Primary election date pushed back, set for May 29
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
Due to redistricting litigation and rulings by a federal court in San Antonio and the Supreme Court, the primary election date in Texas has been pushed back from April 3 to May 29. Additionally, because of the delays caused by rulings against the constitutionality of the previous maps, the candidate-filing window has been extended to March 9.
Given the current situation, early voting for Brazos County will not open until May 14, after many college students and graduates return home for summer break or move out entirely.
"Early voting especially will be down," said Jaime Hines, elections coordinator for Brazos County. "Under normal circumstances, students don't normally make a strong showing. Most aren't going to be available to show up at the polls and don't know how to vote from their home counties."
Hines said during a general election Texas A&M's polls make up as much as 25 percent of total votes for Brazos County; while that number is substantially lower for local elections, the loss of student voters will still have an impact on the county.
According to Harvey Tucker, political science professor, low primary election turnout is a general trend across Texas, with percentages often less than half of what is expected for general elections.
"During the last three voting periods, less than 4 percent of the population voted in primary elections, for both Democrats and Republicans," Tucker said. "The problem is not all Texans are registered voters. We've seen a decline of 15 percent [in] the last decade."
While students who are registered in their home county cannot vote in Brazos County, there is an alternative to driving home to vote.
"If their permanent residence is somewhere other than Brazos County, all they have to do is fill out an application for ballot-by-mail and send it in to their county," Hines said. "It's a little extra work, but a lot easier than making a trip back."
Despite the resources that students have, Tucker said he still believes the inconvenience of mail in ballots or the burden of driving home are enough to dissuade voting. Another factor he cites is the no-contest electoral atmosphere in many areas of the state. Tucker said students do not feel the need to vote in these smaller elections and focus instead on general elections.
Additionally, Tucker believes the Republican focus at A&M will drive down turnout further.
"Student voting in the Brazos County Democratic Party primary will be low for the same reasons," Tucker said. "Turnout is low in general and for one additional reason: fewer contests with multiple candidates in the Democratic primary than in the Republican primary."
Attempts to contact Ted Cruz, candidate for U.S. Senate, and Elizabeth Ames, candidate for State Senate District 25, for comment were unsuccessful.