Bill filed to move Texas primary; local election officials wary of earlier date
Polk County Enterprise - February 25, 2007 - March 4, 2007
LIVINGSTON -- A bill filed in the Texas House of Representatives last week seeks to move primary elections from March to February for the 2008 elections, causing concern among some Polk County election officials.
Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, filed the bill to give Texas a greater voice in determining party nominees in presidential elections. Similar proposals are pending in California, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey.
County Clerk Barbara Middleton, the local official charged with administering elections, prefers to keep the March date.
“It takes 60 days to prepare for the election so we would be starting in December,” Middleton said.
Her office handles candidates’ applications for a place on the ballot as well as paperwork to allow residents to vote via mail.
Polk County Republican Party Chairman Benny Fogleman is also wary of the proposed change.
“If we are only making this conversion to make us a greater player in the presidential primaries, I don’t think we will realize any advantages by changing our primary dates.”
Democratic Chairman Sharon Teal supports H.B. 993.
“In years past the nomination is settled before the Texas primary,” Teal said. “ Ohio and all those northeastern states have their primaries early and the candidate is chosen before it gets to Texas. All we get to do is ratify their decision.”
“For decades, many smaller states like Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and others have had earlier primaries and as a result have played a much larger role than Texas in selecting our presidential nominees,” Alonzo said in Associated Press reports.
“Once presidential candidates get the momentum from small, early wins, the outcome of the whole process is usually determined by the time the primaries are held in Texas,” Alonzo said.
Teal added that an earlier primary would encourage candidates to schedule more campaign stops in Texas.
Fogelman urged state officials to take a step back and reconsider the proposed reform.
“My real concern with this proposed adjustment is the effect it will have on our voters and election workers,” Fogleman said. “We have validated a primary system that has worked effectively for the state of Texas. As the old saying goes, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’”
Fogleman cited the inconvenience and expense of retraining voters and poll workers as well as the greater chance of inclement weather as additional obstacles that could be created by the change.
“February is one of the coldest months of the year and would adversely affect the involvement of our senior citizens and election workers,” Fogleman said.
Diane Harlan, chairman for Precinct 19, told Fogleman she is concerned about the change since her box is usually located in a building that has no heat or air-conditioning.
The state of Texas could save money by holding elections earlier, Teal said.
“The secretary of state reimburses the county for expenses so instead of four months there would just be three,” Teal said. “The state would save a lot of money. I think it would be wonderful.”