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First Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke said that proposal was outdated, adding that Lewis’ party will have to agree to any settlement.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.