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March 3rd, 2018:

2018 primary early voting, Day 11: That’s a wrap

Records have been set, and more are likely to be set before all is said and done.

Texans have already set a record for early voting in a non-presidential primary election year, and there’s still one more day to go on Friday.

More than 602,000 voters had cast ballots in the state’s largest counties in either the Democratic or Republican primaries through Wednesday. That does not count Thursday’s totals that were not available late Thursday, or Friday’s, when polls will again be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Four years ago, fewer than 600,000 people voted in the entire early voting season.

Harris County has also seen a new record. More than 116,000 people have voted early or by mail already with two days remaining to add to that total. Four years ago, just 105,508 people in Harris voted during the entire early voting period.

Democrats represent a major reason for the records and have been out-voting Republicans since the start of early voting on Feb. 20. There have been 25,000 more Democratic ballots than Republicans have cast. That is a big change from the last two gubernatorial election cycles when Republicans dramatically outvoted Democrats in the primaries by well over 100,000 in each year.

Those numbers are partly driven by people who are new to primaries, said Austin-based political analyst Derek Ryan. In looking at voter data from about 50 counties, Ryan said he’s seeing that almost 20 percent of the Democrats voting in that primary have never voted in a Democratic Primary in Texas before. For Republicans that has been closer to 8.5 percent.

More from the DMN.

According to the Texas secretary of state’s website — which tracks only the 15 counties with the most registered voters — 161,607 people voted in the Democratic primary in 2014 during the first 10 days of early voting. This year, 310,275 people voted in the Democratic primary in the same span — a 92 percent increase. Polls closed Friday at 7 p.m., with Election Day on Tuesday.

On the GOP side, 273,293 people had voted in the Republican primary as of Thursday. That’s still an 18 percent increase from 2014, when 231,530 voted in the Republican primary during the first 10 days of early voting.

Democrats may hold a 36,982 vote lead, but that doesn’t mean all of those voters are Democrats. Since Texas has semi-open primaries, voters can choose which party’s primary to vote in. (There is a caveat to choosing: In a runoff, voters must stick with the same party.)

Political experts attribute much of Texas’ increased voter turnout as a reaction to the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, as well as the state’s eight open congressional seats.

Harold Clarke, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, said one reason Democratic primary voting numbers are up is because people think Democrats have a reasonable chance of winning.

“One of the things we know is that competition stirs turnout, and it looks now that here in Texas, perhaps especially for the first time in a long time, winning the Democratic primary is really a prize worth having because you have a real shot at the general election,” Clarke said. “That perception is fairly widespread both among potential candidates as well as Democratic voters.”

I’m interested in seeing how Dems did in the fifteen or twenty counties after the top fifteen. These are much more heavily Republican, but as we’ve seen Dem turnout has still been up in places like that. I’ll check the news over the weekend to see if I can get any previews of that.

Anyway. Let’s wrap this up:

EV 2010
EV 2014
Day 11 EV 2018 totals


Year  Party     Mail In Person    Total
=======================================
2010    Dem    6,250    33,771   40,021
2010    Rep   12,399    50,250   62,649

2014    Dem    7,359    22,749   30,108
2014    Rep   17,628    57,772   75,400

2018    Dem   17,744    70,172   87,916
2018    Rep   20,075    61,462   81,537

There were 17,728 in person Democratic votes cast on Friday, which as you can see is not much less than the entire early in person Democratic vote from 2014. That right there is this EV period in a nutshell. I’ll have more thoughts on the EV period either tomorrow or Monday. For now, know that this is going to be the best year for Democratic primary turnout outside of 2008, and any time you can make a legit comparison to 2008, it’s a good thing.

On Beto’s campaign strategy

The Trib writes about the places Beto O’Rourke has gone.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

There was a frantic energy in the air Saturday morning amid a downpour of chilly rain as cars circled the sprawling John M. Tidwell Middle School parking lot in search of spaces. But the candidate was about to speak, so a number of cars gave up.

Crying uncle here, however, didn’t mean leaving. Instead, they haphazardly parked in fire lanes and were out of their vehicles practically before the engines stopped running.

It’s the type of scene that plays out every four years in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire: Curious voters cram into gyms and cafeterias and warehouses to see the latest buzzed-about candidate who’s come to town.

Except this wasn’t an early voting state, and this was not a candidate for president.

Instead, hundreds of Texans turned out on Saturday to hear U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from far away El Paso, make his case for the U.S. Senate. This has been happening around the state but O’Rourke assured these Texans that they were special in his path to victory against Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

“If there is one county that is the linchpin of the 254 [counties] that will determine the outcome of this election, it is Tarrant County,” O’Rourke said.

[…]

Consciously or not, O’Rourke is following then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s Iowa strategy in 2007 of campaigning hard in conservative areas with an aim to lose less badly there and make up the difference in urban areas.

There is scant reliable, public polling on this race, so the best indicators of where it stands are anecdotal evidence like crowd sizes. If a candidate drew these kinds of crowds in smaller states, alarm bells would ring.

But Texas is massive in population and in geography, and it is an open question whether this strategy will work.

Beto’s visit-everywhere strategy has been written about multiple times, but the Trib’s summary of it is accurate. It could work, but we have no way of knowing right now. It’s different, which makes it interesting, and it’s not like the playbook everyone else had been running has much to recommend it. We just don’t have any basis for comparison except the other not-similar campaigns. And when all is said and done, we won’t know how much of Beto’s final result will be because of this strategy, and how much will be due to other factors like the national atmosphere and the loathing all decent people feel for Ted Cruz. I think the strategy he is using is a sensible one, and I think this is the perfect year to try it. It may or may not work, and even if it does work as well as it could have he may not win. We’re still a Republican state, even if the prognosticators warm to his chances. Whatever does happen, I hope we learn the right lessons from it for the future.

We have no idea how many sexual harassment complaints there have been at the Capitol

And we have a too zealous records retention policy to blame for that.

Late last year, amid a national reckoning over sexual misconduct in politics, media and entertainment, reports surfaced of a pervasive culture of sexual harassment at the Texas Capitol. The problem has been widespread and women appear to have such little confidence in traditional avenues for reporting grievances that they started their own list of “bad men” to warn others in Texas politics.

In response to media reports, the Texas House announced a new sexual harassment policy, which included training and counseling for employees and lawmakers, in the hopes that it would curb harassment and help victims report abuse. But the policy seems to have a glaring blindspot: Complaints, when filed with the House, are destroyed five years after they are investigated. While so many stories exist, records do not.

In November, the Texas Tribune reported that there were no formal complaints of sexual harassment made in the House since 2011. In the Senate, there have been no formal complaints since 2001, Secretary of the Senate Patsy Spaw said in committee hearing the next month. But an Observer public records request revealed that there are no documented complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination on file against any lawmaker or legislative staffer in either chamber, at any time — partly a result of the Legislature’s records retention policy.

If a complaint was made against a lawmaker or staff member before 2011, it has since been destroyed, even if the lawmaker is still in office or the staffer is employed at the Capitol. By comparison, the Senate destroys complaints seven years after the accused leaves the Capitol. (The 2001 complaint in the Senate was filed by one staffer against another, both of whom left the Capitol more than seven years ago.)

“It’s ridiculous,” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who researches sex discrimination and workplace equality. “There’s no reason to ever destroy them.”

While the policies are in line with state record retention guidelines, not keeping complaints on file indefinitely means the Legislature does not have a way to track alleged incidents, Grossman said. Future employers don’t have a way to discover details about an employee’s past conduct. Within the Capitol, repeat offenders and patterns of misconduct are also harder to identify.

“It’s just bad management generally, and it’s certainly not going to contribute to a better environment,” said Grossman.

Well then the good news is that now we know this, and it’s a simple and objective thing to fix. The story notes that some complaints were made verbally and there may not have been any record of them, so that’s another thing to fix. This needs to happen in the next session. Who will take the lead, and who will get in the way? It would be a good idea to get your legislators and the candidates running for election this year on the record about this.

TCEQ rejection of Hempstead landfill application upheld

Sweet.

StopHwy6Landfill

A yearslong battle over the construction of a landfill in Hempstead has come to an end for now after a judge ruled in Austin on Friday that Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s decision to return the landfill’s application should be affirmed, according to court records.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had already rejected Pintail Landfill’s second application to build, but the company wanted that decision overturned. The trial took place on Thursday in Travis County’s 250th Civil District Court, where Judge Karin Crump the next day issued her ruling.

“It’s another court victory. It’s been a very long fight,” said Waller County Judge Trey Duhon. “From the beginning we were very clear, that this was absolutely one of the worst spots that you can possibly locate a landfill.”

The landfill, which would be built north of Hempstead off Texas 6 in Waller County, has been opposed for years by community members because they felt it would negatively affect their water supply and economic future. A local group, Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead, has actively worked against the construction of the landfill, raising more than $2 million for the cause through community garage sales and other fundraisers.

See here for the most recent update. You would think this would be over by now, but the judge’s ruling can be appealed, so it ain’t over yet unless Green Group throws in the towel. One hopes this time the message will sink in. Congrats to CALH for the latest victory.