Analysis: A Delay In Drawing New Maps This Year Could Slow Next Year’s Elections

Delays in the delivery of court-approved political maps have disrupted past elections in Texas. And this year's pandemic-related delays in the U.S. census have raised the possibility of jumbled election plans in 2022.

By Ross Ramsey

The 2012 party primary elections in Texas were held May 29 instead of March 6 that year — the result of litigation over new political maps drawn to fit the 2010 census.

Don’t be surprised if something like that happens in 2022, now that the U.S. Census Bureau has said its 2020 numbers, which will be used to draw new political maps, won’t be out until midsummer because of coronavirus-related delays. That late delivery, of numbers originally expected in April, could ripple through the map-making all the way into next year’s election calendar.

It’s not just a calendar thing; moving those dates can have a real influence on an election’s results. We have seen it before.

In 2012, deadlines for potential candidates were moved. Fundraising patterns changed. Unknown candidates — one was a fellow named Ted Cruz — had more time to attract attention. The runoff elections, naturally enough, were pushed back, too, from May to the last day of July. Cruz was the most prominent beneficiary of the delays: Unknown to voters in January of that year and starting a nine-candidate Republican primary race that included then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and sports broadcaster Craig James, a former football star, Cruz finished second in May and then won the Republican nomination in July and went on to win a seat in the U.S. Senate in November.

A few years later, he was running for president. Quite a Cinderella story.

Moving the calendar turns a sprint into a distance race. If the current deadlines hold, candidates for office in Texas will have to make their intentions officially known to the secretary of state by Dec. 13. Early voting will start on Valentine’s Day 2022 — just over a year from now. And the primary will be on March 1. That’s 12 weeks from the day we know who all of the contestants are until we know the results of the first round.

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