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November 13th, 2012:

Did Ted Cruz do better in Latino areas than other Republicans?

Lisa Falkenberg drops the following tidbit in her post-election column on why the GOP in general and in Texas needs to figure out how to appeal to Latino voters.

In Texas, the best data so far show a 70-30 split for Obama among Hispanic voters, according to Rice University political science chairman Mark Jones. Romney performed several points worse than Sen. John McCain did in 2008. At the same time, Jones points out, Hispanics became a larger share of the vote in Texas, going from 20 percent in 2008 to 25 percent in 2012.

Republican Ted Cruz, who will become the first Hispanic U.S. senator from Texas, may have received a boost linked to his surname. Exit polling showed he outperformed Romney and Republican congressional candidates by 6 percent.

In the long run, Republicans can’t rely on surnames to appeal to Hispanics, although a few more on the ballot wouldn’t hurt.

“They’re going to have to reach out and do more than say that ‘Hispanics have values that are similar to ours.’ That’s an old refrain, which apparently is not bearing any fruit with the Hispanic population,” says Tatcho Mindiola, associate sociology professor and director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston.

Falkenberg doesn’t say what exit polls she was looking at. The Latino Decisions poll of Texas only asked about the Presidential race and Democrats in general, so it’s of no help here. Be that as it may, we can approach this question by comparing how Cruz did in heavily Latino counties to how Romney did. Here’s how he fared in the five counties I looked at last week.

County Obama Romney Sadler Cruz ========================================== Cameron 49,159 24,955 41,930 27,881 El Paso 112,273 56,517 101,467 59,237 Hidalgo 97,879 39,786 88,316 41,591 Maverick 8,302 2,171 6,550 2,674 Webb 37,592 11,074 30,431 14,943

Some of Paul Sadler’s dropoff in votes from President Obama can be attributed to the usual downballot effect, but clearly Cruz outperformed Romney, and given his higher vote totals there had to be some Obama/Cruz voters in each of these counties. In fact, if you look at all of the counties in Texas where Cruz received more votes than Romney, you get the following list: Webb, Cameron, Ellis, Hidalgo, Maverick, Willacy, Starr, Zapata, Zavala, Dimmit, Kleberg, Jim Hogg, Brooks, Jim Wells, Frio, Culberson. So yes, he did do better in heavily Latino areas, and I’m sure I’ll find the same effect in Harris County when I get precinct data.

There’s a bit more to this, however. It wasn’t just Cruz who benefited from being Latino and having a non-Latino opponent in these counties. For example, the Libertarian candidate running against Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman was a Latino. Take a look at how he did versus how other non-Latino Libertarians did in statewide races where the Republican had no Democratic opponent. Here’s Cameron County, for example.

Railroad Commissioner - Unexpired Term Barry Smitherman REP 25,866 48.72% Jaime O. Perez LIB 23,875 44.97% Josh Wendel GRN 3,347 6.30% Justice, Supreme Court, Place 2 Don Willett REP 32,963 62.76% Roberto Koelsch LIB 19,555 37.23% Justice, Supreme Court, Place 4 John Devine REP 30,797 58.42% Tom Oxford LIB 17,212 32.65% Charles Waterbury GRN 4,707 8.92% Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 7 Barbara Hervey REP 32,107 61.09% Mark W. Bennett LIB 20,448 38.90% Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 8 Elsa Alcala REP 36,619 68.72% William Strange LIB 16,664 31.27%

The same pattern holds for El Paso, Hidalgo, Maverick, and Webb counties. In the latter two, Libertarian candidate Perez scored a majority of the vote against Smitherman, which just blows my mind, and you will see the same effect for Latino Democratic candidates for the Fourth Court of Appeals, all of whom wound up winning. These were all low-profile, low-information races – even the Senate race was mostly below the radar, with Cruz avoiding debates and not running many ads, while Sadler barely had the money to do any advertising – so it’s not too shocking. Because of all this, I’d be careful about drawing any firm conclusions regarding Cruz and Latino voters. Latino voters have a stronger belief in the role of government and by a sizable majority support the Affordable Care Act and believe that the federal government should ensure that all people have access to health insurance. Needless to say, these views are incompatible with those of Ted Cruz. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait till 2018 to see how these voters will behave when they have a fuller understanding of what Ted Cruz is about.

UPDATE: Latino Decisions did ask about the Senate race specifically, and you can see the result here, which shows Sadler leading Cruz 65-35. I didn’t see that at the time I wrote this post.

Early voting is a good thing

I do not understand the point of this article at all.

Time was when early voting amounted to a handful of absentee ballots, sent in by the elderly, infirm and conscientious after attesting they would not be able to go to the polls on Election Day. Today it’s open to everyone and accounts for almost half the votes cast in Texas. A few decades from now, as most states adopt it, the early ballot is likely to be all that most of the American electorate really knows.

In last week’s national election, more than a third of voters are estimated to have cast their ballots before Election Day. And that figure is suppressed by several large states that do not yet allow it except for traditional absentee ballots. Among the states that do, more than half of the votes came early in 2008, a number that should be even greater this year when returns are finalized.

Some see this as the sad loss of a meaningful tradition. In Pennsylvania, still a holdout for custom over convenience, the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal lamented the trend as unsettling. The newspaper called Election Day a “national rite, an act of citizenship that engages all of us in a shared mission and purpose.” Showing up at the polls, it claimed, brings “a certain sense of community” as people stand together to demonstrate their commitment to democracy.

Harvard University government professor Dennis Thompson goes further, arguing that “electoral simultaneity” bolsters the democratic foundation of the country.

“If citizens have only information they would have had if they were voting at the same time, the value of each citizen’s choice is no greater than that of any other citizen,” Thompson wrote in an oft-cited 2008 treatise against early voting. “When citizens go to the polls on the same day, publicly participating in a common experience of civic engagement, they demonstrate their willingness to contribute to the democratic process on equal terms.”

[…]

Rice University political scientist Robert Stein, an expert on American voting and politics, said he is concerned that people might end up regretting an early decision, especially if late-breaking news – shocking comments about rape, say – change perceptions of a candidate. Daily developments also can have a disproportionate influence, he said, as in 2008 when votes for John McCain went up on days when the stock market did well. But there is an even bigger concern for Stein: cost.

“Two things have come out – it costs more to run an election that has early voting along with Election Day voting. And early voting drives up the cost of campaigns,” said Stein, who also consults with counties on election matters. “Research shows that it is 23 percent more expensive to the (political) campaigns in early voting states.”

Let me list everything I can think of that’s wrong with all this.

– We already lament the lack of participation in our elections. Well, it turns out that a lot of people who don’t vote don’t vote because they’re out of town, don’t have the time, or have no transportation. How many more people would be in those boats if there were only one day – a weekday, no less – to vote?

– This year we’ve seen CEOs trying to exert control over how their employees vote (when they’re not busy using them as props). How much easier will it be for them to do that if there’s only one day of voting?

– Look at that chart above. Note how many of the states that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy have Election Day-only voting. Voting went on in those states mostly without incident because Sandy had the grace to hit early enough before Election Day to give sufficient time to recover from it. What if Sandy had hit the day before, or the day of, the election? How many people would have been disenfranchised by that? With early voting, everyone would have had the time to vote before the storm hit. It’s a very bad idea to put all your eggs in one basket.

– As for the increased cost: So what? Seriously, this it the foundation of our democracy we’re talking about. If we whine that it’s too expensive to provide a robust electoral process, what does that say about us as a society?

– Finally, I suppose it’s possible that sometime after voting begins the revelation that Candidate Smith spends his weekends shagging sheep may hit the news and cause some early voters to regret their decision. Again I say, so what? As long as we allow absentee voting, which I might remind you is how people serving active duty in the military now vote, that possibility exists whether we have in person early voting or not. The benefit of early voting vastly outweighs the risk of this theoretical possibility.

To me, what we need is more early voting, not less. I’d like to see a second weekend of early voting in Texas, and I’d like to see Travis County’s system of allowing people to vote at any precinct location on Election Day become the norm everywhere. Voting should be easy and convenient. I don’t understand or accept any argument otherwise.

And now a word from the HCDP

Note: The following is a guest post written by Michael Kolenc

A week has come and gone since the election, and while we still wait for the provisional ballots to be counted, we can say that the 2012 elections gave Harris County Democrats a reason for celebration. We won elections from the top to the bottom of the ticket; we expanded the capacity of the HCDP; and we moved out of our comfort zone to change the organizing culture of our local party.

HCDP Chair Lane Lewis has been making the case to everyone that will listen: Investing in the HCDP, so that it is a stronger and sustaining operation, will help us all achieve our goals. This past year demonstrates that commitment.

With the election now a week behind us, it is important for us to take a careful inventory of our work and how it contributed to electing Democrats. No one at the HCDP Campaign will claim to have re-created the rubric for how to run campaigns, but they will claim to having been focused on the goal of talking to a universe of targeted voters. It was this – with the help of some amazing candidates, elected officials, donors, staff and nearly 1,000 unique volunteers – that enabled the HCDP Campaign to be effective and deliver results.

Through the HCDP’s program over 36,000 doors were knocked, some 890,000 calls made from nine offices county-wide, and, for the first time, a vote by mail program was instituted making us competitive with the Republican’s program. These are not things that happen by accident or in a vacuum. Programs like these require planning, resources, and a commitment from stakeholders that this is the new way to operate. It requires a belief that organizing does not end on Election Day, but rather is a year-long process despite even or odd numbered years.

The work of the party has just started. 2013 municipal elections and the 2014 contests are here and require planning. In order to build upon the success we had this year – VMB program, voter contact numbers, and vastly increasing straight party ticket voting – we need to invest in our party.

Candidates, elected officials, donors, and party activists should want to see a HCDP that is focused the entire year on electing Democrats and not just in the six months before the election. As we approach the end to our first year with Chair Lewis at the helm, know that he will make the case once again about the importance of us all having a little skin in the game.

Michael Kolenc is a political advisor to Chair Lewis.

===============================================================

This is me speaking again. I now have my hands on a draft canvass and am happily crunching away to see what I can learn from it. I hope to get some empirical idea of how turnout, Latino voting, and other things went. I am encouraged by talk of involvement in the city elections, and we definitely need to be thinking about 2014 already. My thanks to Michael for his report on the HCDP’s activities for this past election.

Colyandro takes a plea

Missed this on Friday.

Who's next?

It took five minutes for Capitol figure John Colyandro to end a decade-long saga that swept his boss, former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, out of Congress and politics altogether.

Colyandro, the last individual with charges pending in the DeLay money-laundering case, pleaded guilty Friday to lesser charges of accepting illegal political contributions during the 2002 state legislative elections.

He received one-year deferred adjudication on two Class A misdemeanor charges, meaning there will be no final conviction on his record if he successfully completes unsupervised probation. He also was fined $8,000.

[…]

Despite Friday’s plea, Colyandro continues to face civil litigation arising from the 2002 election.

DeLay remains free on bail, pending his appeal of his three-year prison sentence and conviction on conspiracy and money-laundering charges.

A third co-defendant, Jim Ellis, DeLay’s right-hand political staffer in Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty in June to a felony charge of making an illegal campaign contribution. Ellis, who negotiated the $190,000 exchange, received four years of probation and was fined $10,000.

[…]

Colyandro’s plea bargain includes a provision, similar to one offered to Ellis, that takes into account the possibility that the current state law might be challenged.

See here and here for the relevant bits on the criminal cases. I’ve no idea where any civil litigation stands at this point – honestly, I thought that had been resolved years ago, but I suppose there still could be something out there, or the potential for something in the future once the criminal stuff is all done. The only case still going is DeLay’s. It’s not the end of an era yet, but you can almost see it from here.