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Redistricting litigation threatens party conventions

With the April 3 primary date now almost certainly no longer in play, the two parties’ biennial conventions are also at risk as the redistricting litigation drags on.

Congressional districts for Texas as drawn by the court

The state’s Democratic and Republican parties made substantial down payments months ago to reserve convention and hotel space in June. But if the primaries are delayed again — as late as June 26, as was discussed at the U.S. Supreme Court last week — then the parties could be forced to postpone their conventions.

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Delegates are chosen from congressional and senatorial districts; so, without valid redistricting maps, the parties will not be able chose delegates for the national conventions.

“We would have no idea how to proceed,” said Chris Elam, a spokesman for the Texas Republican Party. “We hope desperately not to be there.”

Elam said state GOP leaders were challenged to come up with solutions last month when a federal court in San Antonio moved the primaries from March 6 to April 3 because of redistricting uncertainty. But if the primaries get pushed back again, then “all bets are off,” Elam said.

“We’ll have to go back to the drawing board,” Elam added.

With contractual obligations to host as many as 18,000 people June 7-9 at the Fort Worth Convention Center, the Republican Party of Texas could be on the hook for “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Elam said, if the convention doesn’t go on as planned.

And with about $640,000 cash on hand, Elam said, a hit that big would be significant, especially for a party that was $500,000 in the red in 2010.

The Democrats wouldn’t fare much better if they were forced to choose a new convention date.

“Everything just is going to cost a lot more because you expect it to be a certain time and it isn’t,” said Lenora Sorola-Pohlman, who is chairwoman of the Texas Democratic Party’s convention committee.

Democratic Party leaders are expecting about 14,000 people at the state convention in Houston on June 8-9. And if the party cancels its contracts with the Hilton Americas, it will be responsible for 80 percent of the rooms reserved for the convention, the party said. The party didn’t say how much the contracts were worth, but officials said the party has about $141,000 on hand.

“At this point, we’re comfortable we’ll have our delegates on time to hold our convention on the day planned. We are reserving any more judgment on the election schedule until we have some rulings on the court maps,” party spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said in a statement.

I feel oh so terribly sorry for the Republicans and the financial hardship this may put them through, given that it’s entirely their responsibility for the schedule chaos. RPT Chair Steve Munisteri has floated the idea of a split primary again, for which Democrats are not on board, and has filed an advisory with SCOTUS saying that “for numerous legal, logistical, and practical reasons, moving the Texas primary to any date after mid-April 2012 would wreak havoc with the state’s electoral process and present insurmountable difficulties.” Should have thought of all that before pursuing a stay on the San Antonio court maps, that’s all I know. I don’t know what’s going to happen – I’m not even sure what outcome to root for any more. All I know is that we had an agreement for an election date in hand with maps that were still pretty damn favorable to the Republicans and litigation that would go on in the background, but they weren’t satisfied with that. And so here we are, and they’re whining about the inconvenience of moving the primaries back again to accommodate their aggressive litigation strategy. I trust you’ll forgive me if I’m not moved by their plight.

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One Comment

  1. Doris Murdock says:

    It’s mind-boggling that the Republican majority could believe that the districts could be re-drawn as they were, in our fine state that has a record of disenfranchising our minorities (which may not now be the minorities, come to think of it!) Did they truly tell each other that the 4 1/2 million people were all white Republicans, or that even the minorities would roll over and play dead? To quote that great philosopher, Forrest Gump, stupid is as stupid does. I believe voter registration will be critical in Texas and throughout the US this year.

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