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Election 2007

2017 EV daily report: Final numbers and our attempt at projecting turnout

Here are the final numbers. Believe it or not, people did vote on Friday despite the fact that the entire metro area appeared to be at the Astros parade. Here are the daily totals from previous years:

2015

2013

2011

2009

2007

And here’s a select comparison:


Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
=======================================
2017   46,224  12,205   58,429   19,875
2015  164,104  29,859  193,963   43,280
2011   49,669   8,676   58,345   15,264
2007   43,420   6,844   50,264   13,870

So 2017 early voting is almost identical in total to 2011 and ahead of 2007, but the source of the votes are different. 2017 trails 2011 with in person voting but makes up for that in absentee ballots, and holds a sizable lead in absentee ballots over 2007. That’s a clear change in voter behavior, and something to continue to watch as we go forward.

One other difference to point out, which requires another set of numbers. Here are the last day in person totals for the odd year elections going back to 2007:

2017 = 9,092
2015 = 35,493
2013 = 18,893
2011 = 10,559
2009 = 17,072
2007 = 10,473

Even with more people voting early, this year’s last day totals are the weakest we’ve ever seen. I’d attribute some of that to the Astros parade, and some of it to the overall lack of campaign activity compared to previous years. One possible effect of this is that more people will wind up voting on Tuesday than we would have expected. Turnout wasn’t just lower than one might have thought on Friday, after all. The whole week was lighter than it might have been, and to the extent that was a real thing and not just the way this year would have played out anyway I’ll cite the World Series as a reason. Unless the term limits referendum gets thrown out and we get put back on two year terms, we’ll next have a chance to see what a non-Mayoral election year is like in 2021. And who knows, maybe the Astros will be in the World Series again then.

So we turn our attention to final turnout. For once, I’m not going to overthink this. As we’ve already established, city turnout in odd years is roughly 70% of the county; it ranges from about 67% in years where there isn’t something that specifically drives non-city voters to the polls to 73%, and we’re splitting the difference. In odd years past, early voting has been between 40 and 50 percent of final turnout. I continue to believe that early voting will be a higher share of this year’s tally, partly because of trends we’ve seen in other years and partly out of the belief that hardcore voters are more likely to vote early, but I’m not going to put all my eggs in that basket. If we assume the range of outcomes is that early voting will be between 40 and 60 percent of the final total, then when the dust clears we should expect between 54,000 and 81,000 voters. Which, again, corresponds pretty well to my original gut-feel estimates of 50 to 75 thousand. I love it when reality seems to line up with my intuition. All that said, I could be off in any number of directions, and that guesstimated range is wide enough to cover a lot of potential error. Feel free to make your own guesses in the comments.

2017 EV daily report: Day 10, and the first sign of an uptick

Here are the numbers through Wednesday. I know I said yesterday that I don’t usually report the latest results in Week 2 because they come in late, but like everyone else I was up late watching Game 7, so here you go. Here are the daily totals from previous years:

2015

2013

2011

2009

2007

And here’s a select comparison:


Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
=======================================
2017   31,865  10,801   42,666   19,875
2015  107,086  26,508  133,594   43,280
2011   33,201   6,888   40,089   15,262
2007   27,522   5,625   33,147   13,870

First, let me note that I screwed up the Mailed totals for this year in yesterday’s post. I must have read from the Ballots Returned line – the County Clerk used to have the Ballots Mailed totals right underneath the in person totals, which never made sense, but they have since changed that. Anyway, Wednesday was the high-water mark for in person votes, with 4,172, but it followed a Tuesday in which only 3,250 people voted, and they had no World Series sleep deprivation to blame it on. In the other years I’ve featured, both Tuesday and Wednesday were new highs for in person voting. That trend continues in all years through the next two days. I expect that to happen here, but maybe we won’t have the big spike on Friday. Or maybe we will, I don’t know. If there is another World Series hangover, it would certainly be on those days. I’m pretty sure nobody has a turnout modeler that takes this sort of thing into account. I’ll report the final numbers on Sunday.

2017 EV daily report: Day 8, and one more look at a way to guess turnout

Here are the numbers through Monday. Now that we are in the second week of early voting, when the hours each day are 7 to 7, these reports arrive in my inbox later in the evening. Here are the daily totals from previous years:

2015

2013

2011

2009

2007

And here’s a select comparison:


Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
=======================================
2017   24,442   8,201   32,643   21,320
2015   73,905  23,650   97,555   43,279
2011   23,621   4,958   28,579   14,609
2007   19,250   4,353   23,603   13,589

The first Monday of Week 2 was busier than all preceding days, by a lot in 2015 and by a little in 2011 and 2007. Each day after that was busier still. This year, the second Monday was less busy than Thursday and Friday last week. I suspect an Astros hangover from Sunday night may have had something to do with that – Lord knows, traffic on I-45 in the morning and in the downtown tunnels at lunchtime were both eerily mild – in which case we ought to see more of an uptick going forward.

As for the other way of guessing turnout, which would be my third model for thinking about it, we have the May 2004 special city charter election, called by Mayor White to make adjustments to the pension funds, in the immediate aftermath of reports that recent changes had greatly increased the city’s financial obligations. A total of 86,748 people showed up for that election. I seriously doubt we’ll approach that, but my initial guesses on turnout for this year before I started looking at any data were 50,000 to 75,000, so it’s not ridiculously out of the question. Let’s file this one away for next May, when we may have to vote on the firefighter’s pay parity proposal.

2017 EV daily report: Day 6

Here are the numbers through Saturday. Sunday’s numbers didn’t come in last night, but it’s the shortest EV day so its numbers are always the smallest. Here are the daily totals from previous years:

2015

2013

2011

2009

2007

And here’s a select comparison:


Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
=======================================
2017   19,425   8,201   27,626   19,873
2015   57,657  21,141   78,798   42,938
2011   18,205   4,340   22,545   14,105
2007   14,235   3,555   17,790   13,097

No insights today, just a reminder that the next five days are always the busiest period for early voting, though sometimes that’s just the last day or two. It will be interesting to see how this plays out this year.

2017 EV daily report: Just remember, the reports we get are all of Harris County

Here are today’s numbers, and here are the daily totals from previous years:

2015

2013

2011

2009

2007

And here’s a select comparison:


Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
=======================================
2017   11,953   7,513   19,466   19,581
2015   36,322  19,789   56,111   42,520
2011   10,818   3,823   14,641   13,697
2007    8,080   3,126   11,206   12,775

So 2011 appears to be the closest comparison so far. That might imply a much higher level of turnout than what I’ve been suggesting, but I’m not prepared to believe that yet. The main reason for this is that less than 40% of the vote was cast early in 2011, and I seriously doubt that’s what we’re going to get this time. Odd year elections skew more towards Election Day and less towards early voting than even year elections – in 2015, just over half of the vote was cast early – but I think this year we will see a higher percentage of the vote cast early. The message from the County Clerk is to take advantage of the early voting period because a number of polling sites are unavailable thanks to Harvey, and I think people will heed that. We’ll take our guesses about that later in the EV period, but for now just keep that in mind. 2017 may be a bit ahead of 2011 in early voting, but I suspect that’s because more people will be voting early than usual.

It should also be noted that these reports encompass all of Harris County, so some of those numbers above are not for Houston or HISD. I’ve gone through this exercise before, but let’s review the percentage of county turnout that was in Houston in these elections:


Year   Harris  Houston   Share
==============================
2015  421,460  268,872   63.8%
2013  260,437  174,620   67.0%
2011  164,971  121,468   73.6%
2009  257,312  178,777   69.5%
2007  193,945  123,413   63.6%
2005  332,154  189,046   56.9%
2003  374,459  298,110   79.6%

“Share” is just simply the percentage of the county vote that came from Houston. There’s a big span here, but that comes with an asterisk, because the conditions were not the same each year. For example, in 2015 and 2007, Harris County had bond elections in addition to the state constitutional amendments. In 2005, the notorious state anti-gay marriage referendum was on the ballot, which coupled with a non-competitive Mayoral election meant a much larger county share. Finally, in 2003 there was the Metro referendum, which covered all of the county. There were also no state constitutional amendments on the ballot, as those had been voted on in September, to enhance the odds of the tort “reform” amendment passing.

Bottom line, with boring constitutional amendments on the ballot, I’d suggest that county/city ratio will be like the other years, which is to say between 67 and 73 percent. Let’s say 70%, just to split the difference. That’s another thing we’ll have to take into account when we do our projections later on.

2017 EV daily report: Day One

Happy first day of early voting! If you’re expecting me to have today’s EV totals from Harris County, as well as EV totals from past elections, you’re right. Here are today’s numbers, and here are the daily totals from previous years:

2015

2013

2011

2009

2007

And here’s a select comparison:


Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
=======================================
2017    2,718   5,355    8,073   18,665
2015    8,891  14,240   23,131   40,626
2011    2,557   2,079    4,633   12,041
2007    1,681     957    2,638   11,646

As you can see, 2017 is going to be a lot quieter than 2015, which is exactly what you’d expect given the lack of a contested Mayor’s race (or any city race) and a high-profile referendum. It was a little busier than 2011, at least in terms of in-person votes, and busier still than 2007, though the latter is almost surely due to a much greater prevalence for early voting nowadays. Note also the larger number of mail ballots sent and returned. As we have discussed before, I think a decent share of that is people shifting their behavior, and with the large number of displaced voters, it’s not hard to see why that would especially be the case this year.

Anyway. I will of course be tracking this data, and we’ll see how accurate my various flailing attempts at guessing turnout wind up. Maybe people will surprise us.

Another contemplation of turnout

Let’s see where this one takes us. Last time, I made some guesses about turnout in the HISD races based on overall turnout in the city of Houston. Now I’m going to turn that around and take a shot at pegging city turnout based on HISD.

It was suggested to me that we do have a model for a low-turnout HISD election scenario, and that was the May special election to revisit the recapture question. A total of 28,978 people showed up for that exercise. How can we extrapolate from that to the full city? Most years there isn’t a direct connection, since most years there isn’t an election for all of HISD. But such a connection does exist in two recent years, years in which HISD had a bond issue on the ballot. Let’s take a look at 2007 and 2012, the latter of which works because there were also city bond issues up for a vote. Here are the numbers:

2007: Houston = 123,410 HISD = 85,288 Share = 69.1%

2012: Houston = 576,549 HISD = 388,982 Share = 67.5%

“Share” is just the ratio of HISD turnout to Houston turnout. It’s quite pleasingly compact. If we take the midpoint of the two – 68.3% – and apply it to the May 2017 special, and we get a projected total for the city of 42,428. Which, also pleasingly, is well in line with the numbers I was noodling with last time.

What does that tell us? In some sense, not that much, as we don’t have a district-wide election in November, we have six district races. But it does give another figure for our estimate of hardcore voters, and a tad more faith in my own guess of around 50K total for the city. We can get from there to numbers for the individual races if we want. It’s still all hocus-pocus, but at least it’s based on something.

On a tangential note, we do remember that there’s also another Heights alcohol vote on the ballot, right? I’ve heard basically nothing about this since the petitions were validated. The signs like the one embedded above started showing up within the past week or so, but that’s the only activity I’ve seen or heard about, and this light Press story is the only news I’ve found. The area that will be voting has some overlap with HISD I, so it’s not touching many voters who wouldn’t already have a reason to be engaged, and as such probably wouldn’t be much of a factor even if it were a hotter ticket. Anyway, I just wanted to work something about this item in, and this seemed like as good a place as any.

An unsatisfying attempt at projecting turnout

So as we all know, this in an unprecedented election, as there are no city races on the ballot. This has everyone wondering about turnout, because the usual drivers of turnout are a Mayor’s race and/or a big referendum, and we have neither of those. What can we guess from past turnout?

There are two components of interest here, overall turnout in the city and in the districts that have contested races. Those races of interest are in HISD, so my first thought was to look at some past elections to see what we could learn from the ratio of voters in each district to total voters in Houston. If that’s reasonably consistent, then we can make a projection for the districts on the ballot based on what we think the top level is.

HISD Trustee terms are four years, so our points of comparison are the years in which the same districts are up. Here are the citywide numbers from the Harris County Clerk:


Year      Turnout
=================
2001      284,748
2005      189,046
2009      178,777
2013      174,620

Yes, there are city voters outside Harris County, but none of them intersect with HISD, so we can safely ignore them. Now here are the totals for the five HISD districts that are normally on the ballot in these cycles:


Dist   2001 Share    2005 Share    2009 Share    2013 Share
===========================================================
I    12,515  4.40  10,159  5.37   9,823  5.49  10,521  6.03
V    21,761  7.64                14,550  8.14
VI
VII                                            12,394  7.10
IX   17,524  6.15  12,372  6.54  12,299  6.88  11,245  6.44

And right here you can see why I called this an “unsatisfying” attempt at this projection. The County Clerk only shows the results for contested school board races, and Districts V, VI, and VII haven’t had a lot of those in recent years. We do have good data in I and IX, and those numbers are interesting. District IX is very consistent. If you know what overall city turnout was, you can make a pretty good guess as to turnout in IX. District I, on the other hand, shows a steady upward trend. I’d say that’s the result of changes in the district, which encompasses a good chunk of the Heights and surrounding areas that have been gentrifying. As such, I’d consider the 2013 numbers to be a floor for this year.

That leaves us with the question of what citywide turnout might be. We do have a model for guessing turnout in elections with no Mayor’s race. Since 2005, there have been six At Large City Council runoffs with no corresponding Mayor’s runoff, and in 2007 there was a special May election with June runoff for At Large #3. Here are the vote totals in those races:


2005 At Large #2 runoff = 35,922
2007 At Large #3 May    = 33,853
2007 At Large #3 June   = 24,746
2007 At Large #5 runoff = 23,548
2011 At Large #2 runoff = 51,239
2011 At Large #5 runoff = 55,511
2013 At Large #2 runoff = 32,930
2013 At Large #3 runoff = 33,824

Those numbers are pretty consistent with my earlier finding that there are about 36,000 people who voted in every city election from 2003 to 2013. There won’t be a Mayor’s race this year, but the school board candidates are out there campaigning, and I expect they’ll draw a few people to the polls who aren’t in that group. Similarly, there will be a campaign for the bond issues on the ballot, and that should nudge things up a bit as well. I think a reasonable, perhaps slightly optimistic but not outrageous, estimate is about 50,000 votes total. If that’s the case, then my projections for the school board races are as follows:


District I   = 3,000 (6% of the total)
District V   = 4,000 (8%)
District VII = 3,500 (7%)
District IX  = 3,250 (6.5%)

You can adjust up or down based on your opinion of the 50K overall estimate. If these numbers represent the over/under line, I’d be inclined to put a few bucks on the over in each, just because there will be actual campaign activity in them and there won’t be elsewhere. I don’t think that will be a big difference-maker, but it ought to mean a little something. All of this is about as scientific as a SurveyMonkey poll, but it’s a starting point. I’ll be sure to follow up after the election, because we may want to do this again in four years’ time, when the next Mayor-free election could be.

Precinct analysis: At Large #4 runoff

Here we have the least competitive runoff of the six that were citywide.


Dist   Edwards  Morales
=======================
A        6,322    6,153
B       14,660    1,761
C       17,813   10,238
D       18,341    2,882
E        7,688   13,231
F        4,046    3,080
G       11,996   15,203
H        5,610    3,903
I        4,371    3,774
J        3,070    2,287
K       12,150    3,830

A       50.68%   49.32%
B       89.28%   10.72%
C       63.50%   36.50%
D       86.42%   13.58%
E       36.75%   63.25%
F       56.78%   43.22%
G       44.10%   55.90%
H       58.97%   41.03%
I       53.66%   46.34%
J       57.31%   42.69%
K       76.03%   23.97%
Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards

As was the case in November, Edwards had a dominant performance in the runoff, winning every district except E and G, and she didn’t do too badly in them, either. I saw more ads on TV for her and for Controller-elect Chris Brown than I did for the two Mayoral candidates combined. That may have helped her achieve the rare distinction of getting more votes than any other candidate, a hard thing to do when there’s a contested Mayoral race on the ballot since the undervote is so much higher for At Large contests. With this strong win, Edwards joins CM Michael Kubosh as the early favorites to not get serious challengers in 2019. Four years is an eternity, and it’s also uncharted waters for us in Houston, so it’s a bit silly to say such things now. It’s always possible for things to go wrong for a Council member, and who knows what the electorate will be like in four years. That said, AL5 will be open, AL1 is sure to draw interest, and five district Council seats will also be up – A, B, C, J, and K. Assuming nothing crazy happens between now and then, I’d surely put any of those races higher on my priority list if I were inclined to run for something.

As for Roy, he’s beginning to edge into Andrew Burks/Griff Griffin territory. He’s been on a ballot for something in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, and 2015, winning his HCDE seat by forfeit in 2006 and making it into an At Large runoff in 2007, 2013, and now 2015. What I find fascinating, beyond the psychology of people who run for office cycle after cycle without any clear plan for a campaign or idea of how they might win, is how little support Morales seems to draw in some of these elections. The runoff in the special election in 2007 was closer than supporters of Melissa Noriega would have liked, but that was mostly about the usual problem of getting Democratic voters out to the polls at non-standard times, and she still won by ten points. He got a bit of late support in the 2009 Mayor’s race, enough to get his Election Day vote total to nudge past Peter Brown’s though not enough to threaten the top two finishers. He didn’t seem to make much of an impression in 2013 or this year. Morales was unlikely to win against Edwards, and I can certainly understand why Republican players might have put a higher priority on folks like King, Frazer, Knox, and Le. I still wonder, do they just not like the guy? Do they get the same Burks/Griff vibe that I get? Is it that he’s just not good at asking for support? Whatever the case, it’s another familiar result. I wonder if he’ll be back for more in 2019.

Precinct analysis: Old reliables, newcomers, and everyone else

I have three more views of the 2015 electorate, now that I have a copy of the voter roster. With that, and with the past rosters that I have, I can try to paint a more detailed picture of who voted in this election, and perhaps make some comparisons to past elections. Today we’re going to look at voting history. How many voters this year were new, how many had voted in one or more recent elections, and how do those numbers compare to previous years?


Year    All 3   1and2   1and3   2and3   Just1   Just2   Just3    None
=====================================================================
2015   59,639  13,150  26,170   8,714  33,993   6,566  17,964 101,603
2013   46,582  22,044   4,721  13,148  12,239  20,690   6,046  48,662
2011   44,744   9,706  15,360   4,302  15,559   2,830   5,394  19,927
2009   55,117   5,818  22,122  25,227  10,907   7,684  20,218  38,755

vote-button

Let me translate what those column headers mean. “All 3” is the number of people in that election who had voted in each of the three prior city elections. For the year 2015, that means the number of people who had voted in 2013, 2011, and 2009. For 2013, that means the number of people who had voted in 2011, 2009, and 2007. I trust you get the idea for 2011 and 2009; I have rosters going back to 2003, so that’s as far back as I can do this exercise. These are your old reliable voters – year in and year out, they show up and vote.

The next six columns specify one or more of these prior elections. A 1 refers to the election immediately before, a 2 refers to the election before that – i.e., two elections before – and a 3 is for three elections before. Again, for 2015, those elections are 2013 (“1”), 2011 (“2”), and 2009 (“3”). Thus, the column “1and2” means all the people who voted in 2013 and 2011, but not 2009. “1and3” means means all the people who voted in 2013 and 2009, but not 2011. “2and3” means all the people who voted in 2011 and 2009, but not 2013. Along similar lines, “Just1” means all the people who voted in 2013 but not 2011 or 2009, and so forth. Substitute other years as appropriate, and you’ve got it. Lastly, “None” means the people who had voted in none of the past three elections. These are your new voters.

I presume I don’t have to tell you that 2015 was indeed an outlier in this regard. We knew going in that years with high profile referenda have higher turnout than other years, and that’s what happened here. In addition, you have to remember that “high turnout” is a relative thing. Turnout for the Harris County portion of the city of Houston was 268,872, which is more than any odd-year election since 2003, but pales in comparison to the turnouts of recent even years in which city props have been on the ballot. In 2010, for example, 389,428 voters came out in the Harris County part of Houston – 40.9% turnout – with 343,481 casting a vote on the red light camera referendum. In 2012, for the four bond items and two charter amendments up for a vote, there were 565,741 voters, with as many as 435,836 ballots cast. Point being, there are a lot of even-year city voters. Some number of them decided to vote this year as well. I’m not in a position to quantify it further than that, but at a guess based on the other years, I’d say 30 to 50 thousand of those 101,603 were true newbies, while the rest had some prior voting history in Harris County. As we’ve discussed before, new people move in all the time, and some other people become newly eligible due to turning 18 or becoming citizens. If and when I get more details on that, I’ll be sure to share them.

Here’s another way of looking at the data: The proportion of each class of voter for these elections.


Year   All 3   2 of 3   1 of 3   0 of 3
=======================================
2015   22.3%    17.9%    21.9%    37.9%
2013   26.8%    22.9%    22.4%    27.9%
2011   38.0%    24.9%    20.2%    16.9%
2009   29.7%    28.6%    20.9%    20.9%

“2 of 3” and “1 of 3″ refers to voters who had voted in two of the previous three elections, and one of the previous three elections, respectively. Again, the share of new voters this year was clearly higher than in other years. It’s no surprise that the share of new voters was so low in 2011. It was a low turnout year – just over 117,000 voters in total – so you’d expect that a large majority of them would be the regulars. By the same token, the old reliable share this year was lower than usual, for the same reason. I’m fascinated by how stable the 1 of 3” share was across the four races. As we saw in the table at the top, the one prior election in question can be any of the three predecessors. It’s not just folks who’d been new the year before. That number is directly affected by the turnout levels of the election in question and the one before it.

So that’s our first look at this data. I don’t have any broad conclusions to draw here, I just find this stuff amazing. Who would have guessed that over 2,800 people who voted in the low-turnout 2011 election had also voted in the low-turnout 2007 election, but not the higher-turnout 2009 or 2005 elections? Well, now you know. I’ll have more tomorrow.

Precinct analysis: At Large #4

At Large #4 features a newcomer and a multi-time candidate in its runoff.


Dist  Edwards  Hansen  Blackmon  Robinson  Thompson  Murphy  Morales
====================================================================
A       3,707     572       662     2,378     2,565   1,844    2,702
B      10,732     306     1,296     2,109     1,160     327    1,477
C      11,309   1,226     1,189     6,688     3,891   2,967    3,911
D      12,636     400     2,691     2,618     1,559     542    1,902
E       3,612   1,054       960     3,197     5,033   5,288    4,158
F       2,673     438       542     1,368     1,370     713    1,675
G       4,914   1,150       960     7,210     5,746   4,073    4,193
H       4,121     304       475     1,397       982     468    4,664
I       3,187     302       537     1,022       895     418    4,568
J       1,911     281       325     1,031       909     408    1,339
K       8,357     395     1,444     2,555     1,730     646    1,900
							
A      25.69%   3.96%     4.59%    16.48%    17.78%  12.78%   18.72%
B      61.65%   1.76%     7.45%    12.12%     6.66%   1.88%    8.49%
C      36.27%   3.93%     3.81%    21.45%    12.48%   9.52%   12.54%
D      56.54%   1.79%    12.04%    11.71%     6.98%   2.43%    8.51%
E      15.50%   4.52%     4.12%    13.72%    21.60%  22.69%   17.84%
F      30.45%   4.99%     6.17%    15.58%    15.61%   8.12%   19.08%
G      17.40%   4.07%     3.40%    25.53%    20.34%  14.42%   14.84%
H      33.20%   2.45%     3.83%    11.26%     7.91%   3.77%   37.58%
I      29.16%   2.76%     4.91%     9.35%     8.19%   3.82%   41.80%
J      30.80%   4.53%     5.24%    16.62%    14.65%   6.58%   21.58%
K      49.08%   2.32%     8.48%    15.01%    10.16%   3.79%   11.16%
Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards turns in an impressive performance, even more so for being a first time candidate. It occurred to me in looking at these numbers that Edwards has the kind of profile that would make for a strong challenger to Michael Kubosh – a progressive African-American with solid business/establishment credentials. Of course, a candidate with that profile would be a formidable opponent for anyone, which is a big part of the reason she did so well here. Every candidate in the runoff is at least somewhat dependent on the Mayor’s race, as that will do far more to determine who votes and how many of them there are, but Edwards’ first round performance makes her less dependent on that than most.

I suspect a lot of people (I was one) expected Laurie Robinson to do better than she did. She’d run before, she collected a decent number of endorsements, including a few from more conservative groups who apparently weren’t too impressed with the Republican candidates in the race, and it seemed likely she would collect a fair share of the vote in districts B and D. Instead, Edwards blew her out of the water, so much so that Robinson slipped into third place and out of the runoff. Robinson did slightly worse in these districts than she did in 2011, though here there were seven candidates including three African-Americans, while in 2011 there were four and two. One possible explanation for this is that people may have held a grudge against her for opposing then-CM Jolanda Jones, who was forced into a runoff she eventually lost. I have no way to test that hypothesis, so it’s just a guess. Whatever the case, if Robinson wants to take another crack at a Council campaign in 2019, her inability to do well in these districts is an issue she’s going to have to address.

With Roy Morales sneaking ahead of Laurie Robinson into the runoff, this race shapes up as D-versus-R, as are most of the others. In this case, while there were several Rs in the first round, they combined to score almost no endorsements from the Republican/conservative establishment; as noted above, Robinson did better with that crowd than Morales, Matt Murphy, Jonathan Hansen, and Evelyn Husband Thompson combined. They’re pulling together for Morales now, as they did at the tail end of the 2009 Mayor’s race, and Morales does have the advantage of picking up some low-information votes in districts H and I, but this is Morales’ third runoff out of five citywide races (2007 AL3 special election, 2007 AL3 November election, 2009 Mayor, 2013 AL3, and 2015 AL4, with the first, fourth, and fifth being the runoff races) and it’s hard to see him doing any better than he has done before. One should never take anything for granted, but I suspect the Vegas oddsmakers would install Edwards as a strong favorite in this race.

Day 12 EV 2015 totals: Final turnout projections

The last day was another big one:


Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
=======================================
2015  164,104  29,859  193,963   43,280
2013   87,944  21,426  109,370   30,572

The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. Before I go on, let me note that the numbers noted in the Chron story I blogged about on Friday were completely bogus. I have no idea where Mike Morris came up with them. Here’s a more accurate rendition, which please note reflects Harris County only:


Year     Early    E-Day    Total   Early%
=========================================
2003    83,225  214,885  298,110    27.9%
2005    49,889  139,157  189,046    26.4%
2007    36,707   86,703  123,410    29.7%
2009    62,428  116,349  178,777    34.9%
2011    46,446   75,022  121,468    38.2%
2013    80,437   94,183  174,620    46.1%

2010   215,884  173,194  329,428    55.4%
2012   364,272  212,277  576,549    63.2%

I threw in 2005 and 2007 so we could see the trend. Morris’ overall totals were correct, but the way he apportioned mail, early in person, and Election Day subtotals was off the rails for some reason. I also included the two even years, both of which featured city of Houston ballot propositions, as a further point of comparison and to emphasize that there really is a lot of room for behavior shifting. My guess is that about 60% of all ballots have been cast as of now. Assuming about 140,000 of the early votes from Harris and elsewhere are Houston voters, that suggests a final city turnout of about 233,000. That’s in line with what the paid professionals are saying.

EarlyVoting

Political scientists projected between 220,000 and 250,000 city voters will head to the polls by election night’s close, up from more than 178,000 in 2009, the last time there was an open-seat mayor’s race.

Friday marked the close of two weeks of early voting in Harris County.

Early turnout was particularly strong in African American and conservative areas, political scientists said, a boon to Houston mayoral candidates Sylvester Turner and Bill King.

“I think Sylvester could get close to 30 percent of the vote,” Rice University political scientist Bob Stein said, noting that turnout by district so far “clearly advantages somebody like Bill King” for the second spot in a likely December runoff.

If those voting patterns continue through Election Day, the city’s equal rights ordinance, dubbed HERO, also is expected to face a tough road to passage.

“This may spell doom or defeat for the HERO ordinance,” TSU political scientist Michael Adams said, noting that turnout has been comparatively low among traditionally progressive inner-loop Anglo voters.

Citing a TSU analysis, Adams said about 53 percent of early city voters through Thursday were white, 28.5 percent were African American, 11.5 percent were Hispanic and 4 percent were Asian.

He also estimated that approximately 56 percent were Democrats, while 44 percent were Republicans.

As of September, more than two million Harris County residents were eligible to vote on Nov. 3, with more than 978,000 of them residing in Houston, according to the Harris County Clerk’s office.

The share of votes cast early or by mail in recent mayoral races has increased steadily, from 28 percent in 2003, to 46 percent in 2013.

These figures do not include the handful of city precincts outside of Harris County.

Though some have speculated that this year’s spike in early voting could portend low turnout on Election Day, Stein said he expects about half of those who cast a ballot will head to the polls on Tuesday.

I think it’s going to be a bit less than half, but we’ll see. I’ll spare you another discussion of the prospects for HERO, I’ll just note that the world is watching, so it would be nice for us to not look bad. I’ll also note again the overwhelming support for HERO from the business community, which 1) suggests that perhaps Republican voter support for HERO is being underestimated, and 2) suggests again that business leaders who have been supporting politicians like Dan Patrick and others who oppose so many of their interests really ought to rethink that. As for the effect on the Mayor’s race, put me donw for being slightly skeptical that robust Republican turnout necessarily benefits Bill King. Republicans are far from unanimous in their preference, and I’m not convinced that King has that much name recognition, especially with the less-frequent city voters. I’m not saying he won’t do well, just that it’s hardly a guarantee. Along these same lines, the effect of higher than usual turnout on the other citywide races, for Controller and At Large Council seats, is very much an open question. What do voters do when they don’t know the candidates, as will often be the case in these races, since it costs a lot of money to really get your name out there? I suspect that more than the usual number will skip these races – undervotes in the 30% range or higher, perhaps – and some will pick a name that sounds familiar to them. What effect that will have is anyone’s guess, but if there’s a goofy result or two, don’t be shocked.

Council approves inmate processing center deal with Harris County

Very good news.

go_to_jail

An end is in sight for the inefficient process of shuttling prisoners in and out of redundant local lockups after the City Council on Wednesday approved an agreement with Harris County to build a long-discussed inmate processing center.

Public officials have discussed the need for a new booking center since the 1990s, because the current facility in the county jail tends to be over capacity even when the jail population is low and booking processes are inefficient. Roughly half the inmates booked into city jails also face state charges; they end up transferred to the county jail, where they are booked again.

City leaders have been enthusiastic backers of the processing center, knowing a larger booking facility will allow them to realize a longtime goal of shuttering the two aging municipal jails. Most big Texas cities closed their jails long ago, as these facilities typically only hold those arrested for low-level misdemeanors, usually for no more than 48 hours.

“The sooner we can get out of the jail business, the better,” said Councilman Ed Gonzalez, a former police officer who chairs the council’s public safety committee. “This will be a cost savings for us. It’s been a long time coming.”

The city and county committed a combined $9 million to design the center a year ago, and they are approving their shares of the $91 million needed to build the 238,000-square-foot, three-story facility. The building will hold 552 beds, along with offices, interview rooms, DUI processing areas, evidence lockers, lineup rooms, a clinic and courtrooms.

[…]

City voters in 2007 approved $32 million in bonds to build what would have been a larger, 2,500-bed processing center, but county voters that year rejected a $195 million bond issue for the same purpose. Presented again with a $70 million bond issue for the current, scaled-back proposal in 2013, county voters said yes.

The city’s ultimate contribution to the facility’s construction, barring any cost overruns, will be $27.3 million. Some of the other 2007 bond dollars were used to open the Houston Recovery Center, which diverts intoxicated prisoners from jail and pairs addicts with social services. That center has reduced the population of city jails and is expected to do the same at the processing center.

The facility, scheduled to break ground next month at the northeast corner of San Jacinto and Baker streets, will connect to the county jail via a tunnel.

Construction of the joint processing center was approved to begin last June, after both Harris County and the city approved finding an architect in 2013. The sobering center was opened earlier in 2013. Once this new facility opens in 2017, the city will spend more than $4 million less per year on handling inmates, and will free up about 100 cops now working at the city jail to do other things. The new facility will also have mental health treatment services, which will hopefully enable more people to get the help they need and keep them out of jail in the future. All in all, a very positive step forward.

A broader overview of the Mayor’s race

The TL;dr version of this is basically “meh, not much happening”.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

With a bevy of candidates and midyear fundraising that collectively topped $7 million, Houston’s 2015 mayoral race has been poised to be a blockbuster.

Yet, just five weeks before the start of early voting, the race has remained relatively stagnant.

For the most part, the candidates still are spending little, agreeing often and floating only modestly different visions for the city’s future.

“This election has unfolded so far to be an election of single-interest forum after single-interest forum,” said local political observer Darrin Hall, who previously worked for mayors Annise Parker and Bill White. “There’s not a big picture – four major points that any candidate is exposing – like in years past.”

Put another way, the race to succeed term-limited Parker, essentially, is a popularity contest that at least five candidates still have a shot at winning, Democratic political consultant Keir Murray said.

It goes on, and while it won’t tell you much you didn’t already know if you’ve been following the race, it’s a good overview and I broadly agree with it. I am a little surprised that with all the money in the race there hasn’t been more TV advertising. If there’s one thing we should have learned from the last couple of municipal elections in this town, it’s that nobody should overestimate their name ID. Outside of Adrian Garcia, none of the candidates should be too comfortable in the percentage of voters who have heard of them. I get the argument that they;re keeping their powder dry until a runoff, but the harsh fact is that only two people are going to need it for the runoff, and if as everyone seems to think one of them will be Sylvester Turner, then I’m not sure what the purpose of waiting is.

Beyond that, the big x factor is what effect HERO will have on turnout. I feel confident saying turnout will be up from 2009, but I have no idea by how much, nor do I have any idea how many HERO-motivated voters will bother to cast ballots in the actual races. The number of HERO-only voters could be quite large. Consider that in 2005, the year of the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment, turnout in Houston was an amazing 332,154 voters, or well over 30%, but only 181,841 people cast votes in the Mayor’s race. To be fair, that year’s Mayoral election was a king-size snoozer, as Bill White cruised to re-election with over 90% of the vote, but still. Over 40% of all people who turned out to vote that year couldn’t be bothered to cast a vote for Mayor. I seriously doubt that will be the case this year, but I do believe that while more people than usual will undervote, that will still leave a lot of people casting ballots. Just compare 2005 to 2007 to see what things might have been like in the absence of a high-profile ballot item. The bottom line is that some number of people will show up specifically to vote on HERO, and some number of them will then decide that as long as they’re there, they may as well vote in those other races, too. What effect that will have on the outcomes is anyone’s guess, and the sort of thing that drives campaign managers to guzzle Pepto-Bismol.

Just how old are our city voters?

vote-button

In my previous installment, we talked about how many people vote across city elections. In this post, we’re going to look at another aspect of our city races that is often remarked on but seldom specified: The ages of the people who vote.

As before, all the data comes from the voter files I got from the Harris County Clerk’s office, and it is all about city of Houston voters within Harris County, who comprise nearly all but not quite all of the electorate. I could have just done a straight average age for each election, but that leaves out a lot of other interesting information. Here’s how I prefer to present it:

2013 voters Range Number Pct ====================== 18-30 9,786 5.6% 31-40 15,209 8.7% 41-50 23,508 13.5% 51-60 40,235 23.1% 61+ 85,393 49.0% 2011 voters Range Number Pct ====================== 18-30 5,939 5.0% 31-40 9,488 8.1% 41-50 17,126 14.5% 51-60 28,601 24.3% 61+ 56,664 48.1% 2009 voters Range Number Pct ====================== 18-30 10,021 5.7% 31-40 16,798 9.6% 41-50 29,664 16.9% 51-60 43,814 25.0% 61+ 74,730 42.7% 2007 voters Range Number Pct ====================== 18-30 5,791 5.0% 31-40 10,599 9.2% 41-50 21,090 18.4% 51-60 28,633 24.9% 61+ 48,728 42.4%

If you’re wondering why I stopped at 2007, it’s because the years presented included a “birthdate” field that was just a year, which made it easy to sort by that and add up the totals in each group. The 2005 and 2003 files had a full date in that field, and since I didn’t think to check the data type when I imported the CSV files into Access to do my crunching, it came in as text and thus sorted left to right, which was completely useless.

I may go back and re-import the data to fix this, but for now this is what I have, and I doubt those other two years would tell me anything that these four don’t, which is that we do indeed have an old electorate in odd-numbered years. This should come as a surprise to exactly no one, but here you can see just how heavily it leans towards the older crowd. When two-thirds or more of your voters are over the age of 50, you’re probably going to have elections that are light on issues that younger voters care about. Consider this an application of the old saw that ninety percent of success is just showing up. It’s also an illustration of the challenges that HERO defenders will face.

You may ask, how do these elections compare to even-numbered years? I can’t answer that question yet for Presidential years (2008 and 2012), as I have not gotten those files imported into a database yet. I do have information from the two non-Presidential even-numbered years in my stash. Here’s what that looks like:

Of 685,704 total 2014 voters

53,067 (7.74%) were 18-29
83,268 (12.14%) were 30-39
112,722 (16.44%) were 40-49
160,508 (23.41%) were 50-59
276,139 (40.28%) were 60+

Of 799,287 total 2010 voters

72,841 (9.11%) were 18-29
110,386 (13.81%) were 30-39
155,643 (19.48%) were 40-49
200,114 (25.04%) were 50-59
260,302 (32.57%) were 60+

Yeah, I know, the boundaries are different. I did these calculations several months ago, then lost the files after a hard drive crash; thankfully, I’d at least started drafting some posts based on what I’d done, so at least I had that. I’m not in position to re-do this work yet, so you’ll have to cope with the inexactitude. It remains the case that these years are also dominated by older voters, though slightly less so. It’s highly likely that trend continues for the Presidential years, but we’ll have to wait and see to what extent that is true.

What about those new voters we talked about, some of which must surely come from people who reach voting age in the interim, or maybe who move back after graduating college? I have that data for the 2013 first-time voters:

2013 new voters ====================== 18-30 7,218 13.2% 31-40 8,153 14.9% 41-50 8,849 16.2% 51-60 12,067 22.1% 61+ 18,319 33.5%

How about 2014? Of 25,747 newly registered Harris County voters in 2014 who voted in the 2014 election:

9,521 (36.98%) were 18-29
5,001 (19.42%) were 30-39
3,617 (14.05%) were 40-49
3,610 (14.02%) were 50-59
3,998 (15.53%) were 60+

A bit younger in 2013, quite a bit younger in 2014. You may recall there was a registration drive that year, spearheaded by Battleground Texas. Whatever else you may say about BGTX, they helped get some younger folks to the polls. A similar effort this year would likely be as successful, and would definitely be advisable.

Who are the city voters?

vote-button

Everybody knows that city of Houston elections are fairly low-turnout affairs. The general perception – and it’s one that I’ve echoed as well – is that the elections are dominated by the same voters, year after year.

What I haven’t seen are the numbers to back up those assertions. With all that’s on the line in this year’s election, I thought this might be a good time to try and figure some of this stuff out. So I got the election files from the Harris County Clerk for all of the odd-numbered years going back to 2003, and played around with them to see what I could learn.

Now, we know that the bulk of Houston voters are in Harris County, but not all of them. There are a couple of thousand voters in Fort Bend County, and a couple of dozen voters in Montgomery County. I didn’t try to get the data for these voters in these elections. They represent maybe two percent of the total each year, and I just didn’t feel like the effort to include that data was worthwhile. So when you see me tossing around total turnout numbers in this post, bear in mind I’m talking about Harris County turnout for the city of Houston.

The first question I wanted to answer was “Who are the truly hardcore voters in Houston, the ones who come out every election without fail?” My sense going into this was that there might be fewer of these people than one might think. The answer is that 36,036 City of Houston voters have participated in every November election since 2003. That’s 20.7% of the 174,132 Harris County voters who cast a ballot in Houston in 2013.

I don’t know what kind of number I was expecting, but I wasn’t terribly surprised by this. Houston is a dynamic city. People move in and move out, sometimes to or from the suburbs in Harris County and elsewhere, sometimes to and from other cities or states, or countries. We have a significant population of children, and some of them turn 18 every year. We also have an electorate that skews old – more on that in the next post from this series – and every year some of them age out, which is the poli-sci way of saying “die”. A lot of this can and will happen over a ten-year span. The total number of voters in a given year may reliably be in a narrow band, but the names do indeed change over time.

What about the short term? The gold standard for voters to contact for candidate outreach is those who have voted in at least two of the last three elections. How many potential voters does that rule out, given what we now know about the amount of turnover in the electorate? Consider the 2013 election, which had a near identical voter total as the open 2009 election. 54,708 of 174,132 voters in 2013 had not voted in either of the 2011 or 2009 elections. That’s 31.4% of the total. The two-out-of-threes are a clear majority, but that’s still an awful lot of votes to leave on the table if you don’t try to find them.

This isn’t new. In 2009, 63,164 voters had not participated in 2003 – this is 36.1% of the 175,031 total voters. 58,973 2009 voters – 33.7% – had not voted in either 2005 or 2007. I feel pretty confident saying that when we look back on the 2015 election, we will find that something like 35% of the electorate was “new”. Given the past pattern of turnout being higher in years with high-profile referenda on the ballot, that’s likely to be an understatement.

Who are these “new” voters? As I’ve said before, some of them are new to Houston, and some of them are newly registered. Some of them have been here all along, and just hadn’t had a reason to come out to the ballot box before. How many of each there are, I couldn’t say. I can say that a candidate or campaign that isn’t trying to find and engage these voters is missing a significant opportunity. Especially in a year like this, that’s not a good idea.

Where are the women?

I have several things to say about this.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

The slate running to replace Mayor Annise Parker features a globetrotting sailor, a triathlete grandfather, a millionaire minister and no women.

Despite the most-crowded pack of mayoral contenders in decades, no female candidates are expected to announce bids this spring, a reality that all but guarantees women will have fewer positions of power at City Hall next year than they had during the last six.

“You are sending a message,” said Kathryn McNeil, a longtime fundraiser who helped elect Parker. “My niece is now 16. For the last six years, she’s seen a strong woman running the city. There’s no question in her mind that a woman could be mayor.”

Though more than 10 candidates likely will appear on November’s ballot, few women even seriously considered the race, which some call a reminder of how much more work Houston’s women must do to achieve political equality.

Some say it creates a less compassionate and less personal, even if equally qualified, field of candidates. It also affects the strength of the democratic process, limiting the diversity of the candidates that voters can choose from when they imagine whom they would like as their next mayor.

“Regardless of who actually wins the race, not having a viable woman candidate can be a disservice for everyone,” said Dee Dee Grays, the incoming president of Women Professionals in Government in Houston.

For the record, in the eleven city elections post-Kathy Whitmire (i.e., since 1993), there has been at least one female Mayoral candidate not named Annise Parker in eight of them:

2013 – Charyl Drab, Keryl Douglas, Victoria Lane
2011 – Amanda Ulman
2009 – Amanda Ulman
2007 – Amanda Ulman
2005 – Gladys House
2003 – Veronique Gregory
2001 – None
1999 – None
1997 – Helen Huey, Gracie Saenz
1995 – Elizabeth Spates
1993 – None

Now, most of these were fringe candidacies – only term-limited Council members Helen Huey and Gracie Saenz in 1997 could have been considered viable, and they were both crushed in the wake of the Lee Brown/Rob Mosbacher/George Greanias campaigns. But for what it’s worth, history does suggest there will be at least one female name on the ballot this year.

Research shows that women nationally need to be recruited to run for office much more than men. That especially is true for executive positions, such as governor or mayor.

Amber Mostyn, the former chair of Annie’s List, a statewide organization that recruits and backs Democratic female candidates, said there is a need for local versions of the organization that would encourage qualified women to make bids for mayor.

“You’ll see men throwing their hat in the ring when they’ve never done the job before and say, ‘I’ll figure it out,’ ” said Mostyn, a Houston lawyer and prominent donor. “Women are very reluctant to do that.”

I’m well aware of the research regarding the recruitment of female candidates. It’s definitely an issue, though I wonder if it will turn out to be a generational one. Perhaps today’s girls and younger women won’t need the same kind of encouragement that their elders currently require. Be that as it may, if there was ever a bad year for that dynamic in the Mayor’s race, it’s this year. I mean, nearly the entire field, not to mention Adrian Garcia, has been known to be planning to run for a long time now. With that many candidates already at the starting line, and presumably working to collect commitments and financial support and campaign advisers, it would undoubtedly be that much harder to make a case for someone else to gear up now and thrown her hat in the ring. As I’ve said many times already, there’s only so much room for viable candidates in this race.

Cindy Clifford, a public relations executive and City Hall lobbyist, said the key to electing a female mayor is to first focus on recruiting women for lower-level elected office and to serve on boards and commissions. That requires a commitment by the city’s leaders to tapping individual women and showing them that they have support.

“If we’re not doing it, no one’s going to come and look for us,” Clifford said. “I always think the cream rises once they’re in the process.”

Council members Brenda Stardig and Ellen Cohen could be joined next year by several top-tier female candidates in council elections this fall, but some worry that the political “pipeline” of female candidates is thin, with few who conceivably could have run for mayor this year. One, Laura Murillo, the head of Houston’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, did publicly explore a mayoral bid last summer before deciding against it.

I would point out that one of the top tier candidates for Mayor this year is someone whose entire political career has been in the Legislature, and that the three main candidates currently running for Mayor in San Antonio include two former legislators and one former County Commissioner. One doesn’t have to be a city officeholder to be a viable Mayoral candidate, is what I’m saying. Hell, none of the three Mayors before Annise Parker had been elected to anything before running for the top job, let alone running for Council. The size of the “pipeline” is as much a matter of framing as anything else. Note also that several women who were once elected to city offices now hold office elsewhere – I’m thinking specifically of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Sen. Sylvia Garcia, Rep. Carol Alvarado, and HISD Trustee Wanda Adams. Pipelines can flow in both directions.

As for the four open Council slots, the seat most likely to be won by a female candidate as things stand right now is At Large #4, where two of the three announced candidates so far are women. Jenifer Pool is running in At Large #1, but if I were forced to make a prediction about it now, I’d say that a Lane Lewis/Chris Oliver runoff is the single most likely outcome. Two of the three candidates that I know of in District H are male – Roland Chavez and Jason Cisneroz – and the third candidate, former HISD Trustee Diana Davila, is ethically challenged. One’s commitment to diversity does not include supporting someone one doesn’t trust. I have no idea at this time who may be running in District G, which is the other term-limited seat. Beyond those races, any additional women will have to get there by knocking off an incumbent.

One last thing: There may not be room for another viable candidate for Mayor, but that isn’t the case for City Controller. There are three known candidates at this time, with two more thinking about it, all men. A Controller campaign would take less time and money, and would therefore likely be fairly ripe for recruitment, especially given that a female candidate in that race would have immediate prominence. As Mayor Parker, and for that matter former Mayor Whitmire, can attest, that office can be a pretty good stepping stone. Just a thought.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that HCC Trustee Sandie Mullins is planning to run in District G. That not only adds another female candidate for Council, it also indicates that an HCC seat will be open this fall.

January campaign finance reports – HISD trustees

Four HISD Trustees are up for re-election this year. There are nine Trustees in all, and they serve four-year terms, so in a normal year either four or five are up for re-election. As things stand right now, all four incumbents would be running for re-election, which would be the first time there would be no open seat since at least 2001; Harris County Clerk election records only include HISD results as far back as that. Here’s a brief look at those incumbents, along with their January finance reports and a summary of their campaign balances.

Rhonda Skillern-Jones, District 2

Skillern-Jones is serving her first term as HISD Trustee. She was the only candidate in 2011 to succeed Carol Mims Galloway. After serving as Board Secretary last year, she was elected to be Board President this year. Prior to the redrawing of Trustee district boundaries last year, hers was one of two districts to absorb schools and students from the former North Forest ISD. She officially announced her intent to run for another term a few weeks ago via email and Facebook. As far as I know, she was the first Trustee to make such an announcement, and is the only one whose plans are known so far.

Manuel Rodriguez, District 3

As noted, there are four Trustees that would be on the ballot this year if they all do run. Of the four, I’d gladly vote for three of them if I lived in their district. The fourth is Manuel Rodriguez, who disgraced himself in 2011 by sending an anti-gay mailer as an attack against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. (Fact I did not realize until I scanned through old election results in researching this post: Fonseca also opposed Rodriguez in 2003, when the seat was last open. He finished third in the field of four.) Rodriguez eventually offered a lame apology for his actions, which caused the Houston Chronicle to retract their endorsement of him, after winning an excruciatingly close vote. There was a bit of a hubbub initially, then everyone moved on to other things. I hope everyone remembers this, and that the voters hold Manuel Rodriguez responsible for his despicable behavior if he does choose to run this year.

Paula Harris, District 4

Paula Harris is serving her second term on the HISD board, having won an open seat race in 2007. A prominent supporter of HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, she served as Board President in 2011, during some of the more turbulent times of the Grier era. She was also the focal point of some conflict of interest allegations at that time, which eventually led to a revamp of the Board’s ethics policies. Despite that, she won re-election in 2011 easily over token opposition, and has had a much quieter second term. Harris is an engineer who has published a children’s book encouraging kids to explore engineering, and has been a booster of STEM education on the board.

Juliet Stipeche, District 8

Juliet Stipeche, who served as Board president last year, is finishing her first full term in office. She won a special election in 2010 to fill a seat left vacant by the resignation of then-Trustee Diana Davila. She was one of the driving forces behind that ethics policy revamp, which occurred in 2012, before the last bond referendum. She has also been one of the more active critics of Superintendent Grier, though as noted things have been quieter on that front of late. Her district also contains some former North Forest ISD territory. In my opinion, she’s one of the Board’s best members.

So that’s my brief overview of the incumbents who are up for re-election. As noted, so far there are no open seats. I am also not aware of any declared opponents as yet. Here are the January finance reports for these four:

Skillern-Jones
Rodriguez
Harris
Stipeche

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Skillern-Jones 18,215 12,119 0 9,345 Rodriguez 0 0 0 340 Harris 0 1,500 12,000 0 Stipeche 5,500 7,162 0 15,618

The HISD Board does not have a Council-like blackout period, so incumbents and candidates were able to raise money during 2014. Rhonda Skillern-Jones was the busiest of the four, but I wouldn’t read too much into any of this. We’re very early in the cycle, and the one thing I feel confident saying is that we don’t know what kind of Trustee races we’re going to get yet.

Garcia appears to be in for Mayor

Not official yet, but stories like this don’t get run without justification.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia

Sheriff Adrian Garcia

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia is sending every possible message that he intends to run for mayor this year, aggressively increasing his political operations and signaling to some of his closest advisers and fiercest backers that a campaign may be imminent.

Garcia, under the Texas constitution, would have to resign as a county official immediately upon declaring his candidacy. That presents Garcia, who watchers expect to rocket to the field’s top tier if he joins the burgeoning mayoral fray, with a fateful decision: Does he step down as the county’s premier Democratic officeholder to make a bid that will make him Houston’s first Latino mayor or politically unemployed?

“At the end of the day, it’s like standing at the craps table, placing the bet – and you could walk away with nothing,” said Garcia confidant Greg Compean.

It is a bet Garcia allies said this week he has grappled with and seems willing to make.

“I’d be really surprised if he didn’t,” Compean said.

Garcia, who said last week he still is listening to others and has not yet officially committed to the race, has met with many of the city’s political leaders in advance of an announcement and privately is telling some close allies that he will run. And other evidence is mounting.

[…]

Backers of Garcia have high hopes he could raise the money to compete and that he could win voters beyond Houston’s Latinos, who comprise more than 40 percent of the city but at the most only 15 percent of the electorate. The county’s highest vote-getter in 2012, Garcia is expected to make appeals to some Republican voters in the nonpartisan election.

Garcia also would open himself up to personal attacks over a yearlong political brawl. Some in political circles for months quietly have questioned whether Garcia, who has no college education, can handle the rigors of the city’s top job. And if Garcia resigns as sheriff, some Democratic judges and Latino leaders worry whether the party and the Hispanic community would be hurt without him leading the local ticket.

My thoughts, in no particular order.

1. Garcia would have the advantage of being likely to be the clear frontrunner among at least one segment of the electorate – Latino voters – in the same way that Sylvester Turner would be among African-Americans and Oliver Pennington would be among conservatives. Sure, that is generally a smaller slice of the electorate, but it’s still an advantage, one that most other candidates don’t have. It also makes the pool of voters outside of Turner and Pennington’s bases, which those other candidates will be relying on, that much smaller. Remember that in Mayoral elections, turnout is not immutable. We had some 300,000 voters in 2001 and 2003, 190,000 in 2005 (spurred mostly by the Double Secret Illegal Anti-Gay Marriage constitutional amendment), between 175,000 and 180,000 in 2009 and 2013, and in the 130,000 range in 2007 and 2011. Remember also that the goal in November is to make it to the runoff. In a multi-candidate field where a couple thousand votes could be the difference between going on to December and going home, being able to coax out some irregular voters is a big deal.

2. I’m not worried about the implications for 2016. The Presidential race will be the driving force for 95%+ of all voters. Hell, if anything having a spirited campaign between an appointed Sheriff that wants to hold the job and a Democratic challenger that wants to win it back is more likely in my opinion to generate excitement than Garcia trouncing another hapless Republican challenger. Note that this isn’t me arguing that Garcia should run for Mayor, or that I’m shrugging off him stepping down as Sheriff if it happens. I’m just thinking through the implications, and that’s how I see it.

3. What Garcia and his backers should be worried about is how pissed off Democratic loyalists could be at the prospect of handing over the Sheriff’s office to a Republican. I mean, everyone is still very raw and angry about what happened this past November. Losing a high profile office, especially one that wasn’t on the line and in the service of someone’s ambition, is going to be a bitter pill for some to swallow. How many is “some”? I don’t know. How hard will it be for Garcia to win them back? Again, I don’t know. I do know that there are two viable Democratic alternatives to Garcia, so those that do decide to carry a grudge have someplace decent to take it. This is their problem to solve, and if they haven’t given it a lot of thought then his path to City Hall is going to be rockier than they might think.

4. The one thing I do know for sure if Garcia gets in is that the current field of hopefuls – declared, soon-to-be-declared, still-thinking-about-it, and so on – will not be what we get on the ballot. Some number of current candidates – at least one – will drop out or decide not to gear up at all. There are a finite amount of resources to help a campaign, and there’s only so much to go around. Fundraising is a component of that, of course, with the proviso that the ability of some candidates to at least partially self-fund may minimize that effect, but it’s not the only one. There are only so many able and willing volunteers, and only so much support from endorsing organizations, many of which may choose to keep their powder dry until a runoff. Some number of candidates – at least one – will not be able to mount the campaign they want to mount. Those candidates will not make it to the starting line. Bank on it.

5. I am now, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, officially undecided in the Mayoral race. There are several candidates I could support. I will need to know more about what they want to do before I make any decisions.

Don’t forget about Pasadena

There’s still a lawsuit in the works regarding their 2013 redistricting referendum that switched their Council from an eight-member all-district makeup to six districts and two At large seats, all at the behest of Mayor Johnny Isbell.

Pasadena City Council

Pasadena is preparing to change the makeup of its city council in a way that city fathers hope fosters new development, but that some Hispanics allege dilutes their influence. The case could become a test of the Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down most of the federal Voting Rights Act, giving cities in many Southern states new latitude to change election laws affecting minorities without first getting federal approval.

“Clearly it was racism,” said Pasadena Councilman Ornaldo Ybarra, one of two Hispanics on Pasadena’s eight-member council, about the town’s planned council changes. The campaign for a new voting system “was meant to scare Anglos, and it was effective,” he said.

In Pasadena, which is roughly 60 percent Hispanic, voters approved a referendum that replaces two city council seats representing districts with at-large seats, which Hispanic leaders say will negate their growing population numbers. The new format was proposed by the mayor, who is white, in July 2013, one month after the high court decision.

The mayor and supporters insist the new format will bring more participation by all Pasadena residents because they’ll have more to vote for. They note that other cities, including Houston, have at-large council members.

[…]

Some Hispanics fear that wealthier white candidates will have the upper hand in at-large races that demand costlier citywide campaigns.

Suing the city on behalf of five Hispanic residents is the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which also took Texas to court over the state’s new voter ID law.

Since the Supreme Court ruling last year, most attention has focused on statewide-voting changes made in some of the 15 states covered by the Voting Rights Act, which was passed during the Civil Rights era. The Pasadena case is one of the first involving a city.

The plaintiffs face the burden of proving intentional discrimination. Civil rights attorneys say they worry that the money and effort of mounting a challenge will discourage action in many cities.

See here, here, here, here, and here. I don’t see any information about when the lawsuit that was filed will be heard, but I’m sure it’s on a docket somewhere. The bit I quoted above is what interests me here, as it contains a testable proposition. The city of Pasadena, which is to say Mayor Isbell and his enablers, claim that by switching to a hybrid at large/single member district system, turnout will increase in Pasadena. I’d love to review what turnout has been in Pasadena over the past few cycles, but for the life of me I can’t find past election results from Pasadena anywhere – they are not in the Harris County Clerk election results, much to my surprise. If anyone can point me to them, I’d be grateful. In any event, there’s another avenue for investigation, and that’s turnout in the Houston district Council races versus turnout in the At Large races, since the Houston model is cited as what Pasadena aspires to. What I’m going to look at is the undervote rate in district versus At Large races, on the theory that if no one casts a vote in a particular race, it’s hard to claim that that race affected overall turnout in a positive way. Here’s the data for Houston, for the last six elections:

2013 Undervote 2011 Undervote 2009 Undervote ============================================================= Mayor 2.76% Mayor 4.18% Mayor 2.05% Dist A 10.36% Dist A 8.85% Dist A 18.24% Dist B 11.12% Dist B 9.78% Dist B 14.94% Dist D 12.53% Dist C 5.61% Dist C 13.30% Dist F 21.40% Dist D 8.91% Dist D 15.05% Dist G 22.47% Dist F 12.96% Dist E 14.98% Dist I 10.44% Dist G 14.32% Dist F 8.64% Dist I 11.73% Dist G 22.51% AL 1 27.49% Dist J 10.74% AL 2 29.76% Dist K 11.44% AL 1 28.48% AL 3 26.37% AL 2 30.65% AL 4 24.87% AL 1 22.50% AL 4 28.36% AL 5 28.03% AL 2 17.97% AL 5 25.89% AL 3 20.81% Controller 22.32% AL 4 20.05% Controller 15.39% AL 5 12.03% 2007 Undervote 2005 Undervote 2003 Undervote ============================================================= Mayor 6.73% Mayor 5.51% Mayor 1.38% Dist B 10.55% Dist A 19.01% Dist A 13.49% Dist C 11.40% Dist B 8.65% Dist B 11.97% Dist D 10.66% Dist C 12.82% Dist C 12.86% Dist E 10.29% Dist F 10.13% Dist E 12.90% Dist I 9.80% Dist H 12.10% Dist F 13.97% Dist I 9.33% Dist G 14.20% AL 1 31.53% Dist H 10.29% AL 2 24.94% AL 1 20.88% Dist I 13.13% AL 3 18.61% AL 2 26.37% AL 5 19.86% AL 3 24.62% AL 1 20.46% AL 5 22.92% AL 2 22.84% AL 3 18.05% AL 4 19.24% AL 5 17.29% Controller 14.04%

So over six cycles, covering the full tenures of two different Mayors and including high-turnout and low-turnout elections, the undervote rate in every single contested At Large race was higher, often significantly higher, than the undervote in every single district race, with the sole exception of At Large 5 and Districts F and G in 2011. That was the year Jolanda Jones was defeated in a runoff by Jack Christie, and it was the highest profile race that year, certainly the highest profile At Large race in any of these six years.

This to me is very strong evidence that At Large races don’t do anything to drive turnout. This should make intuitive sense – At Large races are as expensive to run as Mayoral races, but no one has anywhere near the funds to do that, while District races can be reasonably run with shoe leather and some mail. Candidates in At Large races are not as well known as candidates in district races, who have a far greater incentive to attend smaller neighborhood and civic club meetings. I’d bet we’ll see a similar pattern in Pasadena, with the district races having greater participation than the At Large races. I just hope I’ll be able to find their election results so I can check that.

This will be the first election in Pasadena under this new arrangement, assuming it isn’t thrown out before the election, which I would not expect to happen. I wish I could say that Mayor Isbell was on the ballot and that this was a chance to throw him out, but alas, he has a four year term and was re-elected in 2013. This is a chance to unseat a couple of his minions, however, and if there’s a good local opportunity for anyone upset with the 2014 elections to focus on, it’s here. The Texas Organizing Project did a lot of good work in trying to defeat the 2013 redistricting referendum, and with a little more help they might have succeeded. Whatever happens with the lawsuit, it would be nice to turn the tables in this election. You want to make a difference, get involved with TOP and help support some good candidates in Pasadena this year.

Remember Ray Jones

PetitionsInvalid

So now that the HERO-haters’ petitions have been rejected by the city for not having enough valid signatures after all of the petition pages that were not compliant with the requirements of the city charter were thrown out, the story shifts to the courthouse. We don’t know exactly what the antis are going to claim but I think it’s fair to assume that they will assert that they city was too broad in its rejections and that at least some of the pages that were tossed should have been accepted. The rejections were for fairly technical reasons – the circulator didn’t sign his or her name, or there was a signature but no printed name, or the circulator was not a registered voter in Houston, and so on. There are many arguments one could make to get more signatures accepted, and if the haters’ legal counsel in their litigation is less incompetent than their counsel during the petition signing process was, they will make as many of them as they can and hope enough of them stick.

I’m not a lawyer and can’t really say what might or might not work, but I do know that the city has been down a road similar to this before, involving someone whose attempt to make it onto a ballot was rejected for narrow technical reasons and who didn’t settle for that answer. I’m thinking about Ray Jones, who was a candidate for District C in 2005, then tried to join the field of what ended up as nine candidates in the special election for At Large #3 in 2007, which was eventually won by Melissa Noriega. Jones, as is often the case with candidates, turned in his ballot application just before the deadline. Unfortunately for him, there was a problem with it, and the city rejected it, along with those of two other candidates. Here’s a report from the Chron about what the problem was.

Under the Texas Public Information Act, I got copies of rejected applications submitted by Ray Jones Jr., Greg Locke and Darryn Call. The city also released the form filed by Roy Morales, who is on the ballot.

Here’s what I found out about the four applications. You can download them here [PDF] and read along:

CALL: He didn’t complete the oath section. Leaving this blank is what city attorneys consider a “fatal” error. It’s the section in which candidates affirmatively swear that they’re submitting “true and correct” applications, and that they comply with all the requirements.

LOCKE: He got the oath part right, but he didn’t fill in his voter-registration number. This, too, is fatal because Article V of the City Charter requires that candidates be “qualified” voters.

[…]

JONES: He also didn’t complete the oath.

Jones got a call from the legal department about the error a few minutes before the deadline, but it was too late for him to submit a new form. He believes the city unfairly excludes candidates. He wrote [PDF] City Secretary Anna Russell and City Attorney Arturo Michel about it, too.

If you look at the forms in question, you see that the “oath” section is basically the part that you fill out and sign in order to get the document notarized. There’s blanks for your name, your county, and the office you’re seeking, then your signature, which is the one part everyone got right. I suppose it’s possible that a novice candidate might miss these places on the form, but you’d think a notary public would know to tell them to fill them in.

In any event, this is by any reasonable measure fairly small potatoes. The document is signed notarized, after all, and the missing information can be found or inferred from other boxes. One could certainly argue that the city might cut them some slack and err on the side of inclusiveness. The city for its part did try to contact Jones and get him to fix his mistake, but they weren’t able to reach him in time for him to do so – remember, he turned in his application on deadline day. After some back and forth in the press and an allegation that the city employee that received his document did not give him correct information about its accuracy, Ray Jones filed suit with the 14th Circuit Court of Appeals to get on the ballot. He got some sympathy from the Chron, but the city held fast. In their response, the city pointed out that his application was “defective on its face”, and they cited precedent in their favor:

The Court of Appeals of Waco held that an application that left blank the spaces of an oath/verification identical to the Jones application was defective and incomplete. The application failed to satisfy the “statutory requirements governing a candidate’s application.” In re Gibson, 960 S.W. 2d 418, 420-421 (Tex. App. – Waco 1998) (original proceeding); contra, Yapor v. McConnell, 597 S.W. 2d 555 (Tex. App. – El Paso 1980) (original proceeding). The court found that an official has the duty to review an application within five days and make a determination as to whether the application complies with all statutory requirements. If the application does not comply with the requirements of the Election Code, the application must be rejected. Tex. Elec. Code § 141.032 (e).

In Gibson, the candidate made the exact same errors as Jones by failing to fill in the blanks of the oath which is required by the Election Code . Tex. Elec. Code § 141.031(4)(K). Like Jones, the candidate in Gibson attempted to blame his omissions on the official that received his application or on the notary. In rejecting Gibson’s argument, the court held that “the completion of a candidate’s application rests primarily on the shoulders of the candidate.” Id. at 421. Statutory requirements are mandatory and the candidate must “ensure that the application strictly complies with state law.” Id. at 421.

The city ultimately prevailed, and an appeal to the Supreme Court also failed. Now again, I’m not a lawyer and I can’t say how the haters’ litigation will go. I don’t know if this case would be relevant to what they will put forth. My job is to remember stuff like this and bring it up at appropriate moments. The point I’m making is that just because these prohibitions may seem nitpicky doesn’t mean you’ll get any relief from a judge. Maybe there’s another precedent out there that would favor the petitioners, I don’t know. We’ll know soon enough how they plan to attack this. In the meantime, I say remember Ray Jones and the example he gave us. The Observer has more.

UPDATE: And the lawsuit has been filed. You can see a copy of it here, but the TL;dr version is that they claim Anna Russell’s is the One True Count, and none of the work done to invalidate individual pages means anything. I guess that’s one way of approaching this. The judge could rule as early as this morning.

Final EV totals

Here’s the final Harris County EV tally for the 2013 runoff, and here’s how the numbers stack up against the four most recent citywide runoff elections that did not include a Mayoral race.

Year Absent Early E-Day Total Absent% Early% E-Day% ============================================================ 2005 5,350 8,722 24,215 38,287 13.97% 22.78% 62.25% 2007s 5,464 7,420 11,981 24,865 21.97% 29.84% 48.18% 2007 4,456 6,921 13,313 24,690 18.05% 28.03% 53.92% 2011 8,700 15,698 31,688 56,086 15.51% 27.99% 56.50% 2013 9,883 10,143

“2007s” refers to the At Large #3 special election, in which Melissa Noriega defeated Roy Morales. As a seat-of-my-pants, I-don’t-feel-like-thinking-about-it-too-much guess, I’ll venture that about 45% of the total vote has been cast so far. Projecting that out, and throwing in a thousand or two votes from Fort Bend County, and I’d peg the final total to be in the 45,000 to 50,000 range. Not too bad as this sort of thing goes, but hardly inspiring.

As for how the races are going, I feel about the same now as I did the day after the November results came in. I’d make David Robinson, Michael Kubosh, Helena Brown, and Dwight Boykins the favorites, with District I too close to call. I have no clue about the HCC races, which as always are about as visible as a star system from the Big Bang. Surprises do happen, of course, which is why we actually have the elections instead of just letting blowhards like me decide who’s winning. Go vote if you haven’t already – I’ll remind you again tomorrow – and we’ll see what the last Council of Mayor Parker’s tenure looks like.

Where the early vote was

As you know, I thought that the high turnout we were seeing in Early Voting for this past election was not so much an indicator of high turnout but of a shift in voting behavior similar to what we had seen in even-year elections. That prediction was incorrect – final turnout was higher than I thought it would be, and the reason for that was it was still the case that a majority of the vote was to come on Election Day itself. However, it is the case that behavior is shifting, and a bigger share of the vote was cast early than in prior odd-year elections. Let’s take a closer look at the early vote numbers, beginning with how much of the vote was cast early in each of the City Council districts:

Dist Total Mail Early E Day Mail% Early% EDay% ========================================================== Hou 174,632 20,280 60,135 94,217 11.6% 34.4% 54.0% A 13,532 2,347 4,513 6,672 17.3% 33.4% 49.3% B 13,753 1,868 5,563 6,322 13.6% 40.4% 46.0% C 32,466 3,107 9,791 19,568 9.6% 30.2% 60.3% D 19,663 2,295 7,462 10,652 11.7% 37.9% 54.2% E 18,702 1,788 6,920 9,994 9.6% 37.0% 53.4% F 7,790 564 3,516 3,710 7.2% 45.1% 47.6% G 27,286 3,879 8,215 15,192 14.2% 30.1% 55.7% H 10,249 1,041 3,109 6,099 10.2% 30.3% 59.5% I 9,538 1,133 3,110 5,295 11.9% 32.6% 55.5% J 5,942 679 2,193 3,070 11.4% 36.9% 51.7% K 15,461 1,479 5,563 8,419 9.6% 35.6% 54.5% All 259,962 24,000 87,925 148,037 9.2% 33.8% 56.9% Non 85,330 3,720 27,790 53,820 4.4% 32.6% 63.1%

“All” is all of Harris County. “Non” is Harris County minus Houston. As you can see, districts B, F, and A are the trendsetters in early voting, while Districts C, H, G, and J are behind the times. The city of Houston overall was more likely to vote early than Harris County, and much more likely to vote absentee than the non-Houston parts of the County. This makes sense because it’s usually candidates that drive absentee voting. Note that the four districts with multi-candidate races – A, B, D, and I – were all above average in absentee participation; District G was the other big performer there, and it was a contested race.

I don’t have any grand conclusions to draw from this, I was just curious about what the numbers looked like. I continue to believe that we will see a shift towards early voting in these elections – the level we saw this year was easily the high water mark for odd-year elections. Note that the higher early totals for the city, admittedly driven more by absentee ballots than by in person early voting, suggests that the Astrodome wasn’t a major component of early vote turnout. It was a modest driver of non-Houston turnout, as the city of Houston comprised 67.2% of all Harris County votes. That compares to 73.6% in 2011, 69.5% in 2009, and 63.6% in 2007. For those of you that had been playing the “guess the final level of turnout based on early voting” game, the right scenario among the ones I presented was 45% early plus high Houston turnout, which pegged it at about 170,000. More data to file away for 2015.

Early voting wrapup: Did we run out of early voters?

EarlyVoting

Early voting is officially over, though a few more mail ballots will trickle in by tomorrow. Here are the final numbers, with the chart from Thursday being updated:

2013
2011
2009
2007

Here again is that look at turnout over the first ten days and last two days of early voting, now with this year’s numbers added in:

Year 10 Day Last 2 Final Last2 % ====================================== 2013 80,959 28,381 109,370 25.9% 2011 40,389 18,156 58,545 31.0% 2009 51,997 28,519 80,516 35.4% 2007 33,247 17,017 50,264 33.9%

Turnout slowed down a bit this year, in absolute terms where Thursday had the smallest in-person total for the week – I’m sure the rain and the Trick-or-Treating had some effect on that – and in comparison to other years. Final turnout fell short of my projection based on the past three elections by over 5,000 votes. I take all of this as at least some more evidence that what we are seeing is primarily a shift in behavior towards early voting, thus making the odd-numbered years more like the even-numbered years around here. Based on what we’ve seen so far, here are the range of projections for final turnout:

EV total EV Pct E-day total Turnout Htown hi Htown lo ============================================================= 109,370 35% 203,116 312,486 218,740 187,492 109,370 40% 164,055 273,425 191,398 164,055 109,370 45% 133,674 243,044 170,131 145,827 109,370 50% 109,370 218,740 153,118 131,244 109,370 55% 89,485 198,855 139,199 118,919 109,370 60% 72,913 182,283 127,598 109,370 109,370 65% 58,891 168,261 117,783 100,957

To break this down, we start with the EV total so far. That number will wind up being a bit higher because of late-arriving mail ballots, but that’s not important for these purposes. “EV Pct” is what the share of the EV total is of final turnout. Historically, it’s been less than 40% in these elections, but the hypothesis is that this year it will be at least 50%, thus putting it in line with the even-year elections. “Turnout” is then the number we’d get under each of these scenarios. Of course, we are talking about Harris County turnout, not City of Houston turnout. Going by past elections, the city of Houston accounts for between 60% and 70% of Harris County turnout in odd years. “Htown hi” is the Houston vote total if Houston is 70% of Harris County turnout, and “Htown lo” is the share if we’re at 60%. Got all that? According to the final Johnston analysis of the 2013 vote, about 67% of the total EV so far has been city of Houston. The comparable number for 2009 was 72%.

Of course, this is still all just Harris County. Fort Bend County will contribute about 2000 votes to the final Houston total, and Montgomery County will kick in 50 or so more. I don’t know what their early vote totals look like, and their past election history doesn’t provide much information, so let’s not worry about it. My guess is that Houston’s final turnout will resemble the 50% early scenario, with between 130,000 and 150,000 votes total in the city. Leave your own estimates in the comments and we’ll see who’s the best guesser. Greg has more.

Finally, a couple of comments about the Chron story on early voting.

A sunny and pleasant Friday in the Houston area, combined with a tendency toward procrastination, helped spur a final-day total twice that of any day other than the first when early voting began on Oct. 21. The tally of all early voting, including in-person appearance and ballots mailed, was more than 118,000, about 15,000 more than the previous high for similar elections in 2003.

“This is the most we have ever done,” said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart. “I think to some degree our high turnout is a result of getting the word out on voter ID.”

A new state law requiring would-be voters to show a photo ID at the polling place is in effect for the first time after surviving a court challenge.

Actually, the voter ID law has not survived a court challenge. The one court ruling we had on it, from the DC federal court, denied preclearance to it on the grounds that it was discriminatory. The SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act negated that ruling by throwing out the preclearance requirement of the VRA. That mooted the denial of preclearance since preclearance was no longer a requirement, but it didn’t reverse the ruling. In the meantime, litigation over the voter ID law is ongoing in federal court in Corpus Christi. The state won the ability to implement this law without prior review. It has not won anything on the merits of the law itself.

Second, that 118,000 figure is the sum of the in person votes and the total number of absentee ballots mailed. Over 30,000 absentee ballots have been sent out, but only about 21,000 have been returned, and that is the difference between the Chron’s 118,000 figure (look here for the Potential Total on the bottom). Only the absentee ballots that have been returned count, and most of those 9,000 that hadn’t been returned by Friday won’t be. It’s misleading to say otherwise. These are two basic inaccuracies that really should have been caught and corrected before ever making it into print. Bad job, Chronicle editors.

“Everything seems to be on track, and the total is far outpacing recent similar elections,” said [Secretary of State] spokeswoman Alicia Pierce. “Early voting seems to be going smoothly, even including the requirement of voter IDs.”

Officials in Harris County and elsewhere echoed that assessment. The photo identification requirement, which was approved by legislators in 2011, has not prevented anyone from voting, they said. People who show up at a polling place without a valid photo ID can vote provisionally. However, if they do not provide one in person at their local election office within six days of the election, their vote will not be counted.

[…]

Stanart said the ID requirement caused no real problems. He said seven people voted provisionally because of an ID issue.

“Two of the seven showed up without a photo ID, two had out-of-state IDs, and the other four had IDs that were long expired,” Stanart said Friday.

“In the big picture,” he noted, “that’s not much when you consider more than 80,000 people voted.”

I agree that it isn’t much, though it is vastly more than the number of documented cases of voter impersonation that even Greg Abbott can claim. But this is still a fairly small sample, and a highly non-representative one, as the vast majority of early voters are the hardest of the hardcore. These are exactly the people that you would expect to not have any problems. If the law had mandated that everyone needed to show up in clown shoes and with a copy of “The Bridges of Madison County”, we’d probably be reading a story about how all that went more smoothly than expected, too. The problem with voter ID has always been about the people who don’t have one of the very limited allowed forms of ID, the state’s laughably pitiful effort to provide ID to those who don’t have it, the fact that the Legislature clearly favored some groups (concealed-carry license holders) over others (students), and that the type of voters that will be most affected by this law are people of color, who tend to vote Democratic. None of this has changed by the relatively unproblematic early voting period of this low-turnout election of high-propensity voters. I’m glad things have gone well so far, but if this law is still in effect a year from now, I seriously doubt we’ll be able to say the same thing then.

EV Day 7 totals: Is this the 2008 of city elections for early voting?

EarlyVoting

One full week of early voting is in the books, and the fast pace has not let up. Here are the comps:

2013
2011
2009
2007

The seven-day totals for each:

2013 – 14,342 mail, 37,828 in person, 52,170 total
2011 – 4,340 mail, 19,751 in person, 24,091 total
2009 – 3,801 mail, 26,662 in person, 30,463 total
2007 = 3,555 mail, 15,792 in person, 19,347 total

You might reasonably think that this increase in early voting turnout will mean a higher turnout election overall. That’s certainly possible, and no matter what happens this week, I do expect higher overall turnout than either 2011 or 2007; I don’t expect higher than 2009, but possibly around the total for the 2009 runoff. What I want to suggest is that instead of a surge in overall turnout, we might just be seeing a significant shift in behavior, with more people voting early instead of voting on Election Day. Consider what the early vote/E-day vote ratios have looked like in odd-numbered years this past decade:

2003 6.4% mail, 21.5% early, 72.1% E-day
2005 3.9% mail, 22.5% early, 73.6% E-day
2007 6.5% mail, 23.2% early, 70.3% E-day
2009 5.7% mail, 29.2% early, 65.1% E-day
2011 7.5% mail, 30.7% early, 63.8% E-day

As you can see, there’s been a slow and slight increase in early voting, but the large majority of the vote has still occurred on Election Day itself. Now compare that to the same numbers for the even-numbered years:

2002 5.6% mail, 23.1% early, 70.3% E-day
2004 4.4% mail, 37.8% early, 58.8% E-day
2006 3.9% mail, 28.5% early, 67.6% E-day
2008 5.7% mail, 57.1% early, 37.2% E-day
2010 7.0% mail, 49.1% early, 43.9% E-day
2012 6.3% mail, 58.2% early, 35.5% E-day

Note the huge shift in 2008 to majority early voting, which has continued in the two subsequent elections. You may recall that this shift was perceived at the time to be a portent of things to come, which led to some irrationally exuberant predictions about final turnout. Turnout was up from the previous Presidential election, but not nearly as much as many of us thought it would be. The vast majority of the early voters were the old reliables, and the net effect was that by Election Day itself, we’d run short of people who still needed to vote.

Do I know this for sure? No, of course not. I do expect turnout will be up from 2011, but I don’t believe we’re seeing anything unexpected. One other piece of evidence I have for this belief comes from the analyses that Kyle Johnston does on the early vote rosters. Here’s the 2009 version, and the version from the first five days of 2013 EV. The first thing that stands out to me is that in 2009, 92% of the early vote overall was cast by people who had voted in at least 2 of the last 3 municipal election. For the first five EV days of 2013, it’s 90%. In other words, it’s the old reliables voting. They’re just voting earlier.

Now that may change, and if it does we’ll talk about it. Until then, that’s how I see it. Other useful tidbits from Johnston’s analysis is that so far about 70% of the total Harris County vote has come from City of Houston voters; in 2009, the figure was 72% for all early votes. In other words, non-Houston voting is up a smidge, perhaps thanks to the Astrodome, but not much. The racial breakdown of the vote has some people talking about runoff prospects in the Mayor’s race. I’ll just say that unlike city/county and past voting history, racial data is not directly available but must be derived inferentially. Doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate, just inexact. As I’ve said before, I’ll wait and see what we get when the actual numbers get published. What do you see in the numbers we have so far?

EV Day 3 – Where the early votes are

EarlyVoting

Three days into early voting and the numbers continue to be strong, with a third consecutive day of in-person totals topping 5,000. Here are all the daily totals:

2013
2011
2009
2007

Some people, like Campos, have been trying to get a handle on what this might mean for African-American turnout in particular, since Ben Hall – and Ronald Green and Andrew Burks – are counting on good A-A turnout to varying degrees for their electoral success. As a starting point for that discussion, let’s take a look at the early vote share at locations in predominantly African-Americans locations:

Year HD131 HD139 HD141 HD142 HD146 HD147 Total ===================================================== 2013 1.9% 3.4% 4.8% 3.7% 9.2% 4.0% 27.0% 2011 0.8% 3.0% 4.8% 2.8% 10.7% 4.6% 26.7% 2009 2.6% 3.1% 5.1% 3.2% 8.1% 4.0% 26.1% 2007 2.4% 3.8% 5.2% 2.9% 9.6% 4.6% 28.5%

The numbers above represent the share of the vote cast at the early vote location or locations in the specified State Rep districts. For the three previous cycles I calculated this based on final EV totals, and for this year I used the totals so far. This year doesn’t look a whole lot different from the last three cycles if you ask me. Obviously, this is a rough measure so don’t put too much stock in it, but it’s clear there’s no big surge relative to the rest of the county. Which brings up a second point, that we may be seeing an increase in non-Houston voters, which would mean that these totals are in fact higher where it matters. To that end, let’s look at the locations that are primarily or entirely outside city limits:

Year HD126 HD128 HD130 HD132 HD135 HD144 HD150 Total ============================================================= 2013 4.0% 2.7% 4.6% 2.4% 2.2% 1.3% 1.0% 18.2% 2011 2.9% 2.2% 4.6% 1.4% 2.2% 2.0% 1.0% 16.3% 2009 4.2% 2.2% 3.2% 1.4% 1.7% 1.3% 0.9% 14.9% 2007 5.0% 5.9% 1.3% 1.5% 5.5% 1.0% 1.0% 21.1%

Up a bit from the previous two cycles but down from 2007. City turnout was roughly the same in 2007 and 2011, but city turnout as a share of total county turnout differed:

2011 – 73.6% of Harris County vote came from city of Houston voters.
2009 – 69.5% of Harris County vote came from city of Houston voters.
2007 – 63.6% of Harris County vote came from city of Houston voters.

I suspect 2009 broke the pattern because of stronger Election Day turnout. In any event, as with African-American turnout I don’t see anything terribly out of whack with past elections. Again, this is a rough measure, and we won’t know for sure what things look like till we see that first set of results on Election Day evening. There may be surprises lurking – there almost always are – but nothing that stands out to me based on the numbers we’ve seen so far.

Interview with Kevin Hoffman

Kevin Hoffman

Kevin Hoffman

My second and final interview for HCC Trustee in District 1 and for candidates this cycle is with Kevin Hoffman. Hoffman has a diverse background, working in the energy industry after previously working non-profit theater companies as a department head. He is heavily involved in neighborhood activities as the former President of Near Northside Super Neighborhood Council #51 and a former board member of the Lindale Park Civic Club and the Metro Solutions, North Corridor Community Advisory Board, among others. He is also active in Democratic politics as President of the Greater Heights Democratic Club and Treasurer of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats. Hoffman ran against Trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores in 2007 and lost by only a few hundred votes. Here’s the interview:

Kevin Hoffman interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

First day EV totals

It was pretty brisk, with higher turnout than any of the previous three elections. Here are the relevant daily totals:

2013
2011
2009
2007

And here are the numbers for each for day one:

Year In person By Mail Total ================================= 2013 5,025 8,560 13,585 2011 2,557 2,079 4,636 2009 4,089 2,073 6,162 2007 1,681 957 2,638

I suspect some of this is behavior-shifting, but still, that’s quite an upturn. The Astrodome referendum is probably helping some, but we won’t know till the end how much it drove non-Houston votes versus Houston votes. Another big difference this year is in the total number of mail ballots sent as of Day One:

2013 – 28,620
2011 – 12,041
2009 – 17,413
2007 – 11,646

We’ll see if the in-person pace keeps up. I probably won’t post daily updates on this, but will check in with it periodically, when there’s something interesting to say. I’ll hold off on making any turnout projections till the end of week one. If you voted today, how did it go? I voted at the end of the day at the West Gray Multi-Service Center. There was no line, but there were other people voting while I was there. Let us know what it was like at your location. And speaking of such things, here’s simple image view of the early voting schedule and locations, put together by my friend Robert Nagle for for people who don’t like PDFs.

Early voting starts today

EarlyVoting

Today we arrive at the more action-oriented part of the election cycle, in which voting actually happens. Early voting starts today and runs through next Friday, November 1. Here’s the schedule and map of locations for Harris County. Check with your County Clerk or Election Administrator for locations elsewhere. Hours for early voting this Monday through Friday are 8 to 4:30, and next week will be 7 AM to 7 PM.

As you know, I like to track the daily early voting numbers, to get a feel for who might be voting and what final turnout might look like. My last daily EV total post from 2011 is the reference point for the start of early voting this year. For your convenience, here are daily totals from previous years:

2011
2009
2007

I’m sure I will come back to these links frequently. In the meantime, feel free to make your guesses about turnout, results, or whatever else you’d like to prognosticate on in the comments.

Of course the big difference this year is that the voter ID law is currently in effect. Litigation is ongoing – I’ll have a separate post on where that stands later this week – but as there were no motions filed for an injunction or restraining order against it for this November election, you will need to bring the kind of ID the state has mandated with you. Got ID Texas is a great resource for that, and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte wrote a good guide to the law, mirrored on BOR. A press release from the Harris County Clerk is beneath the fold. If there’s one message you need to take from this, it’s that no matter what they tell you, CAST YOUR VOTE! If they tell you that you need to bring ID later on to (in Harris County’s case) a Tax Assessor’s office so your vote will not be considered provisional, do it. But under no circumstances should you walk away without voting, and if anyone tells you otherwise, call the County Clerk, the Secretary of State, and if you’re a Democrat the HCDP to let them know about it.

We don’t know what the effect of the voter ID law will be on turnout and composition of the electorate. One thing I know I’ll be watching for is the amount and location of provisional votes. I believe one reason why there wasn’t an injunction sought against the voter ID law was that the plaintiffs wanted to see what those numbers looked like, too. Maybe this will turn out to be less of a big deal than we fear, and maybe it will be worse. One way or another, we’ll find out.

So go forth and vote. If you do vote today, please leave a comment telling us where you voted, how crowded it was, and what your observations were regarding voter ID enforcement. Happy voting!

(more…)

Still no injunction in voter registration lawsuit

Unfortunate.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

A district judged erred by partially blocking the enforcement of new Texas voter registration laws while a lawsuit alleging that the laws suppress voting goes forward, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 opinion Thursday that there was not enough evidence to allow a preliminary injunction preventing the enforcement of five registration law provisions.

Judge Edith Jones was joined by Judge Jerry Smith in the panel’s opinion. Judge W. Eugene Davis dissented, saying the state laws conflict with federal election laws.

An emergency three-judge panel blocked U.S. District Judge Greg Costa’s injunction before the November elections last year, leaving the final decision to Jones’ panel.

The lawsuit, which alleges that Texas laws make it difficult to register voters and that they violate the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, will go forward, civil rights attorney Chad Dunn said.

“I can assure you the case is gong to continue,” Dunn said. “Texas is now the only state in the country where it is a criminal offense to run an organized voter registration drive.”

See here for the last update, with links to earlier entries. The plaintiffs can ask for a review by the full panel, they can appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court, or they can accept it and proceed with the lawsuit. I don’t know what the best course of action is, but I remain optimistic for the final outcome. I’m not sure why the situation warrants optimism, but I feel that way anyway.

One place where optimism is more warranted is the state of voter registration here in Harris County. Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan invited a number of local bloggers in to talk about his office and ask any questions about it. One encouraging thing I heard was that the voter registration total for Harris County stands at approximately 1,980,000 as of today. That’s up from 1,942,566 in 2012, and breaks a pattern of registration declines in odd numbered years:

2004 – 1,876,296; 2005 – 1,849,820
2006 – 1,902,822; 2007 – 1,799,757
2008 – 1,892,656; 2009 – 1,881,112
2010 – 1,917,534; 2011 – 1,869,359

The Chron confirms the registration total as well. In addition, the office has already done 20 46 training sessions for deputy vote registrars – the minimum required by the state is one per month – and most impressively was able to get all three federal lawsuits against Harris County over its voter registration practices withdrawn by making a commitment to stopping past bad behavior and adhering to good practices going forward. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Tax Assessor that has focused primarily on its duties and not on partisan matters. Sullivan made a promise to do that during the campaign, and so far he’s done a good job of keeping it. It’s a very positive accomplishment.

UPDATE: Corrected the number of deputy voter training sessions conducted. Please note that the “stopping past bad behavior” characterization is mine and not a quote from Mike Sullivan or anyone in his office. For other takes on our visit, see PDiddie, John Coby, and Greg.

Inmate processing center polls favorably

The other issue on the county ballot appears to be in good shape.

go_to_jail

Results from a recent KUHF-KHOU 11 News poll suggest strong voter support for a $70 million November bond issue for a city-county inmate processing center.

The poll, conducted by Rice University political science professor Bob Stein, found 58 percent of respondents support the measure and 21 percent oppose it. About 64 percent of Anglos supported the item and 61 percent of Hispanics did, Stein told KUHF, but just 49 percent of black respondents did; a quarter were opposed, and a quarter were undecided. (This post corrects earlier poll numbers for black respondents.)

A similar trend was at work when voters, led by overwhelming opposition from African-Americans, narrowly rejected a $195 million bond measure to build a much larger jail facility six years ago. That version of the project was a $245 million jail with 2,500 beds and expansive mental health and medical facilities.

The $100 million facility proposed now is a significantly pared down version of a the 2007 project. It would replace the main county jail’s cramped processing center, which has been operating over capacity even as the jail population has fallen.

Advocates also emphasize this year’s proposal is not a jail. With 552 short-term beds, the project is designed primarily as a processing facility, aimed at getting inmates in and out more quickly and cheaply by eliminating redundant city-county law enforcement processes. Many inmates booked into the city’s jails today are facing state charges (basically, charges more significant than getting a ticket for violating a city ordinance), and simply wait until the county can take them, then get transferred to the county jail and booked in all over again.

Stein told KUHF it may be significant that his poll — and the Nov. 5 ballot language — refer to the effort as a processing center and not a jail.

“There are no organized groups against this, so, I think, the stars are aligned for this to pass and pass by a good margin,” he said.

I presume this is the same sample as in the Dome poll. More from KUHF.

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia says the center would replace two aging city lockups, but it’ll do more than incarcerate.

“Not only will it allow for me as sheriff to improve my operations, it’ll take the City of Houston out of the jail business, quit the duplication of operations, save the taxpayers money and get cops back out on the street faster.”

And while numbers show voters in favor the measure, Garcia says they aren’t taking anything for granted.

“This is an important measure. I want to make sure that it doesn’t get caught up in the debate of the Astrodome. This is a measure that isn’t going to cost the taxpayers any money, and it’s really going to improve a lot of services and operations for both the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says voters need to be sure they are aware of the measure.

“The county and the city are working together, which people like. It’ll allow us to have a place where we can divert people who don’t need to be in the criminal justice system. So, it’s just across the board, a wonderful step forward for the entire community.”

See here and here for the background. I plan to support this, and I’m glad to see that it polls well. This isn’t adding jail capacity, and it is allowing the city to get out of the jail business. A win all around.

Interview with Roy Morales

Roy Morales

Roy Morales

As of my last At Large #3 interview, I reported that I had not yet been able to make arrangements with either Michael Kubosh or Roy Morales. I’m pleased to say now that both interviews have been completed; I have Morales’ here, and will publish Kubosh’s at a later date. Morales is a familiar candidate in city races, having run for At Large #3 the last time it was open, in 2007, and for Mayor in 2009. He also served on the HCDE Board of Trustees as the trustee for Precinct 1 from 2007 to 2013, and he ran for CD29 in 2010. Morales is a Lt. Colonel (Retired) in the Air Force, and a businessman. Here’s what we talked about:

Roy Morales interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

One more ballot item

In addition to the Astrodome and (maybe) Early To Rise referenda, Harris County voters will also get to decide on a jail bond referendum. From the preview story on Tuesday:

go_to_jail

Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday also is expected to order a $70 million bond election for a long-discussed facility to process inmates arrested by county and city law enforcement.

The proposed $100 million facility, a significantly pared down version of a project county voters rejected in 2007, would replace the main county jail’s cramped processing center, which has been operating over capacity even as the jail population has fallen.

The proposal also would fulfill the city’s longtime wish to shutter its two aging jails, which cost $25 million a year to operate.

[…]

Voters narrowly rejected a $195 million bond measure to build a much larger jail facility six years ago. That version of the project was a $245 million jail with 2,500 beds and expansive mental health and medical facilities.

Advocates emphasize that the new proposal is not a jail. With 552 short-term beds, the project is designed primarily as a processing facility, aimed at getting inmates in and out more quickly and cheaply by eliminating duplicative city-county law enforcement processes.

The building also would have space for social service agencies to help released inmates, especially the mentally ill, return to society.

“It’s changed, really,” County Judge Ed Emmett said. “We’re talking about a building that will make the current jails much more efficient and that will allow us to address the mental health issues that plague so many of the people that get arrested.”

As you know, I voted against that 2007 referendum. This one is different, and I plan to vote for it. The key point here is that this project will not mean an increase in jail capacity, which was my main point of opposition to the 2007 referendum, but a more efficient way to process short-term inmates. It will also allow the city to close its outmoded and costly jails, which has been a goal for a long time. The county jail is in much better shape now, thanks in large part to the efforts of Sheriff Adrian Garcia, and everyone is on board with the idea of keeping the inmate count down, though there is still much to be done on that front. This proposed facility is in line with the good work that has been done so far, and I’m happy to support it.

Opposition gearing up for the water fund amendment

The legislation to create a state water infrastructure fund, and the joint resolution that authorized tapping the Rainy Day Fund for up to $2 billion to seed it, had a rocky road in the legislature and wasn’t completed until the last weekend of the regular session. Now the task is to pass the constitutional amendment that the joint resolution enabled on the ballot, and that’s no sure thing, either.

If ratified in the Nov. 5 election, the proposed constitutional amendment would create a state water development bank that supporters say is vital to help Texas avert a worsening water shortage over the next half-century.

The unfolding campaign appears almost certain to match the contours of the legislative debate, balancing the need to keep Texas economically vibrant with a robust water supply against Tea Party-fueled opposition over spending rainy-day money on the multibillion-dollar program.

Nine other amendments are heading to the state’s 13 million-plus voters, but Senate Joint Resolution 1 is easily the farthest-reaching. Senate Natural Resources Chairman Troy Fraser, a chief proponent, said he hopes to muster “an army of people” into the campaign to push the measure to victory.

The effort is expected to include much of the state’s political leadership, including Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

H204Texas, a coalition that includes chambers of commerce, energy companies, water suppliers and other interests, has already started mapping out a political-style campaign that includes fundraising, media buys, op-ed pieces and elaborate use of social media.

“We’re already in full force,” said Heather Harward, the coalition’s executive director.

[…]

But opposition is also taking shape as an array of conservative groups — including Tea Party and citizens lobby organizations — work their formidable email networks to point up what they say are a number of reasons why the initiative should be defeated.

Recycling a major element from the legislative debate, opponents have begun to denounce the proposed use of $2 billion in state rainy-day funds, which lawmakers approved in a separate appropriations bill to capitalize the proposed bank.

Opponents say that putting the $2 billion into a constitutionally dedicated fund enables supporters to avoid having the money count against a state spending cap, which conservatives both in and out of the Legislature have vowed to protect vigorously.

“We’re going to have to oppose it,” said JoAnn Fleming of Tyler, executive director of Grassroots America, which she said networks with more than 300 Tea Party and liberty organizations.

Fleming said members of her organization and related groups plan to work through summer and fall in a “good old-fashioned grassroots effort” to drum up votes against the initiative. “We’ve been successful with that in the past,” she said.

One influential conservative group, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, came out against the proposal during the just-ended regular legislative session, but group President Michael Quinn Sullivan said in an email that “it’s premature to speculate on what we may or may not be doing in the fall on constitutional amendments.”

“A great many conservative groups opposed SJR1 in the legislature,” said Sullivan, who is president of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. “We know a lot of folks are going to be talking about it in the fall. If or when we decide to engage in that issue, we’ll engage.”

Chuck Molyneaux of McKinney, 73, a retired software developer who heads the North Texas Citizens Lobby, said his organization is reaching out to its allies in the Tea Party community to oppose the measure and the proposed use of rainy-day funds.

“We’re going to do our best to keep it from being passed,” he said. “This one just reeks of smoke and mirrors.”

I’ll save the debate about the merits of the amendment for another day. I just want to point out that historically speaking, the vast majority of amendments that get put on the ballot do get passed. However, three of the five that were defeated in the past decade went down in 2011. Here’s a brief recap of how this voting has gone:

2011 – 7/10 passed
2009 – 11/11 passed
2007 – 16/16 passed
2005 – 7/9 passed
2003 – 22/22 passed

There are two interesting things about the 2011 election. One is that the referenda that failed were not exactly high profile or had any apparent opposition going into the election. Here’s the ballot statement of the five amendments in 2011 and 2005 that were rejected, first from 2011:

Prop 4 Permit county to issue bonds for development, 40.26 to 59.73
Prop 7 Permit El Paso County to create reclamation districts, 48.29 to 51.50
Prop 8 Appraisal for ad valorem tax of land devoted to water stewardship, 47.00 to 52.99

And from 2005:

Prop. 5 Commercial loan interest rates defined by Legislature, 43.41 to 56.48
Prop. 9 Six-Year term for regional mobility authority, 46.67 to 53.32

Unlike 2005, the year of the Double Secret Illegal Anti-Gay Marriage amendment, there wasn’t anything particularly high profile in 2011, though Prop 4 was opposed by various anti-toll road groups. I have no memory of the defeated issues from 2005. The other thing about the 2011 election was that it had the lowest turnout of any referendum on this list:

2011 Turnout – 690,052
2009 Turnout – 1,058,986
2007 Turnout – 1,096,410
2005 Turnout – 2,260,695
2003 Turnout – 1,470,443

That might have had something to do with it, though recall that the 2003 election, which included the medical malpractice tort “reform” referendum was held in September (back when there was still a uniform election date in September) for the deliberate purpose of keeping turnout low, which supporters of tort “reform” assumed would be better for their cause. They didn’t want to be on the same ballot as the high-turnout Houston Mayoral election that year. It’s not clear to me whether turnout will be a factor one way or the other for SJR1, but on the whole the lower the turnout the greater the influence of the more motivated voters, and I’d put my money on the antis being more motivated at this time. So keep an eye on that. EoW has more.