Feels weird to be talking about early voting for the primaries now, doesn’t it? Well, ready or not after all this time and all these twists in the road, here we are. Here are your early voting locations and schedule. I note with interest there is a new EV location in the Galleria area – the Harris County Public Health Environmental Bldg., 2223 West Loop South, 77027. I’ve been saying for a long time that there needed to be at least one extra inner Loop EV location to take the pressure off of the West Gray Multi Service Center, and this location makes a lot of sense. I’d still like to see one more in the northwest quadrant of Loop 610 – the West End Multi Service Center on Heights Blvd just south of I-10 comes to mind – but regardless, this is a positive development. There’s another new location up in Spring as well. Take a look at the map to see what’s nearest you.
I’ve made my preferences known on a few of the primary races. I’m not going to list a bunch of personal endorsements because in many races I think there’s more than one suitable choice even if I think one of those choices is better than the others. The one endorsement I am going to reiterate here is for HCDP Chair Lane Lewis, who I think has done more than enough to warrant a full term as Chair. We’ll probably never know the truth behind that infamous “Ministers for Keryl” email – Douglas is now apparently accusing the Lewis campaign of being behind it; all I can say is that as far as I know she has never asked MailChimp to provide whatever information it can about the emails that were sent, or if she has she has not made that information known – and at this point people are going to believe whatever they want to believe about it. What struck me about this whole saga as I was discussing it with some friends the other day is that I have no idea what kind of vision Douglas has as party chair in the event she gets elected. We’ve seen what Lewis has done in the past few months, so from that we have a decent idea of what he’d do going forward, and we’ve heard him talk about his plans in his interview with me. I truly have no idea what Douglas has in mind for any number of bread and butter issues – Latino turnout, fighting the KSP thugs, social media, fundraising, GOTV, etc etc etc. Here’s the page for the Douglas Plan, which has a link for a download of Windows Media Player but no media file that I can see. (If you view the page source, you can see there’s a “KERYL_DOUGLASS_60.wav” file that is to be played by WMP. Let’s just say that this is not what I would call cutting edge technology.) There’s also her Newsletter page, which is a copy of a campaign email she sent out in January, corrected to remove the name of at least one Democratic elected official who had subsequently denied being a supporter of hers. Substance-wise, that’s it. I have no idea what HCDP Chair Keryl Douglas might do, but I have a pretty good idea of what other people will do in the event she gets elected, and that would be to not go through the Party for whatever effort they’re funding or supporting. There’ll be fiefdoms and factions and various independently operated organizations and foundations and what have you. Which is to say, somewhat like it is today but more so, and with even less deference where possible towards the HCDP. I also won’t be surprised if the folks who do the real work at the HCDP now find other opportunities with campaigns or these external groups. A vote for Lane Lewis avoids all this. If that’s not enough to convince you, I don’t know what else to say.
Finally, the Chron reports on a record number of absentee ballots for the primary.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 31,629 people had requested mail ballots – 21,053 for the Republican primary and 10,576 for the Democratic primary, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said. That number, taken three weeks before election day, already exceeded the previous record of 29,970 mail ballots requested for a primary, in 2008.
“Campaigns around here, at least over the course of the last several cycles, have been getting more focused on mail ballots because it’s a very targeted universe of voters,” said political consultant Keir Murray. “You can relatively inexpensively message these folks, and you know exactly who they are because of their age and whether they have a history of voting by mail.”
Only qualified groups may vote by mail in Texas, by far the largest being residents over 65 years of age.
The growth of mail balloting is natural, Murray said, because the electorate, particularly the primary electorate, is aging: As turnout declines, left standing at the ballot box are older voters, who tend to have stronger party affiliations and a longer history of voting in primaries.
Houston Politics has more on this, including a chart showing the trajectory of mail in ballots since 2004. Here’s what that looks like with the addition of mail ballots as a percentage of total votes.
Year Party Mail Total Mail % ===================================== 2004 Dem 4,233 78,692 5.38% 2004 GOP 11,972 82,212 14.34% 2006 Dem 2,738 35,447 7.72% 2006 GOP 10,249 82,989 12.35% 2008 Dem 9,448 410,908 2.30% 2008 GOP 15,174 171,108 8.87% 2010 Dem 7,193 101,263 7.10% 2010 GOP 13,914 159,821 8.71% 2012 Dem 10,576 2012 GOP 21,053
I don’t know that it’s a good idea to make any projections of turnout based on mail ballot requests – remember, the pre-2012 numbers above reflect ballots returned, while what we have for 2012 is ballots requested, with more still to come – but sucker that I am I will anyway. At the usual return rate of about 80%, assume the actual Dem number as of Tuesday was about 8,000, and the actual GOP number was about 17,000. The GOP total is not a huge leap from 2008 nor the Dems from 2010, and if they represent about 7 and 8 percent of final total turnout, we’re looking at maybe 110,000 to 120,000 Dem votes and 210,000 to 220,000 GOP votes. Obviously, those numbers would increase as more mail ballot requests came in. Don’t quote me on any of this, because I sure wouldn’t place any bets on this weird year. But if I turn out to be close, I’ll claim the credit for it.
Finally, just so you know, the voter ID law is not in effect. You don’t need to do anything different to vote in this primary. That could of course change for November or some time after that, but this election will be like its predecessors at least from a procedural perspective.