Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Texas Two-Step

On Sunday, I wore shorts while weeding my roses. It was 74 degrees outside.

Right now it is 34 degrees and snowing. Big, thick flakes of snow.

I just love living in Texas.

March 4 is Texas primary day. The day we do the Texas Two-Step.

Texans are known for being a little contrary. We take Al Capone's advice, "Vote early and vote often," to heart. In fact, we can vote twice on primary day. I'll tell you about that in a minute.

First, the results are in on early voting for the Metroplex, the awful nickname by which the Dallas/Fort Worth area is known.

The election office logged ten times the usual number of early voters. On the Democratic side, 123,000 people voted early in Dallas and 86,000 in Fort Worth for a total of about 209,000. On the Republican side, almost 34,000 people voted early in Dallas and 37,000 in Fort Worth for a total of 71,000.

Now for the Texas Two-Step. A byzantine and complicated system.

Let me start with the Democrats since I intend to vote on that side of the street this election.

There are 193 Democratic delegates up for grabs on March 4. But only 126 of them (about two-thirds) will be determined by the primary.

The Texas polls are open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. If you are on line when the polls close, you are guaranteed an opportunity to vote.

Fifteen minutes after the last voter leaves the polling place, the building reopens for the precinct convention. You must have voted in the primary to be eligible to participate in the precinct convention. The last 67 delegates (about one third) are determined by the number of people who show up and stand for their candidate. The voters sign in for a specific candidate, but must stay present until the final count is completed.

According to KDFW-TV "those [67] delegates aren't actually confirmed until the Democratic State Convention in June. The delegates can change their affiliation at any time before they are recorded at the state convention, though Texas Democratic Party officials say that has never happened in a contested race."

Of course, the Democrats also have 35 super delegates "comprised of any Democratic member of the U.S. Congress, the Texas Democratic Party leadership and other party-chosen members."

On the Republican side, there are 140 delegates up for grabs. The Republicans have a simpler two-step system, but the end result is the same.

Historically only one percent of primary voters show up for the precinct conventions. Although I always vote, this will be the first time I've ever attended a precinct convention.

I plan to stand for Hillary Clinton. If she loses, I'll vote for Barack Obama in November. But I'm voting for Hillary first.


Stephen Parrish said...

A Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket would be a dream---as well as a milestone. I wish they'd stop bickering.

Maya Reynolds said...

Stephen: I agree, but it's not gonna happen. The enmity is too strong at this point.

Bookfraud said...

thanks for the insight -- i've been following the campaign, and haven't seen a clear explanation of how the texas system works. i guess nobody explained it because for so many years, the nominee was already decided by the primary.

i imagine that the precinct conventions will be mobbed.

Maya Reynolds said...

Bookfraud: You're not alone. There are Texans who didn't even know about our precinct conventions. In recent weeks, I've explained it numerous times to my own friends and neighbors.

Yes, given the early voting numbers, I suspect the conventions will be a mob scene.

I voted early this morning to avoid the rush. I was given a yellow ticket to admit me to the precinct convention tonight. You only get an admission ticket if you vote, and you must attend the convention for the party in whose primary you voted. So, despite the fact that I am a registered Republican, since I voted in the Democrats' primary, my admission ticket will only allow me to attend the Democrats' convention.

saraphen said...

How long do you expect to have to stand to be counted? And does this mean that the east coast networks won't be able to call it before midnight eastern time?

Maya Reynolds said...

Saraphen: It depends on how many people wait until the last minute to vote in the primary. Anyone on line at 7:00 PM when the polls close is guaranteed the right to vote. If there is a two-hour line at 7:00 PM, it will delay the start of the precinct convention for two hours.

The networks should be able to call the PRELIMINARY primary vote fairly quickly after 7:00 PM. The precinct vote may take a lot longer.

Right now the big question is the Hispanic vote. This state has an enormous Hispanic population. For example, in 2005, Dallas County's demographic breakdown was:

White: 38%
Hispanic: 36%
Black: 21%
Asian: 4%
Other: 1%

The Hispanic population of Dallas County doubled between 1990 and 2000. The Texas State Data Center estimates growth to be such that the Hispanic percentage as a part of the whole population of the county will be:

In 2010 38%
In 2020 47%
In 2030 55%
In 2040 63%