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No settlement deal for HCDE election screwup

Just as well, because this wasn’t a good deal.

A proposed settlement hashed out Thursday evening would have seen the Republican race – a blowout victory – stand, and the Democratic race – for which a runoff is under way – voided. In that race, the November ballot would list all three Democrats and the one Republican who filed for the Position 6 trustee seat. The leading vote-getter would win the seat.

“I am wholeheartedly in disagreement,” Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis said Friday. “If you’ve got the Democrats splitting their votes three ways and the Republicans only have one person to vote for, I don’t see how mathematically it would be possible for a Democrat to win.”

Lewis said if an unfair agreement is presented to the court, his party would be forced to intervene and file an injunction to block the settlement.

First Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke said that proposal was outdated, adding that Lewis’ party will have to agree to any settlement. The goal, O’Rourke said, is to present a settlement to Commissioners Court for approval Monday morning, then take the document into court Monday afternoon. A judge could reject all or part of any agreement, he noted.

While I understand HCDP Chair Lewis’ concern, the split among the three candidates in May was 49.5 – 40.5 – 10, so it seems unlikely to me that there would be an even three-way split among them in a hypothetical November special election. Even if there were, Precinct 1 is Democratic enough that one of them might still prevail over the Republican candidate. But regardless of that, under this proposal we could be electing someone to a six-year office with no resign-to-run requirement and taxing authority with less than 30% of the vote. That ain’t right no matter who it is. I get that the county wants to avoid the expense of a separate election or runoff for just this race, but that’s too bad. We shouldn’t short-circuit democracy to save a few bucks. A solution I could live with is this: Hold the voting Tuesday under the correct lines (if the eSlates can all be programmed correctly by then) so that all of the in person votes and most of the absentee votes are correct, then see if the margin between winner and loser exceeds the total number of misplaced absentee ballots. If so, let the result stand; if not, proceed to a November special election and bite the bullet on a December runoff, just as you would for any other November special election like the SD17 special election in 2008. It’s the best we can do, and it might survive a subsequent lawsuit by whoever loses on Tuesday. If you’ve got a better idea, leave it in the comments.

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6 Comments

  1. cewdem says:

    The Chair is absolutely correct in his stance on this issue. Folks would do well to remember that this particular seat was held by Howard Jefferson for a number of years until he did not file for re election six years ago and told no one of his intentions. At that point at the last minute, Andrew Burks signed up to run and was opposed by Republican Roy Morales in a race ultimately won by Hispanic Republican tea bagger before teabagger was cool Roy Morales….so please consider what happened previously when dismissing the Chairs rationale. If D’s couldn’t beat Morales in a solidly minority D district before, how do we think the odds of a four candidate (3d !R) race are in any way advantageous to D’s or more to the point the taxpayers, voters and children in this district.

  2. joshua bullard says:

    heres an idea-validate the 1400 votes that were ruled invalid-which are really valid-in which jarvis johnson recieved the majority of these votes and declare him the winner.

    thats a thought for kuffners thoughts on the democracy issue.that sounds valid-joshua ben bullard

  3. Carl – I am not dismissing Chair Lewis’ concern, just quibbling a bit with his math. I completely agree that this is the wrong way to go about it. Also, please note that you are confusing the Precinct 1 Position 6 HCDE race of 2006 with the At Large Position 3 race. Roy Morales was unopposed after Jefferson withdrew. As we learned with Tom DeLay that year, a party can’t replace a candidate who has withdrawn after the primary. Andrew Burks ran against Michael Wolfe; Wolfe is opposed this year by Diane Trautman. Being unopposed was the only way Morales could have won – as I showed before, the number of straight ticket Dem votes in Precinct 1 was greater than Morales’ total. So yes, the proposal Lewis correctly rejected could lead to another Republican winning in Precinct 1. I just disagree that it would be preordained. Regardless, it would be the wrong way to do it.

  4. cewdem says:

    I stand corrected Mr. Kuffner and appreciate your diligence in pointing out “facts”. If I hadn’t been so quick to shoot here, I would have remembered Mr. Burks public support for Roy Morales in subsequent races and that would have been indeed strange for former D vs R combatants to do. My apologies.

  5. […] on that until after all parties have submitted briefs on Friday and Monday. I prefer this to the settlement deal that had originally been proposed. What happens if someone files suit afterward is anyone’s […]

  6. […] long last, the 2012 primary season is about to be over in Texas, other than perhaps the HCDE race. To say the least, it’s been a long, strange trip, one that I hope goes down in the books as […]

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