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Citizens may still register to vote as primary dates remain in limbo

By BRENDA BROWN bbrown@atlantacitizensjournal.com
Feb. 25, 2012 at 11 p.m.


With the state's Democratic and Republican party primaries still in limbo, there is one bright spot for those who haven't already registered to vote. Until the actual primary date is set – or dates, if the two parties eventually decide to hold their primaries separately – non-registered citizens may register until 30 days prior to the election.

The only problem – nobody knows when that will be.

The Texas Secretary of State's office notified county election officials this week that even though it had provided them with allotments of county-specific voter registration applications, since the voter registration can continue beyond its initial date counties may request more voter cards if needed.

Becky Watson, Cass County's tax assessor/collector who is in charge of voter registration, confirmed citizens may still register to vote since the state's primary election dates have not been set. Originally scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 6, lawsuits regarding the Texas Legislature's redistricting maps are still pending in federal courts and until they are settled, Texans are still not sure when they will vote.

"Right now, the parties are saying the primaries may be held on Tuesday, May 29th," Watson said. "It's for sure that the April 3rd date is out."

To make the Tuesday, April 3, proposed primary election deadline, the lawsuits had to be settled at least 30 days prior, per Texas law.

How that will affect city and school districts that have planned elections for Saturday, May 12, is still somewhat in limbo, as well.

Watson said citizens may register to vote in the May 12 elections at least until Thursday, April 12 – but they may not receive their voter registration cards to present at the polls. However, Watson said the voter rolls will be updated for the May 12 date and voters may present their Texas driver's licenses, Texas ID cards or military IDs and be able to vote in their city and school elections, which, at this point, have not been cancelled.

She said Cass County, like most counties across the state, simply can't afford to print and mail out voter registration cards twice.

"At some point, the state will have to give us the okay to print voter cards, but we can't print ours until our House district lines are set. Until they approve a map, we can't do anything," Watson explained. "Our county can't afford to print them a second time and they are even more expensive to mail."

Though precinct lines within the various governmental entities in Cass County haven't changed with the 2010 Census, the county's Texas House seat is set to be moved according to the Legislature's redistricting map. Cass County is scheduled to move into a new district, currently held by Wayne Christian, R-Center; it is currently part of Republican George Lavender's district, which includes Bowie County.

And though this change for Cass County really isn't in dispute in the courts – most of the dispute centers around Latino districts near San Antonio and further south – the lack of a statewide map leaves all Texas counties in a jam regarding elections.

"Our rolls will be right for city and school elections – where you live and where you go to vote won't be changed. No precinct lines within the county have changed; it's only state and federal elections that have boundaries in dispute," Watson said.

Meanwhile, those who still wish to register to vote may pick up applications at the tax office, at the Atlanta and Hughes Springs chambers of commerce, and at the Atlanta Public Library. Citizens may also register online at <em>www.votexas.org</em>.

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