Officials: Primary date still mystery, but register now

While redistricting in the state of Texas has thrown the political party primaries and coming November election into scheduling chaos, one this is certain: If you don't register to vote in time for the primaries, your won't be able to cast your ballot for any of the candidates involved.The primaries — which are currently slated for April 3, but, according to state officials, are likely to be postponed as late as May 29 — are quickly approaching, as is the deadline to register to vote or report a change of address, which is currently set as March 5 by the Texas Secretary of State's office.“As the election dates continue to change and get shuffled around due to the redistricting case currently being heard in court, many voters may find the whole affair confusing,” Saundra Bloom, Howard County elections administrator, said. “However, the one thing that doesn't change is the deadline to register to vote, which is always 30 days prior to the election.“If the April 3 date holds up, area residents will have until March 5 to register to vote in the political party primaries. There's still quite a bit of uncertainty involved in the scheduling, but that really shouldn't serve as a reason for area voters to wait. It's better to go ahead and check on your voter status now, and, if need be, go ahead and get your registration in as soon as possible.”The redistricting case, which is being held in a federal court in San Antonio, got a bit of good news last week, with the Texas attorney general's office and a coalition of minority groups announcing a deal Wednesday on one of three disputed electoral maps.While the compromise represents a step forward in the ongoing redistricting battle, the Texas House and congressional districts remain in dispute for the 2012 elections.And while the Texas Secretary of State's office continues to embrace the April 3 date for the primaries, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Jerry Smith said last week Texans should plan for the primaries to be held in late May.Smith hasn't yet set May 29 as the primary date, but he told party leaders last week to instruct candidates and their campaigns to plan as if that is when Texas voters will finally be able to cast their ballots in the party primaries.The possibility of a late-May political party primary has many Republican officials expressing their disappointment, as Texas is currently slated to be part of the April 3 Super Tuesday. A May 29 primary could seriously diminish the Lone Star State's influence in the Republican presidential race, according to GOP officials.A May 29 primary would also bump the deadline to register to vote up considerably, possibly as late as April 30, according to state officials. However, until a new date beside the April 3 scheduling is issued, nothing is written in stone, state officials said Monday.While the federal case regarding redistricting has thrown much of the election's schedule into chaos, Bloom said it is also preventing her office from mailing out voter registration cards.“We haven't mailed out the new certificates due to the uncertainty of our legislative and congressional districts,” Bloom said. “We've been instructed by the secretary of state to wait. We hope to have them mailed out in plenty of time for the May 12 municipal and school board elections. However, should you not receive your certificate in time, you may still vote with proper identification as long as you are a registered voter.”Seats up for election in the 2012 November election include 118th Judicial District attorney, currently held by Hardy Wilkerson; Howard County sheriff, held by Stan Parker; county attorney, held by Joshua Hamby; tax assessor collector, held by Kathy Sayles; Precinct 3 county commissioner, held by Jimmie Long; and Precinct 1 county commissioner, held by Emma Brown.Parker has filed to run for re-election on the Republican ticket, as have Long, Green and Wilkerson. Parker has drawn an opponent in local resident M.O. Horton, who will also be running on the GOP ballot.Brown, who is once again running as a Democratic candidate, has drawn a trio of challengers, as Howard County Jailer Larry Torres, former Big Spring Council member Oscar Garcia and Ed Ware, who has attempted to unseat the longtime commissioner previously, will face off for the Precinct 1 seat on the court.Torres will face off against Brown in the Democratic primary, while Garcia and Ware will be running on the Republican ticket. The winners of both races will run against one another in November to claim the seat.Longtime Tax Collector and Assessor Kathy Sayles announced she will not be running for re-election. Diane Carter, an employee of tax collection office, will be running — currently unopposed — for the office on the Republican ticket.Also running unopposed at this time are Long, Green and Wilkerson.For more information on voter registration and the upcoming elections, contact Bloom at 432-264-2273.