Friday, April 17, 2009

Deep in the Heart of Texas: The Lone Star State in 2012

I bet you thought this was going to be a secession post.* Nope, but I have to admit that I let this one slip through the cracks. A while back I touted the usefulness of the National Conference of State Legislatures' election reform legislation database. There really is a lot to see there. So much, in fact, that I've missed one Texas-sized frontloading bill. It turns out that some of the states that hold concurrent primaries (presidential primaries at the same time as primaries for state and local offices) are rather difficult to track when it comes to legislation shifting a state's presidential primary date. NCSL simply treats them as primary changes and not presidential primary changes. In other words, if you just search for those bills affecting presidential primaries, you may be missing out on some of the potential movement on the state legislative level.

That was the case with Texas. They are adamant about holding these things at one time in the Lone Star state. When I contacted the elections division of the Texas Secretary of State's office a few years back, they made it abundantly clear that in Texas, they hold their presidential primaries with their other primaries and that is that. [And thus was born a major variable and subsequent finding about the importance of split primaries and frontloading. But that's a different story.]

In 2007, then, the big story out of Texas -- in the context of the frontloading of their presidential primary -- was the burden the various proposals to move the state's 2008 primaries would put on local elections officials. That was the major reason Texas stayed where it did.** And it proved a masterstroke anyway since the state was so consequential to the nominations of John McCain and Barack Obama. [Yes, Obama. The president did win more delegates in Texas despite losing the primary to Hillary Clinton. Ah, prima-caucuses.]

That burden, however, has not deterred one of the House sponsors of the 2007 bill from introducing legislation to move the Lone Star state's primaries (presidential primary included) to the first Tuesday in February for 2012 and beyond. Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) during the filing period last (gulp) November (Yeah, I really missed that one.) filed HB 246 to shift the state's primary from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February.

Now, under normal circumstances I'd try to shoot this one down like I did for both North Carolina and Oregon. In both those cases, members of the out-party are proposing frontloading bills for 2012. And normally that partisanship argument holds water, but not in Texas. First, Texas is a big state. We aren't talking about a handful of delegates here. That the Lone Star state didn't shift, given past movement, was one of the surprises of the movement (or non-movement) in the lead up to 2008. Also, in North Carolina and Oregon we're talking about Republicans pushing a bill on unreceptive Democrats. In Texas, a Democrat is pushing a bill in a Republican legislature. And by all estimates, the 2012 primary season, and especially the timing of events, is more consequential to the Republicans than it is to the Democrats. So, the majority of the Texas legislature may at least be receptive to the idea of a move. Whether it comes to pass...

Well, that's a different story.

Still, we can put Texas up on the big board now to join the other handful of states that are actually looking into moving forward in 2012 and not back like a few others. It is more likely in Texas' case than in North Carolina and Oregon, I'll say that.

* Speaking of secession, I couldn't resist the urge to draw up a Texas-less map. The electoral college map looks strange with that gaping hole and without the second of its Florida-Texas legs holding it up.
** Here's what I wrote about Texas back in the summer of 2007:
The plan that made its way through the Texas legislature (HB 2017) to move the primary from the first Tuesday in March to February 5 did not fail because it didn't have bipartisan support in both chambers. It failed because of opposition from both in and outside the capitol. County election clerks fretted over the impact the move would have on local elections (Texas law requires that the presidential and the state and local primaries be held on the same date.). Office-holding candidates seeking higher office (including some in the legislature, no doubt) also protested because filing to run would take place in 2007 (the year before the election), which under the Texas Constitution would force them to vacate their currently held offices. The last action taken on HB 2017 was on May 23, just four days before the legislature adjourned.
Sadly, the link to the story in the original post is dead now. I'll have to try to find that somewhere else and link it back here.

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Unknown said...

Although I realize that it would be a phenomenal waste of time, There's a part of me that wishes you had gone so far as to reapportion the 435 representatives among the remaining 49 states. I'm mildly curious to see if any of the one-representative states would get a second rep with the departure of the second-largest state.

Josh Putnam said...

I thought about it, and would have done it if FiveThirtyEight hadn't beaten me to the punch. Utah was the smallest state to have gained any electoral votes, moving from 5 to 6.

But hey a map would be nice. I may have to put something like that up.

Unknown said...

Yeah, but they didn't make a map! I want a map! With all the states resized and everything!

No, I'm not demanding. :-)

(BTW, according to the article, Montana is the smallest state to pick up an electoral vote, going from 3 to 4. So it looks like there is one one-representative state that picks up a second.)

Josh Putnam said...

The quick re-scan failed me when I put that up. All those M states. There's only one U state. Plus I suppose I was primed for Utah. It was the first one I looked for since the state was upset North Carolina got its seat after the 2000 census.

Were you the one (I think there were several, actually) who asked last fall about resizing the states on that map? I honestly thought I'd get a shrug off from Paul (the map's creator), but it came up the other day and he was actually open to the idea. We (or he) probably won't move on that until after the the 2010 Census, but we'll see.