Drawing Straws

Those in the Senate chamber yesterday witnessed the strange ritual of drawing lots to stagger Senate terms after redistricting.
Thu January 24, 2013 10:15 pm
Donna Campbell upon drawing a two-year term.
Bob Daemmrich

State senators shuffled up to the podium one by one on Wednesday morning to draw lots to determine whether they would serve a two- or four-year term before facing voters again. Each senator had to reach into a glass bowl and select an envelope containing a capsule holding an even or odd number. Those who snagged odd numbers received four-year terms, and those who drew even numbers will be up for re-election in 2014. 

The Texas Senate staggers terms this way every ten years, after each redistricting cycle, and if it sounds like an odd ritual, it is. Arkansas is the only other state whose Senate parcels out terms this way. However, the terms balance out: the districts that start off with two-year terms finish the decade with two four-year terms, and the seats that start the cycle with four-year terms finish up with one two-year slot.

(As a bit of trivia: According to John Reed, a public information officer with the Arkansas state senate, prior to the enactment of term limits, senators would hope for four-year terms. But the state’s term limits mean that each senator can serve no more than two four-year terms. The additional two-year term does not count against that, so now everyone hopes to draw a two-year term.)

Texas doesn’t have term limits, and so if senators covet the four-year term, it’s usually just because they don’t want to stand for reelection after only two years. But for many of the current members—the longtime legislators, or the ones in safe districts—there was little to fear in Wednesday’s drawing. And neither party had unusually bad luck. Seven of the senate’s eleven Democrats received four-year terms, as did eight of the body’s 19 Republicans. (The person


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