Jacquelyn F. Callanen was neither a plaintiff nor a defendant in the redistricting case that the Supreme Court decided to hear last week. But her life — and her office — went from calm to chaos because of it. Ms. Callanen is the elections administrator for Bexar County in south-central Texas, home to San Antonio and 1.7 million residents. The Supreme Court’s decision temporarily blocked a set of district maps that Ms. Callanen and other officials around the state were going to use in next year’s elections.
Less than 90 days before the scheduled March 6 primary, Ms. Callanen has no electoral map in place for Congressional and State House and Senate districts in Bexar County, and none are in effect in any other county either. Much of the political geography of the country’s second-biggest state, in other words, has essentially vanished.
A redistricting dispute between the state and minority groups has turned the legality of two sets of rival electoral maps into a question mark, creating uncertainty about the election schedule and what impact changing it will have on local elections, voter turnout, state party conventions in June, Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential bid and county budgets.
Lawyers, lawmakers and a San Antonio panel of federal judges are now debating delaying the primary and splitting it into two elections because of the uncertainty after the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case on Jan. 9. But as they argue the political and legal consequences of maintaining, pushing back or splitting the primary, Ms. Callanen has more practical worries.
Adding an additional primary and a runoff next year would cost the county an extra $560,000, not counting the roughly $150,000 it would cost for any second mailing of voter registration cards, she said. Meanwhile, none of the preparatory work for a March primary has been done, and her department on the third floor of a county building here is unusually quiet.
Hundreds of variations of Democratic and Republican ballots would have already been programmed and proofed by each party. The machines that count absentee ballots and electronic votes on Election Day would have completed, or be in the middle of, testing. About 900,000 voter registration cards, each one identifying the district a voter lives in, would have been mailed, as required by state law. Up to 2,400 temporary election workers would be undergoing training.