Redistricting lawsuits have thrown the official start of the 2012 election season in Texas into doubt.
Both the Texas Republican and Democratic parties have set Nov. 12 as the start of their one-month period to allow candidates to file for next year's primary ballot.
Federal judges in Washington, D.C., and San Antonio are considering allegations that the redistricting plans were designed to reduce the voting power of minorities. A hearing in the case is set for today in San Antonio.
Candidates and political observers reached by the Star-Telegram last week said a court may delay the filing period because of uncertainty over what maps will be used next year. Redistricting issues have prompted the federal government to fiddle with Texas' primary filing schedule in the past, including in 1982, according to the Texas Legislative Council.
State law requires a 30-day filing period for the primary, according to the Texas Secretary of State. Some have speculated that a court might allow for the filing period to be shorter.
"The filing period might be compressed by the San Antonio court, especially if a timely ruling on preclearance is not achieved from the Washington court," said Chris Elam, spokesman for the Texas Republican Party. "Regardless, the Republican Party of Texas stands ready to operate under whatever schedule the court mandates."
Steve Bickerstaff, an adjunct professor at the University of Texas Law School and a redistricting expert, said he expects the Washington, D.C. court to deliver rulings on all the state's maps later this month. He said he sees circumstances under which the courts would alter the filing period, the most likely one being that the D.C. court doesn't clear one or more of the state's maps.
"If there is an objection, the filing deadline will definitely be extended," Bickerstaff said.
Extending the filing deadline could prove problematic as state election officials have said they will barely have enough time to prepare for the primary under the current schedule.