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Political Parties Agree to April 3 Primaries

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman

Texas Democrats and Republicans agreed to hold unified primary elections on April 3, avoiding the costs and confusion brought on by litigation over new political maps for congressional and legislative districts.

The agreement moves all of the March 6 primaries — including the one for president — to the first Thursday in April. Texas voters would be left out of the Super Tuesday contests in early March.

The plan still needs approval from a panel of three federal judges in San Antonio, and the agreement assumes that the courts will have completed work on the maps in time to hold elections in April.

Under the agreement:

• Candidates will have to be residents of their state legislative districts by Feb. 1.

• Candidates have to file for office by Feb. 1. They'll be able to change filings they've already made.

• The runoffs would be held on June 5.

A copy of the full agreement can be downloaded here

The judges asked the parties to try to work something out after a day-long hearing Tuesday over what to do in the absence of legal maps for legislative and congressional races. Some wanted to split the primaries — leaving the presidential and other statewide elections alone and moving only the contests that needed maps. But that's an expensive and complicated proposition, doubling costs of elections for counties and for the state, and endangering the precinct elections needed before the state political parties can hold their early summer conventions.

Three federal courts looking at different aspects of Texas redistricting — including the U.S. Supreme Court — have scheduled hearings on the maps next month.


Ross Ramsey is managing editor of The Texas Tribune and continues as editor of Texas Weekly, the premier newsletter on government and politics in the Lone Star State, a role he's had since September 1998. Texas Weekly was a print-only journal when he took the reins in 1998; he switched it to a subscription-based, internet-only journal by the end of 2004 without a significant loss in subscribers. As Texas Weekly's primary writer for 11 years, he turned out roughly 2 million words in more than 500 editions, added an online library of resources and documents and items of interest to insiders, and a daily news clipping service that links to stories from papers across Texas. Before joining Texas Weekly in September 1998, Ramsey was associate deputy comptroller for policy with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also working as the agency's director of communications. Prior to that 28-month stint in government, Ramsey spent 17 years in journalism, reporting for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as the paper's Austin bureau chief. Prior to that, as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, he wrote for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ramsey got his start in journalism in broadcasting, working for almost seven years covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.