Interestingly neither Crocker nor Munisteri mentioned the potential for Texas losing significance for moving to a later date and both touted the possible advantages of not only maintaining the winner-take-all rules with an April primary, but also the additional significance that would carry if the nomination race was still being contested at that point.
Again, those matters are out the window if the court pushes a May 29 date. The RPT is absolutely right in that case. However, the court may be sympathetic to the April 3 date Texas Democrats are rallying behind. The only question is whether the court -- or the parties for that matter -- feels the redistricting plan will be in place by that point. It is already uncomfortable with the March 6 date for offices that require those lines, but is that extra month enough time?

...and will the Republican Party of Texas consider shifting back to winner-take-all delegate allocation rules if so?

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