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March 14, 2011 (512) 463-0300

FEDERAL REQUIREMENT COULD SHUFFLE ELECTION DATES

Senator Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte laid out a bill before the State Affairs Committee Monday that would move the election filing deadline in order to comply with federal regulations.

(AUSTIN) — The state might have to move around some election dates in order to comply with recent federal requirements about absentee voting by the military. The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment, or MOVE Act, was passed by Congress in 2009 after a federal study showing that nationally, nearly a quarter of all ballots cast by soldiers serving abroad went uncounted in the 2008 election. According to San Antonio Senator Leticia Van de Putte, more than 18 percent of the votes cast by deployed service members registered to vote in Texas didn't count. That's why she filed SB 100, which would implement state voting reforms in order to comply with the new federal statutes. " We know that our military voters are disenfranchised," she told her colleagues at a hearing of the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday.

The reforms won't be as simple as printing new forms or increasing voter education; the registration requirements in the MOVE Act could require the state to change some election dates in order to meet the required period between registration and election. The MOVE Act requires that states make absentee ballots available to servicemen and women no later than 45 days before an election for federal office. It requires a certain amount of time between election filings, primary elections, primary runoffs, and general elections. The current timeline in Texasfor the election process is not compliant with the MOVE Act.

Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock
Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock chairs the State Affairs Committee, which will consider the MOVE Act compliance bill.

Van de Putte's bill proposes a number of options that lawmakers will have to consider in order to bring the state into line. "We will have to comply with the MOVE Act, and we've got several choices to make," she said. Her bill lays out many options for compliance: moving the filing deadline up from Janurary to December and keep the current primary date of March, or move the March primary date and keep the filing deadline where it is.

Van de Putte's bill assumes the state will keep its primary date in March and would move the filing deadline up a month, to the first week of December. This could be problematic, she said, because both the national Democratic and Republican parties have changed their rules regarding primaries.

The Legislature will have to work not only with national parties, but local and county elections officials as well to make sure a new election timeline works for all stakeholders. Elections officials appeared before the State Affairs Committee in order to express concerns about how changing election or filing dates could impact county budgets. Committee chair Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock left both bills pending before the committee, and said work to form a consensus bill will continue as the committee addresses all relevant concerns.

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, March 15 at 11 a.m.


Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.

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