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May 22nd, 2012:

The Trib’s strange samples

Here’s the UT/Texas Trib poll result the Trib should have reported:

Q19. If the 2012 general election for U.S. president were held today and Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee, would you vote for [randomize] Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, someone else, or haven’t you thought enough about it to have an opinion?

1. Mitt Romney              46%
2. Barack Obama             38%
3. Someone else              9%
4. Haven’t thought about it 
enough to have an opinion    8%

That’s in line with other polling. It translates to a 55-45 Romney win in November, which I daresay would not surprise anybody. But that’s not the result that was reported. This is the result that was reported:

Likely Voters (n=511; MOE=+/- 4.34%)

1. Mitt Romney              55%
2. Barack Obama             35%
3. Someone else              7%
4. Haven’t thought about it
enough to have an opinion    3%

The poll data is here and the Trib story is here. As was the case with their previous poll, I’m at a loss to understand how they arrived at that second sample. This time they at least give an explanation for their screening methodology:

The UT/TT internet survey of 800 Texas voters was conducted May 7-13 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percentage points. Questions asked only of Republican or Democratic voters have larger margins of error, as indicated. And “likely voters” were defined as those who indicated they were “somewhat” or “extremely” interested in politics and who voted in “every” or “almost every” election in recent years.

Eighty-six percent of their sample claimed to be “somewhat” (38%) or “extremely” (48%) interested in politics, while 67% of the sample said they voted in “every” (32%) or “almost every” (35%) election “in the past two or three years”, which is how the question was phrased. Given that so many more people vote in Presidential elections than in any other kind of election – turnout for the just-completed Austin Mayoral election was expected to be around ten percent; I’m pretty sure it will be considerably higher than that this November – it makes no sense to me to exclude the respondents who had voted in “about half” (13%) or “one or two” (11%) of the elections in the past two or three years. Those were non-Presidential year elections. Does anyone really believe those people would have voted in 2011 or 2010 but won’t vote this year? It beggars the imagination. I understand the reasons why pollsters want to construct a “likely voter” screen. I’m just saying that this one looks awfully restrictive to me. On a side note, unlike last time this poll did not ask people how they voted in the 2008 Presidential election. The February sample went for John McCain by a 46-39 margin. Steve Singiser has more.

Finally, I see that the Burnt Orange Report has finally done what I’ve been begging some pollster to do, which is to ask Republican voters if they’d vote for Rick Perry or Greg Abbott in a hypothetical 2014 cage match. Click over to see their answer. Since this is apparently my week for getting poll-related requests fulfilled, let me now implore BOR to do a Presidential general election survey so we can have a third data source besides UT/TT and PPP. Thanks.

A trio of trial updates

Planned Parenthood versus Texas:

A ruling affecting health care, including contraception, for some 130,000 low-income Texas women probably won’t come until late this year as Planned Parenthood and the state of Texas plan for mid-October oral arguments in their legal fight.

The state is appealing a preliminary injunction that U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel granted six weeks ago preventing Texas from disqualifying Planned Parenthood from participating in the Women’s Health Program. State leaders oppose Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics provide abortion services.

Yeakel told both parties Friday the case could change depending on how the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the state’s effort to lift his injunction. The appeals court will hear oral arguments on June 7.

According to Postcards, the schedule is depositions and discovery are to be done by August 17, the last briefs are due in October 5, and oral arguments will be on October 19. We’ll probably get a ruling in November.

Voter ID:

The state’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice over the voter ID bill will commence in July, keeping alive the chance that the controversial measure could be in effect by the November election.


The Department of Justice confirmed that a federal district court in Washington D.C. will hear the case starting July 9, but declined to offer any additional comment.

At this rate, the voter ID lawsuit could be decided before the redistricting lawsuit. Man, that’s taking forever. In the meantime, you’ve probably heard that a divided DC Court has upheld the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County (Alabama) lawsuit. The Supreme Court may hear the inevitable appeal of the voter ID suit, which also challenges Section 5 of the VRA, before the appeal of this case. At least one of those cases will be on their docket next year.

Tom DeLay.

The much-delayed Tom DeLay case is delayed again.

The 3rd Court of Appeals cancelled [this] week’s oral arguments on DeLay’s money-laundering conviction after his lawyer, Brian Wice, asked Justice Diane Henson to recuse herself.


The latest postponement in the marathon case was prompted because three Republicans on the 3rd Court removed themselves from hearing the appeal. They did not cite a reason.

“The Republicans all apparently think this case is kryptonite,” Wice said at the time. That left Wice facing a 2-to-1 Democratic panel hearing the oral arguments.

Friday’s cancellation came after Wice had filed a motion asking the court to make a decision on Henson by Friday or he would ask a higher court to intervene.

The court did not explain the reason for the cancellation or suggest how long the appeal might be on hold. Wice speculated Friday that the court has reached an impasse over Henson’s participation.

“I think they did the sensible thing and called a timeout,” Wice said.

I’ve got the World Court in The Hague on speed dial whenever they’re ready to face up to the inevitable.

Assessing the risk of wildfires

While one hopes that it won’t be a problem this year, the Harris County Fire Marshall has come up with a plan to protect vulnerable areas from wildfires.

Four months ago, Harris County became the most populated county in the state to finalize a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. It identified areas facing the greatest wildfire risk, including Katy, Waller, Cypress Fairbanks, Spring and The Woodlands.

Each community is threatened, in part, because they rank “high” for intermixing homes and commercial structures with forests and other wildland vegetation that can become fuel for fires.

“More and more, we have bedroom communities moving into the woods and brush for the scenic beauty. They often abut large areas of woods,” said Brad Smith, Texas Forest Service spokesman.

This urbanization of areas that were historically farm, ranch or woodlands is putting increasing numbers of homeowners at risk, the protection plan warned.


A key factor in fighting any fire is access to water. But the protection plan noted that a pressing problem for developments in once-rural areas can be limited water supplies.

“Most water lines into unincorporated housing areas in the county have insufficient capacity to effectively pressure water hydrants for fire suppression,” the report said, noting it would also be cost prohibitive to upgrade those lines and hydrants.

The report recommends mapping all potential water sources – from stock ponds to creeks – as well as listing GPS coordinates for all hydrants that can supply water that could be trucked to a fire scene.

Here’s the Fire Marshall’s Community Wildfire Protection page, here’s the Executive Summary of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), and here’s the full plan, which is on the CWPP page. Not surprisingly, the areas most at risk are in the farthest north and northwest parts of the county. The Fire Marshall used the Texas Forest Service’s Wildfire Risk Assessment tool, which you can use as well if you want to know what your own personal risk is here. As I am firmly entrenched in the urban core mine is fairly low, but given the concerns last year about Memorial Park going up in flames, I’m not going to get too cocky about that. Take a look and see how you fare.

The unhelpful SBOE overview

The premise of this story is good and useful. Unfortunately, the execution falls short.

Rita Ashley

Conservatives and moderates get a rare opportunity this year to try to stack the State Board of Education with members who will help shape public education in the way each side considers best for Texas school children.

All 15 seats are up for re-election this year due to once-a-decade redistricting to reflect population changes.


Four social conservative board members face GOP primary challenges, and four social conservative candidates are running in four separate districts now represented by moderate Republicans.

Locally, social conservative board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, is retiring and likely will be replaced by another social conservative – Donna Bahorich, of Houston, who is running unopposed in the GOP primary for Leo’s District 6 seat. Three Democrats are running for their party’s nomination, but will run uphill in the Republican district.

Board Chairman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, also a social conservative, is being challenged in the GOP primary by educator Linda Ellis, also from the Woodlands.

Longtime social conservative leader David Bradley, R-Beaumont, faces a serious primary challenge from Rita Ashley, also of Beaumont. Ashley has served as the House Public Education committee clerk.

And that’s pretty much all you get. Maybe I expect too much of these stories, especially when they cover multiple races and candidates. It sure seems to me, however, that a couple of primary battles between hardline conservatives who have been very much on the front lines of the culture wars and more traditional Republicans who actually value public education and want to get stuff done seems to me to be a worthwhile thing to explore in some depth. A quote or two from incumbents Cargill and Bradley, and challengers Ellis and Ashley, would have been nice. Noting that Ashley worked for Sen. Tommy Williams and Rep. Rob Eissler, claims Williams and Rep. Allen Ritter as supporters, and has the ParentPAC endorsement would have been nice, too. Listen to what Linda Ellis has to say if you want some contrast:

Linda Ellis

I’ve dedicated my life to the students and schools of Texas.

Throughout my 28 years as a Texas educator, while working in the schools and classrooms alongside teachers, I’ve always focused on two things: what’s best for students and helping teachers implement best practices in their classrooms.

That’s why, over the past decade, I’ve watched in horror as ideologues took over the State Board of Education and used it as a platform to politically divide our citizens while at the same time ramming their personal beliefs down the throats of Texas students.

With blatant disrespect for educational experts and ignoring local voices, these ideologues have systematically dismantled our state’s once great public school system and turned Texas public schools into material for comedians on late night TV.

They have done everything possible to demean our teachers and demoralize our students.

They are trying to create a new state. A divided state.

They must be stopped.

Now look at what Barbara Cargill is talking about. If there’s not a story in that, I don’t know where you’d find one. Unfortunately, where you won’t find one is in this Chron article, and more’s the pity for it. As for Ashley, her race against Bradley is more of a traditional intra-party pissing contest – see here and here for some less-than-high-minded exchanges – but Bradley has a higher profile than Cargill and is a bit of a bully besides. It’s possible that this primary could be a political career-ender for not one but two Bradleys, which would also be a hell of a story. I don’t think I’ve ever been this interested in the outcome of a couple of GOP primary races, that’s for sure.

Anyway. KHOU has a collection of videos made by area candidates for SBOE, which I found via TFN Insider. The winner in SBOE8 faces a Democratic opponent – Dexter Smith has been the more active candidate of the two running and has garnered most of the endorsements of which I am aware – and while there is no GOP primary in SBOE6 there is a three-way Democratic race for that nomination. I interviewed all three candidates early on in the cycle. Get to know your SBOE candidates so that when they meet next year and begin work on the next textbook or curriculum review you’ll know what to expect.