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Election 2008

Early voting, Day Five: Maybe the lines will be shorter next week

Resources will be mobilized to ameliorate things.

EarlyVoting

Harris County will add staff and equipment to early voting locations next week to help cut down long wait times fueled by a record surge of voter turnout, County Clerk Stan Stanart said.

Typically, people head to early voting to skip the lines of Election Day, but voters since Monday in Harris County have overwhelmed many early polling places, resulting in waits of more than an hour in some locations. Big counties across the state also reported record turnout this week.

“After more than a year of one of the most conflict-ridden and divisive presidential campaigns we have ever seen,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, “there was clearly some pent up demand among a segment of voters to go out and cast their ballots.”

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, pointed out close countywide races for sheriff and district attorney and “the ongoing discussion about Texas being in play as a battleground state on the presidential level.”

“Competitive elections drive turnout,” he said, because people feel their vote means more.

Stanart on Monday said he had expected a record-breaking Day One turnout of around 55,000. Actual turnout hit more than 67,000, and on Wednesday it was 76,000.

On Thursday, Stanart said wait times had begun to decrease as staff got in the groove of running an election. The number of votes processed per hour grew from 6,000 on Monday to 7,500 on Wednesday, he said.

“They always are rusty for the first couple of days, and usually it’s not a big deal,” he said, adding that this year “people are voting in droves.”

Here’s the Day 5 EV report, and the updated spreadsheet. There were 81,239 in person votes cast yesterday, and yes, that’s another record. In fact, it’s the third busiest day ever, after the final EV days in 2012 and 2008. That brings the record-setting first week to a grand total of 374,679 in person votes; it’s 452,124 when you add in mail ballots. But mail ballots don’t make you wait in line, so the staff and equipment numbers at each location will matter. For comparison purposes the first five days of early voting in 2012 yielded 260,274 votes, and in 2008 it was 220,046. And in both cases, the last five days were considerably busier. There were another 337,389 votes cast in 2012, and another 364,060 in 2008. It’s a guess, but I’d predict a 50% total increase for the last five days, or about 550,000 total votes.

That’s kind of nuts, and I could totally be wrong, but who knows? If I am right, that means a bit more than a million votes would be cast early, which is about a one-third increase over 2012. Given that the first five EV days this week saw a 44% increase over 2012, I don’t think that’s out of line. Extending that all the way out, I’d say this portends a final overall turnout of 1.4 million to 1.5 million, which would be a boost of 200,000 to 300,000 over 2012. Again, I could be way off. Maybe Week 2 will slow down, or at least not have the same kind of increase over Week 1 that we’re used to seeing. As they say about sports, this is why we play the game. I guess my bottom line is that you should still expect to wait if you haven’t voted yet. It won’t be that bad, but do plan to take some time for this.

Early voting, Day Four: Just the facts

Here is your Day 4 EV report, and here as always is the spreadsheet that tracks early voting in Presidential elections going back to 2004. Long story short, another record-breaking day, with about the same volume (just over 76,000 in person votes) as on Wednesday. We are at over 366,000 total votes after four days. At this pace, we will surpass the entire 2004 early vote total on Saturday, and the entire 2008 total on Tuesday. There is a point at which we will run out of voters, but that point is not here yet, and may not happen till Election Day itself.

Day Three was another win for Democrats in Harris County as per the available data. Greg Wythe answered a question from two people in the comments to yesterday’s post that explained how people like him arrive at such conclusions. Here’s the link he provided if you want to know more.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’ll do some more analysis over the weekend.

Early voting, Day Three: The case for pessimism

Dave Mann tells Texas Democrats to put those rose-tinted glasses away.

EarlyVoting

On Monday, the Real Clear Politics site declared that Texas is up for grabs in the presidential election. The shift comes after a series of polls showing a tight race in the state between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and makes for a dramatic image on the site’s election tracking map, where Texas is no longer colored its usual red but is now the dark gray that connotes a “toss up.” For Democrats, seeing their state change color on one of the most widely read and respected campaign outlets—after decades of Republican dominance and years of unfulfilled hopes that Texas might turn blue—must be cathartic. And it might be tempting to view this sudden shift to competitiveness as the start of Democrats’ long-hoped-for return to relevance, as a turning point.

Well, they should keep the cork in the champagne, because Texas remains a Republican state.

As my colleague R.G. Ratcliffe pointed out, the Texas polls are close not because of a huge spike in Democratic voters—Clinton’s numbers are roughly in line with Obama’s totals from 2008 and 2012—but because Trump’s support has cratered. He’s drastically under-performing previous Republican presidential nominees. John McCain and Mitt Romney garnered 55 percent and 57 percent of the vote in Texas, respectively. Trump is polling 10 to 12 points below that.

[…]

While it’s true that the national GOP looks like a smoking ruin right now, the state party remains fairly strong. It still has huge advantages over Texas Democrats in money, organization, and candidate depth, and Republicans start every statewide race with at least a ten-point edge, if not more. And if you’re thinking that built-in advantage may be shrinking, keep in mind that we’re just two years removed from an across-the-board Republican blowout of nearly 20 points. In Wendy Davis, the Democrats had their best known and best funded candidate in years, and she lost to Greg Abbott by nearly a million votes.

It’s also worth remembering that most statewide offices in Texas come up for election in non-presidential years in which the electorate generally tends to be whiter and older—in other words, more Republican.

The one caveat is the potential increase in Latino voters. R.G. wrote on Monday that more than 530,000 people with Latino surnames have registered to vote since 2012, according to the Texas secretary of state’s office. It’s not hard to envision Trump’s candidacy increasing the number of Latino voters who turn out to vote in Texas, offering Democrats the opportunity to begin building a coalition that could one day make them competitive again. But capitalizing on that opportunity requires the difficult party-building, community-organizing, voter-turnout work that Democrats in this state haven’t exactly excelled at in recent years.

In other words, two years from now—without Trump at the top of the ticket—Texas Republicans will once again be heavily favored to sweep the statewide offices.

See here for my discussion of RG Ratcliffe’s article. First, let me say that I agree with Dave Mann in that it’s at least premature, if not downright silly, to call Texas a swing state right now. It’s a lot closer than we’re used to seeing it, but the numbers aren’t there for swing state status. The Real Clear Politics average for the two-way race has Trump leading by 4.6 percentage points. FiveThirtyEight has Trump’s lead at 6.2 after applying their secret sauce. Out of thirteen poll results that I’ve tracked, only that one wacky WaPo/Survey Monkey one from September had Clinton in the lead, by one point. I think to be a real swing state, your polling average has to be within, say, two or three points, with more than one result disagreeing with the others about who’s in the lead. Texas doesn’t make the cut on either of those.

That said, I think Mann is underplaying how well Clinton is doing, both in absolute terms and relative to Obama. The more recent polls have shown her increase her total more than Trump has done. I split the thirteen poll results I’ve tracked into pre-October and October results and averaged each. That works out as follows:

Pre-October: Trump 42.0, Clinton 35.7
October: Trump 46.2, Clinton 41.5

Clinton has gained 5.8 points in the average to Trump’s 4.2, cutting the margin in the average from 6.3 to 4.7. Moreover, she’s considerably ahead of where Obama was in the October polls from 2012:

October 2012: Romney 55.8, Obama 39.0

You can also use the YouGov tracker for a direct comparison. The election eve result in 2012 had Obama at 38%. As of yesterday, Clinton was at 41.4; she was up at 42.0 over the weekend. And remember, that 2012 YouGov result underestimated Obama by three and a half points. It’s possible they’ve changed their model to account for that, but it’s also possible they’re underestimating Clinton.

I don’t want to get too deep into that, because as the Devil can use scripture for his own purposes, one can read whatever they want into an individual poll. The thing is, though, we also have actual votes that have been cast, which really do tell us something. I can tell you that Democrats have done much better so far in Harris County than they did in 2012, and have won each of the first two days of early voting, after winning with mail ballots. Some of this is surely regular voters getting out there earlier than usual, and I don’t have the same data on the rest of the state, but just as surely Harris County isn’t an anomaly.

What I’m getting at is this: I think one has to strain to argue that Hillary Clinton won’t exceed Barack Obama’s vote total from 2008. I think she’s got a very good chance to exceed his vote percentage, though I’m not ready to declare that as a sure thing. We may argue afterwards if the increased vote total I expect Clinton will get represents a real bump in Democratic turnout, as 2008 for Obama did compared to 2004, or just a raise that was proportional to the overall population growth. But I don’t think we’ll be arguing over whether or not she did outperform him, in 2008 as well as in 2012.

As for 2018, I’m going to wait till this one is in the books before I get into that. It’s true that Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be used as a motivating tool. It’s also true that while 2014 was a disastrous year for Texas Democrats, it wasn’t just a Texas problem. National conditions had a big effect on state elections in 2014, and in 2010 and 2006 and 2002 and so on, for that matter. What will national conditions be like in 2018? You’re a lot smarter than I am if you know the answer to that today.

Anyway. Early voting turnout was even higher on Day Two than it was on Day One. That’s actually in line with the historical pattern, as you can see from the handy early voting tracker spreadsheet that I’ve so thoughtfully included for you. Day Two was busier than Day One in all three previous Presidential years. Day Three was busier than Day Two in 2012 and 2008, too. And guess what? As you can see from the Day 3 EV report, Day Three was busier this year than Day Two was, too. It’s like there’s an established pattern or something, it’s just a matter of at what level. Another 76,098 in person votes, with 5,646 mail ballots arriving, and 287,134 total votes cast so far. The Day Three amount in 2012 was 197,987. We’re going to run out of voters eventually, but we could get an awful lot of votes cast before that happens.

Early voting, Day Two: How long can we keep this up?

Texas Monthly crunches some numbers from Day One:

EarlyVoting

Digging further into the numbers, it seems as though the long-whispered awakening of Texas Democrats happened, at the very least, on day one. GOP consultant Derek Ryan, who published a detailed report on the affiliations of Texas’s early voters, examined the voting history of Monday’s voters, and what he found was notable. Of the votes cast, 36.8 percent of them were from people who had previously voted in the Republican primary, while 32.8 percent of them had voted in the Democratic primary. The rest were split between people who had previously voted in general presidential elections but not party primaries (22.3 percent) and those with no election history whatsoever (8.1 percent).

We don’t know how those voters with history in party primaries are inclined to vote in the general election, but the mere fact that the numbers for Republicans and Democrats are only four points away from one another is significant in and of itself. As our own Erica Greider pointed out on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, Republican primary voters outnumbered Democratic primary voters by a whopping 2:1 margin. So on day one of early voting, a whole lot more of the Democrats who voted in the primaries felt the need to rush to the polls than the Republicans did.

There are other things we can glean from the early voting totals. The gender split here is vast: At least 54 percent of voters on Monday were women, while men made up 42.2 percent of the day’s electorate (the other 3.8 percent are unknown). That could be tricky for Trump, as Nate Silver’s imagined women-only electoral map analysis pointed out—Trump’s biggest base of support comes from men, and if men aren’t casting ballots at the same rate as women, he may have a lot of ground to make up.

And ultimately, all of this analysis is moot if the turnout numbers level off by the end of the week. It’s possible that we’re mostly going to see the same people vote in 2016 as we did in 2012. If that’s the case, the 8.1 percent of voters who haven’t previously cast general election ballots will be notable, but probably not significant enough to tilt the election.

Couple things here. First, the thing to keep in mind about the voters with no primary history is basically what Greider says. There have been a lot more Republican primary voters in recent elections than Democratic primary voters, so the pool of non-primary voters is proportionally more Democratic than the voting population overall since you’ve subtracted so many more Republicans from it. One of the harbingers of doom for Democrats in 2010 during early voting was exactly this – a large portion of these voters had not voted in the 2008 primary, which in Harris County at least meant they almost had to be non-Democrats, since the Dem primary turnout had been so large that year. These non-primary voters aren’t certain the be Dems, but they are more likely to be Dems than a random sample of all voters would be.

Having said that, many of those 2008 Dem primary voters still exist in the population, so this inference only goes so far. That analysis by Derek Ryan only specifies “previous R/D primary voters”; it does not specify “in one or more of the past 3 elections”, which would limit the scope to post-2008 primaries. It’s common to limit this sort of thing to the last three elections, but it’s not universal – the data exists in any database a guy like this would be using. I just don’t know for sure what Ryan has in mind.

For what it’s worth, I’ve seen an analysis of the in-person Harris County Day One vote that said 31% of voters had voted in at least one of the last three Republican primaries (that is, 2012, 2014, and 2015), with 32% having done the same in at least one Dem primary. That was in person only, so about half the total vote so far. Further analysis of the whole data set using other metrics suggests the Dems have a pretty decent lead at this time, which is unusual in that it’s usually the Rs who get out more on Day One and via mail. But this is only one day, and things do change over time. There’s a lot of early voting to go, and a lot of votes to be cast. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this.

Here are a couple of maps of where early voters came from for Day One and mail ballots. Here’s the Day Two EV report, which as you can see shows an increase in turnout from Monday: 73,542 people showed up Tuesday, an increase of a bit more than 6,000 from Monday. Add in another 2,834 mail ballots, and a grand total of 205,390 people have already voted in Harris County. (Including me – I voted at the SPJST Lodge for the first time. I’ve now voted in six different EV locations. Maybe I should try to collect them all.) I don’t know what the partisan mix looks like yet, but you can see the updated spreadsheet and make your own guesses. Have you voted yet?

Early voting, Day One: Hope you didn’t mind waiting on line

Lots of people were out there with you.

EarlyVoting

After more than 18 months of intensive election coverage, early voting kicked off in Harris County on Monday with long lines at some polling locations.

As polls closed at 6 p.m., more than 63,000 people had turned out for the first day of early voting, shattering the previous record of 47,093 set on day one of early voting in 2012.

In the first 2.5 hours of early voting, the Harris County Clerk’s office said 15,205 ballots were cast–one third of the total cast all day on the first day of early voting in 2012, about 47,000.

By the afternoon, the county was averaging 6,000 voters per hour, and the clerk’s office projected a record-breaking 60,000 votes by the time polls close.

When the clock struck 8 a.m. Monday, opening time for early voting, a line stretched out the door and across the patio at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center on West Gray, typically among the county’s most popular polling spots.

Thanks no doubt to the later hours for early voting and the sheer volume, I don’t yet have the daily EV report for each location. I’ll post those as I get them, and I will add a new tab to this spreadsheet, which contains the daily EV totals for the 2004, 2008, and 2012 elections. The 2008 election has the reputation for being the blow-the-doors-off one for early voting, but 2012 did indeed have a higher volume, both on Day One and overall. It also had more EV locations, which no doubt helped ease things a bit.

Not mentioned in this story is that as of the weekend, over 52,000 mail ballots had been returned already, with another 60,000 or so still out and still a few days left to request them. I’ll have more on this as we go, and I don’t want to draw any broad conclusions from such limited data, but it sure seems like we are headed for a record total of ballots cast. Not just here, but around the state.

Avoiding long lines on Election Day is supposed to be one of the benefits of voting early, but on the first official day to cast ballots in Texas, some parts of the state reported long waits — sometimes hours — along with a few other snafus.

Particularly long waits were reported in parts of Bexar, Harris, Nueces and Denton counties, with one expert suggesting this year’s intense presidential campaign prompted an early rush to the polls.

[…]

Mark Jones, a political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, suggested the intensity of this year’s presidential race spurred some voters to rush to the polls.

“This has been such a drawn out, intense and polarizing election that there’s this reservoir of voters that couldn’t wait to cast their vote, so they all rushed out to vote early on the first of 12 days of early voting,” he said, likening the phenomenon to opening day at an amusement park.

Jones said he expected the interest to level out over most of the early voting period, with high turnout on its last day, Nov. 4.

He also noted that the high turnout was spread unevenly within counties and across the state.

Indeed, on social media, many voters reported short wait times to The Texas Tribune.

That’s a function of a lot of things – some locations are always more popular than others (see: the Metro Multi-Service Center on West Gray for Exhibit A), and some places have enough voting machines to better handle a sudden influx.

RG Ratcliffe has an idea about who may be voting.

Throughout this election, I’ve been skeptical that Hillary Clinton could carry Texas, even as polls suggested the gap in support between her and Donald Trump is closing. But there is a wild card that might make it possible: There are 532,000 more registered Hispanic surname voters this year than in 2012.

Over the past week or so, one news story after another has touted the close race between Clinton and Trump in Texas. The gap has closed, but Clinton seems to be stuck at the same level of support that President Obama received in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Obama received just under 44 percent of the vote in 2008 and 41 percent in 2012. Clinton received 43 percent in the CBS/YouGov poll; 41 percent in the UPI/CVOTER; 46 percent in Washington Post/Survey Monkey; and 38 percent in the University of Houston poll. All the while, Trump’s numbers have declined in Texas from a solid majority to levels in the mid 40s. Three out of the four recent surveys put the gap between Clinton and Trump within the margin of error. Trump’s gaffes and personal history have led to voters fleeing his campaign.

Still, the formula for a Clinton victory in Texas has always required that somewhere between 950,000 and 1.2 million people who voted for Obama’s Republican opponents either switching to the Democratic candidate or sitting out the race. It’s now looking like at least half those voters may do exactly that by either not voting in the presidential race or by casting a ballot for one of the third-party candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Jill Stein. The other half of the gap conceivably could be closed by newly registered Hispanic voters.

RG’s point about Clinton’s level of support in the polls is well-taken, though I would note that poll averages have underestimated candidates of both parties in the last two elections. As for the rest, well, that is certainly the hope.

I’ll have Day One data in tomorrow’s post. Have you voted yet? What was your experience? I expect to vote today and will let you know how it goes. If you haven’t voted yet, Andrea Greer explains why early voting is the way to go. The Current and the Press have more.

UPDATE: Here is the Day One EV report from the County Clerk. I’ll begin adding these numbers to the spreadsheet today.

The state of the polls

Hillary Clinton

I’m just trying to get a handle on the numbers, with the idea of establishing some kind of guide for what to expect in the Presidential race in Texas. Bear with me.

The RCP average for the two-way Trump/Clinton race is 44.0 for Trump and 38.3 for Clinton. The FiveThirtyEight polling averages, which includes some other sources, come in at Trump 45.6, Clinton 37.6. However, once you apply the 538 secret sauce, you wind up with projected totals of 49.7% for Trump and 43.2% for Clinton.

RCP does not do this kind of modeling/forecasting – it’s a straight up polling average. As such, it can underestimate final totals, since it doesn’t try to guess what undecided voters may do. The 2012 RCP average for Texas had President Obama at 39.0 and Mitt Romney at 55.7; they finished at 41.4 and 57.2, respectively. Similarly, in 2008, Obama was averaging 40.5 and John McCain was at 53.5; the final numbers were 43.7 and 55.5. In other words, RCP underestimated Obama by three points in 2008 and by 2.5 points in 2012.

(I couldn’t find 538’s data for Texas in past years, so we’ll just skip that part of the analysis.)

There are so many variables in play here that I’ve been very reluctant to even begin to guess at what the final numbers might look like. Here are some of the things that factor in:

1. Overall turnout – Voter registration is at an all-time high, but that correlates weakly at best to turnout. However, the overall voting age population is way up, and even in a modest turnout-to-VAP scenario like we had in 2012, we’re easily looking at a half million or more extra voters than we’ve ever had, and that number could be quite a bit higher without setting a record for turnout as a share of the adult population. Nine million votes is not out of the question. I have to believe that beyond a certain point, extra voters will break Democratic. Where that point is, how blue they are, and how likely that is to happen, I have no idea.

2. Undecided voters – In 2008, the Obama/McCain share of the vote in the averages was 94.0%; in 2012, the Obama/Romney share was 94.7%. This year, it’s 82.3% for Trump and Clinton. Even adding in Johnson and Stein only gets you to 91.6%. That’s a lot more undecided voters. Do they show up? Which way do they lean? There’s a lot of room for candidates to gain ground here.

3. The third-party candidates – Just as a reminder, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein combined for 1.42% of the vote in Texas in 2012. Their RCP combined average is 9.3% right now. Poll numbers for third-party candidates are almost always overstated, often by quite a bit, but we don’t have any useful data for comparison from 2012. I’m sure there are some Republicans who will vote for Johnson over Trump, but nearly the entire state GOP establishment is in Trump’s corner, so it’s not like there’s an organized #NeverTrump movement. As with the undecided voters, there’s a lot of room for the Trump and Clinton numbers to change here if as has been the norm historically the L and G numbers are exaggerated. But if there was ever a year where maybe they’re not, you’d think this would be it.

4. The other polls – There are national polls showing Hillary Clinton with a double-digit lead. That’s a landslide by any measure, and if it’s what we get, it’s entirely possible that the polls we have for Texas are underestimating her by a considerable amount, as state polling tends to lag the national trends. The fact that the one most recent poll we have is also the closest one we’ve seen since that weird Washington Post poll suggests that possibility as well. We also know that there’s a lot of polling data that is not made public but from which we can make inferences based on the actions taken by the campaigns and other actors who have that data. Here, we have multiple suggestions of Republicans being worried about their turnout in Texas, plus Hillary Clinton actually running a week’s worth of ads in Texas, online and on TV. Draw your own conclusions about that.

5. Latino voters – This is baked into some of the other factors, but I keep being struck by the differences between what national polls say about Latino support for Donald Trump – in short, he may be lucky to get 20% of the Latino vote nationally, well below what Mitt Romney got – and what the state polls have said. The latter have generally had his support in the 30s, with Clinton in the 50s or low 60s. This may be a function of small sample sizes combined with excessive weighting to compensate, or it may simply indicate that Texas Latinos are different than Latinos elsewhere. Bear in mind that we have some data to indicate that lower-propensity Latino voters tend to be more Democratic than high-propensity Latino voters, which is a fancy way of saying that higher Latino turnout correlates with better Democratic performance among Latinos.

6. Crossover voters – Mark Bluenthal wrote yesterday that the key to Hillary Clinton’s increased national lead is that she has consolidated the Democratic vote better than Donald Trump has done with the Republican vote. Another way to put that is there are more Republicans who are voting for other candidates, including Clinton, than there are Democrats who are voting for other candidates. We see that in Texas as well, specifically in that UH poll, which showed ten percent of Rs voting for Clinton or Johnson, but only five percent of Ds voting for other candidates. Hillary Clinton’s better performance in Texas is two parts turnout – there are more Democrats and fewer Republicans voting than usual – and one part crossover voting. If that latter group is bigger than we think, that will affect the outcome.

In the end, I’m less interested in the margin between Trump and Clinton – given what we do know so far, barring anything unexpected that margin is going to be smaller than the McCain-Obama margin – as I am in the absolute totals. How many people actually vote for Hillary Clinton? The high-water mark is 3,528,633, set by Obama in 2008. Just on the increase in population alone, she could top that while receiving a lower percentage of the vote (for example, 3.6 million votes for Clinton out of 8.4 million total = 42.9%; Obama got 43.7%), but I would consider that a huge disappointment. Can she get to 3.8 million, or (be still my heart) 4 million? Can she reach 44 or even 45 percent, a level not reached since Jimmy Carter in 1976? I hope to have some small amount of clarity on this before voting concludes, but I doubt I’ll get much.

I think that about covers it. What it all means, I still don’t know. But when it’s all over and we’re doing the autopsy, these are the things I’ll want to look back on.

Chron overview of HD134

The Chron looks at that perpetual swing district, HD134

Rep. Sarah Davis

Rep. Sarah Davis

Artful redistricting has squeezed the general election suspense from nearly all of Harris County’s legislative races, rendering most districts solidly red or blue.

Democrat Ben Rose is hoping to prove his west Houston district can be the exception.

The 31-year-old political newcomer is seeking to leverage traditionally high Democratic turnout in presidential election years to oust three-term Republican state Rep. Sarah Davis. Doing so would return District 134 to Democratic hands for the first time in six years.

“To effectuate change, you’d have to want that change. And based on her record, I don’t think that she really is distinguishable,” Rose said during an interview in his Meyerland campaign office. “On cutting $5 billion from education, where was she? On accepting federal (Medicaid) dollars, where was she?”

Davis, known as a moderate, is campaigning on her fiscal conservatism and clout in the state Legislature as a member of the majority party.

“From just a general standpoint of who can get something done, your choice is someone who’s on the most powerful committees and has some experience and is in the majority party, versus a freshman with no seniority and in the minority party,” said Davis, 40, whose committee posts include appropriations and calendars.

District 134, which runs from Meyerland north to Timbergrove, has traded parties twice in the last decade, from Republican Martha Wong to Democrat Ellen Cohen in 2007, and Cohen to Davis in 2011.

Ben Rose

Ben Rose

Since then, it has become more Republican.

District 134 lost five precincts in 2011’s redistricting, all of them left-leaning. And the district gained 25 others, most of them right-leaning, according to a Chronicle analysis of straight-ticket voting.

[…]

Donald Trump’s divisive candidacy is expected to handicap many local Republican candidates, whose fate typically is tied to the performance of their party’s presidential pick and the turnout he draws.

However, University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said he expects Davis to be more insulated than many of her GOP peers, who could be hurt by higher Democratic turnout or a lower percentage of Republican straight-ticket voting.

“The core of it is: Are there more Democrats in 134?” Rottinghaus said. “It seems to me they’ve already maxed out the number that are there, so i don’t think you’re going to find a lot more turnout … and some of those Democrats are supporters of Sarah Davis.”

Here’s my interview with Ben Rose. I basically agree with Prof. Rottinghaus that a boost in Democratic turnout is unlikely to have much effect on this race. For one, turnout in this district is always pretty high; it was 72% in 2012. For another, the district is indeed redder than it was in 2008 – President Obama got 42% of the vote in 2012 after topping 46% in 2008. I think the more likely path to victory for Rose is not higher turnout but lower turnout, with that being the result of more Republicans staying home. That could happen, but it’s not sustainable if it does.

What I think may happen is that Hillary Clinton carries the district due to a larger than usual number of crossovers and other Republicans who refuse to vote for Trump, though she may not have a majority in doing this. Beyond that, Republican candidates in other races, with the possible exception of the DA race, win the district, probably with a lower than expected margin. I don’t claim to be a fan of Sarah Davis, but she’s a good fit for the district and hasn’t done anything obvious to turn off her supporters. Barring a surprise, I expect her to win by an amount that keeps this district firmly in the “swing” category going forward.

Chron overview of judicial races

In case anyone is paying attention to them.

HarrisCounty

As Harris County goes, so go most of its judicial races.

That truism appears to be good news for Democrats seeking to scoop up more district court benches in November, when two dozen criminal, civil and family court positions are up for grabs.

Three of the benches are open, while 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans are defending their seats.

“The Republicans are looking at a real uphill battle,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said, pointing to disaffection for Trump among some Republicans, which could impact voting patterns down the ballot. “I think the most likely scenario is we’re looking at a repeat of 2008, where we see a near or complete Democratic sweep of the judicial races.”

[…]

Looking for a repeat [of 2008], Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lane Lewis said the party is focused on encouraging voters to cast a straight-ticket ballot in November.

“I think you are going to see much more straight Democratic ticket voting. One, because we have the better candidates, and two, because their candidates are just so bad,” Lewis said. “The Republicans are going to lose votes because of Trump.”

Harris County Republican Party Chair Paul Simpson fired back, saying enthusiasm about Clinton does not compare to support for Obama eight years ago.

“This is not a wave, and I’ve been saying for months Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama. She’s the status quo,” Simpson said, adding that traditional Democratic voters may cast their ballots for Trump.

Even so, Texas Southern University political scientist Jay Aiyer said Trump’s controversial candidacy provides a structural advantage for Democratic judges.

“Traditional Democratic voters are inclined to vote straight-ticket, and the same is not necessarily the case on the Republican side because you have a percentage of Republicans that are likely to not vote for (Trump) for president,” Aiyer said.

The story references the recent Hobby Center poll of Harris County, which has Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump here by four or nine points, depending on how you define “likely voters”. As the story notes, a two-point win by President Obama in 2008 was enough for a near-Democratic sweep of the judicial races. Paul Simpson’s complaints aside, the last three Presidential races show that Democrats have done a better job voting all the way down the ballot than Republicans have done. That may change this year, but I personally would not bet on that. For what it’s worth, the little bit of gossip I’ve heard suggests that the Republican judges on the ballot this year are not feeling very confident. With all the standard caveats and disclaimers, I’d rather be in the Dems’ position right now.

Registration versus turnout

Ross Ramsey throws a bit of cold water on the surge in voter registrations.

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Turnout isn’t nearly as volatile as registration. Over the past 10 presidential elections in Texas, the percentage of Texas adults registered to vote has gone as low as 65.3 percent in 1992 to as high as 85.4 percent in 2000.

The registered voter numbers have a problem, though. At any given time, some number of the people who have registered in Texas have moved or died. Election officials purge the rolls from time to time to correct for that, but using registered voters as a base for turnout calculations is messy.

The voting-age population, on the other hand, is based on population estimates. It starts with a census and changes with births and deaths — or, to be more accurate, deaths and the numbers of people turning 18 each year.

Using that number instead of registrations, Texans appear to be much more consistent in their voting turnout: 41 percent of Texas adults voted in 1996, the low year, and 47.6 percent showed up in 1984 and 1992, the two years with the best turnout over the past 10 presidential elections.

Those numbers don’t sync very well. If you’re measuring turnout by counting the number of actual voters among people on the registered voter rolls, you’ll get a relatively high number — and one that’s as volatile as the state’s database of registered voters.

If you measure it by comparing the number of adults in the state with the number of actual voters, you’ll get a more predictable result. More than four — and fewer than five — of every 10 adults has voted in each of the past 10 presidential runs.

You can run the voter rolls up with an active registration push, but it doesn’t necessarily mean turnout will improve.

These are fair points, and to be sure most of the interest around the higher voter registration totals is centered on the belief that This Year Is Different. Which it unquestionably is, but that doesn’t mean it’s different in a way that will necessarily lead to a greater-than-usual number of people casting votes. So let’s take Ramsey’s figures and use that as a basis for estimating statewide turnout this year.

According to the SOS Turnout and Registration page, there are 19,307,355 adults of voting age population in Texas. Let’s apply four different turnout levels to that and see what we get.

40.97% turnout = 7,910,223
43.73% turnout = 8,443,106
45.55% turnout = 8,794,500
47.64% turnout = 9,198,024

The 40.97% and 47.64% values are the high and low totals cited by Ramsey. The other two, the ones in the middle, are the actual turnout of voting-age population numbers from 2008 (45.55%) and 2012 (43.73%). To put that in some perspective, due to the overall population growth in Texas, a turnout level equivalent to what we had in 2012, which I think we can all agree was generally considered “meh”, would still represent an increase of 450,000 voters over 2012 and 365,000 voters over 2008. Consider that 2008’s actual total of 8,077,795 represents 41.84% turnout of 2016 VAP, and 2012’s actual total of 7,993,851 is merely 41.40% turnout of 2016 VAP. Unless 2016 is a historically low year for turnout, more people are going to vote this November than they did in 2012 and 2008, quite possibly a lot more people.

So, to Ramsey’s point, we are almost certainly going to have more people vote this year than have ever voted in Texas, but sheer population growth will account for much of that. We need to crack nine million before we can really talk about a new high-water mark, and we have to push ten million to get to a point where we can say that more than half of adult Texans cast a ballot. It remains to be seen just how different this year will be.

Oh, and by the way, voter registration numbers continue to climb.

Texas is closing in on 15 million registered voters who will be eligible to cast ballots in the November election after a surge in registrations that probably will outpace the run-ups to the last three presidential elections, according to an analysis of state registration data by the former research director for the Texas Republican Party.

“The biggest takeaway is there is significant interest in this presidential election,” said Derek Ryan, the former Texas GOP data guru who is now an Austin-based Republican consultant who specializes in voter lists. According to Ryan’s analysis of the Texas secretary of state’s registered voter database released Monday, Texas actually passed the 15 million threshold last week. He puts the number at 15,002,412. But the secretary of state’s office said its most recent count had the state at 14.9 million registered voters.

The Texas voting age population is 19.3 million.

With another week to register before the Oct. 11 deadline, Ryan said he expected new registrants between the primary and general election to exceed the numbers logged in the past three presidential cycles. As of last week, Ryan said, 764,000 voters had registered since the March 1 primary, compared with 834,000 post-primary registrations in 2004, 823,000 in 2008 and 581,000 in 2012, when the primary was held in May.

Ryan said that of the new registrants, there were nearly 20,000 more women than men, that people with Hispanic surnames made up nearly a quarter and that the average age of the new registrants was 36.4 years old, with 43.1 percent under 30 and 34.1 percent ages 30 to 49.

On the face of it, that should all be good news for Democrats and their presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, who polls better in Texas with women, younger voters and Hispanics. But Ryan said that considering the provocative nature of Donald Trump’s campaign with regard to women and Hispanics, he was surprised their numbers did not spike higher.

Women outnumber men in the electorate generally, and the 2.3 percent differential between female and male new registrants is pretty much par for the course.

The 23.3 percent of new registrants with a Hispanic surname is identical to the 23.3 percent of all registered voters with a Hispanic surname, Ryan said, and the real test is turnout in a state that regularly places at or near the bottom for voter participation nationally and where Hispanic turnout is historically especially low.

Ryan also cautioned that the use of Hispanic surnames to identify Hispanics is inexact.

The deadline to register is October 11. We’ll see where we are then.

Lots of absentee ballots in Harris County this year

From the inbox:

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Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart announced today that over 90,000 ballots have been mailed to voters who requested to vote by mail in the November 8, 2016 General and Special Elections. The number of ballots mailed is the highest ever processed in Harris County for any election.

“The Super Bowl of Elections has kicked-off. Voters who have submitted a request to vote by mail will be receiving their ballot in the coming days. Voters should stay alert and watch their mailbox,” urged Stanart, the County’s Chief Election officer. “This initial batch of ballots includes voters who submitted a request for a mail ballot as of September 23 of this calendar year. Requests to vote by mail, which are received before the October 28 deadline, will be promptly processed and dropped in the mail for delivery.”

Voters receiving mail ballots are encouraged to vote and return the ballot without delay following these steps:
1. Use BLACK or BLUE ink to mark your choices on the ballot;
2. Place voted ballot in the Ballot Envelope and seal it;
3. Place Ballot Envelope in the enclosed pre-addressed County Clerk carrier envelope;
4. Seal carrier envelope and sign where indicated exactly as you signed the ballot by mail request;
5. Place appropriate postage on the carrier envelope.
6. Mail the carrier envelope containing your ballot early enough for receipt well before Election Day;

“There are approximately 392,000 voters in Harris County who meet the age requirement to vote by mail. I would not be surprised if the number of mail ballot requests for this election exceeds 100,000,” concluded Stanart. Texans can vote by mail if they are registered to vote and meet one of the following criteria: Away from the county of residence on Election Day and during the early voting period; Sick or disabled; 65 years of age or older on Election Day; or Confined in jail, but eligible to vote.

To find an application to vote by mail and other election information, voters may visit the Harris County Clerk’s Office election website www.HarrisVotes.com or call 713.755.6965.

What is it I most like to do when presented with a number? Compare it to other numbers to try to put it in context. How impressive is 90,000 mail ballots? Let’s look at the most recent Presidential elections in Harris County and see for ourselves.

In 2012, there were 76,085 mail ballots returned, which was 6.3% of 1,204,167 total votes in the county.

In 2008, there were 67,612 mail ballots returned, or 5.7% of 1,188,731 total votes.

And in 2004, there were 47,619 mail ballots returned, for 4.4% of the 1,088,793 total.

Bearing in mind that Stan Stanart has estimated turnout of 1.4 million this November, 90,000 mail ballots out of 1.4 million voters would be 6.4% of the total. An absolute increase, but not a relative one. In this KHOU story, Stanart says the final total could well exceed 100,000. That would be 7.1% of 1.4 million, which is more in line with previous upticks. We’ll see where the final number lands?

Does this have any effect on the final results, even at the margins? Mail voters are generally older – everyone over the age of 65 is eligible to vote by mail – so they tend to be Republican. However, the Harris County Democratic Party has been aggressively pursuing a vote-by-mail strategy, and is touting its success in getting ballots to Democratic voters. I can’t say what that will look like this November, but I can say what it did look like in the last three Presidential Novembers:


Year   R total   D total   R Pct   D Pct
========================================
2012    43,270    31,414  57.56%  41.70%
2008    41,986    24,503  62.72%  36.60%
2004    29,926    17,010  63.36%  36.01%

All vote totals are taken from the Presidential races that year, so the R totals are (respectively) for Romney, McCain, and Bush. Democrats have made up a larger percentage of the absentee voter universe lately, but the total increase in absentee ballots has been evenly split between R and D voters. Maybe that will be different this year – we’ll have to see after the results get posted. It’s still a relatively small number of votes, so the effect would be small as well. In addition, it’s still not clear to me how many of these mail voters that the Dems have recruited are people who would have voted in person had they not been provided an absentee ballot. My guess is that the actual increase in Democratic voters is modest, but I don’t know enough to quantify that. This is what I do know. We’ll come back to this for the postmortem later.

Our first guess at Harris County turnout

It’s big.

vote-button

Early voting in Texas for the 2016 election begins in a month. It will run through November 4. The Harris County Clerk’s office is encouraging voters to take advantage of the window, in order to avoid long lines at the polls.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart estimates 2.2 million people will be registered to vote by Election Day. That’s about half the county’s total population.

“The last presidential [election] we had 1.2 million voters in Harris County,” Stanart says. “We are planning and putting in the infrastructure to support 1.4 million voters to show up.”

The county will operate a record 46 early voting locations this year, in order to accommodate heavy turnout for the presidential contest.

One point four million votes from Harris County would represent an increase of 200,000 over 2008 and 2012. Let’s put that into some context, to help understand what that means for individual races. I’m going to use judicial races as my main proxy for this. The questions I want to examine are, how many actual votes did a judicial candidate need to win in those years, and how many votes will those candidates likely need to win this year?

Total turnout in 2008 was 1,188,731.

Judicial race turnout – the total number of votes cast in the average judicial race – was about 1,100,000, which means there was a 7% undervote. I didn’t do the math, I just eyeballed it.

The Win Number was therefore 550,000 votes for a given candidate. In other words, if a candidate reached 550,000 votes, they won, and if they failed to reach that total, they lost. This was true for each district court race except for two: Elizabeth Ray lost 551,844 to 551,324, and Tad Halbach won 548,852 to 548,622. Note how close those races were.

For all of Harris County, Adrian Garcia was the top votegetter with 637,588 votes.

How about 2012? Total turnout was 1,204,167.

Judicial race turnout – again, eyeballing it – was about 1,130,000, or a 5.6% undervote. I believe the difference here was more Republicans voting all the way down the ballot than there were in 2008.

The Win Number for 2012 was thus 565,000. Again, there were two exceptions: John Coselli lost 567,942 to 566,248, and Michael Landrum lost 569,682 to 565,611. Again, Adrian Garcia was the top votegetter, this time with 613,103 votes.

So what does that mean for this year? Assume the estimate of 1,400,000 total votes is accurate, and assume that comes with a 6% undervote in judicial races. I’m just guessing on that, and you can plsy around with other numbers, but let’s go with it for this exercise. That means that judicial race turnout is 1,316,000 total votes, as 6% of 1.4 million is 84,000. That makes the Win Number 658,000 votes. That’s more than 20,000 votes higher than what Adrian Garcia got in 2008, when he breezed home with 56% of the tally.

Putting it another way, the average judicial candidate will need to get about 100,000 more votes than were required in either of the last two Presidential elections to win. That’s a lot of votes. It may be that this turnout projection is an overestimate – we’re all just guessing, and part of this is in response to the complaints about long lines during the primaries – but I doubt it’s by too much. We’ll know soon enough. Campos has more.

McMullin will “appear” on the ballot

To the extent that a write-in candidate “appears” on the ballot, anyway.

Will not be on the ballot

Will not be on the ballot

Texas voters will be able to vote for former CIA operative Evan McMullin for president in November.

The Texas secretary of state’s office on Friday certified McMullin, who is running as an independent, as a write-in candidate for the general election. McMullin, a former chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, said on Twitter that his campaign had “resolved the misunderstanding” with the state over his application.

As part of the approval process, McMullin was required to submit written statements of consent from 38 presidential elector candidates. But one of the electors originally submitted by McMullin was deemed ineligible. He was certified after submitting a replacement elector.

Raise your hand if you knew this was the process. Now put your hand back down, because I don’t believe you. At least we now have an answer to the question that no one was asking, namely “What do Evan McMullin and Robert Morrow have in common?” Also, too, I presume this means that McMullin is no longer pursuing a lawsuit to be allowed to get on the ballot as an independent. Google has no news about Souraya Faas, the candidate who actually did file such a lawsuit, then apparently lost interest in it. As such, I think it’s safe to say that the lineup is now set. I will note that there were over 13,000 write-in votes for President cast in 2008, with the vast bulk of them going to Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin. I will be very impressed if Evan McMullin can approach either of their totals.

Endorsement watch: A Libertarian moment

The Chron thinks outside the box in endorsing for the Railroad Commission.

Mark Miller

Mark Miller

Our editorial board interviews scores of candidates for political office every election year, but seldom do we find ourselves wholeheartedly endorsing a nominee from the Libertarian Party. Then again, seldom have we met a Libertarian candidate like Mark Miller.

Ask this man anything at all about the Railroad Commission of Texas and he’ll give you a straight, smart answer informed not only by decades of working in the industry and teaching petrochemical engineering at the University of Texas, but also by a mastery of the issues facing the energy business and the state body that regulates it. He’s an affable retired oil and gas man with a doctorate from Stanford University who’s so interested in this agency he literally wrote a book on the railroad commission.

With impressive clarity and authority, Miller offers well-informed opinions on a litany of arcane issues involving the energy industry: why the Texas Legislature needs to resolve the conflict between the owners of surface rights and mineral rights, why the state should dramatically reduce the number of permits for flaring natural gas, why Texas needs to figure out how to plug oil wells left unplugged by companies that go bankrupt. This guy clearly knows what he’s talking about.

By comparison, none of the other candidates for this office have actually worked in the industry they propose to help oversee. Wayne Christian, the Republican nominee, earned a troublesome reputation as a combative bomb-thrower in the state Legislature; he helped craft a shamefully self-serving amendment exempting his own Bolivar Peninsula home from the Texas Open Beaches Act, and Texas Monthly twice rated him one of the state’s worst lawmakers. Grady Yarbrough, the Democratic nominee, is a retired school teacher whose background seems better suited to an education post. Martina Salinas, the Green Party nominee, is an earnest construction inspector from the Fort Worth area who, again, never worked in the energy business.

I don’t have any particular quarrel with the recommendation. Experience is a somewhat overrated qualification for the RRC, given that its Commissioners (those with industry experience and those without it) tend to be rubber stamps for the industry they purportedly regulate anyway. Certainly, Wayne Christian will do whatever his overlords tell him to do, so in that sense it doesn’t matter whether or not he understands anything about what he’s doing. Maybe Grady Yarbrough will take advice from other sources, who knows. At least he’ll have to be more visible if he somehow gets elected.

Endorsement aside – it would not shock me if Miller collects more than one such recommendation, given the other choices – the more interesting question is whether Miller can break the five percent barrier in this race. Libertarians and Greens have relied in recent years on statewide races in which there was no Democrat running to place a candidate who can top that mark and thus guarantee ballot access for all statewide races for their team. This year, those tricky Democrats actually ran candidates for all statewide offices, meaning the Ls and the Gs are going to have to do this the hard way if they want to be on the statewide ballot in 2020. (The hard way involves collecting a sufficient number of petition signatures, possibly with a little help from friends of convenience.) The question I want to answer is: Have any Libertarian or Green Party statewide candidates cracked the five percent mark in a statewide race that featured both an R and a D in recent years?

We go to the Secretary of State election returns for that. Here are the high statewide scorers for the Ls and the Gs in such races in Presidential years:


Year    Candidate     Party       Race    Pct
=============================================
2012      L Stott       Lib        CCA  3.26%
2012    C Kennedy       Grn        RRC  1.99%

2008      D Floyd       Lib        RRC  3.52%

2004     A Garcia       Lib        RRC  3.60%

2000     M Ruwart       Lib     Senate  1.16%
2000      R Nader       Grn  President  2.15%

(Note: There were no statewide Green candidates in 2004 or 2008.) Doesn’t look too promising. How about in the non-Presidential years?


Year    Candidate     Party       Race    Pct
=============================================
2014    M Bennett       Lib        CCA  3.61%
2014    M Salinas       Grn        RRC  2.03%

2010  J Armstrong       Lib     Sup Ct  4.04%
2010   A Browning       Grn        RRC  1.49%

2006      J Baker       Lib     Lt Gov  4.36%

2002  B Hernandez       Lib  Land Comm  4.12%
2002  O Jefferson       Grn        CCA  1.74%

(Note: There were no statewide Green candidates in 2006.) Not much better. Note that total turnout is a factor – Jack Armstrong (195K) received more votes than Judy Baker (188K) or Barbara Hernandez (180K), but he was running in a much higher turnout environment, so his percentage was lower. By the way, Mark Miller and Martina Salinas were both candidates for the RRC in 2014 as well; Miller received 3.15% of the vote, against R and D candidates who were much better qualified than the ones running this year. Make of that what you will. To get back to my original question, I’d say both Ls and Gs will be relying on their Presidential candidate for their best chance to crack the five percent mark. I’d give Gary Johnson a decent shot at it, but Jill Stein? I figure if Ralph Nader couldn’t get halfway there in 2000, Stein is unlikely to be the one. There’s always the petitions.

Endorsement watch: Stay the course

Harris County Democrats have one incumbent up for re-election: County Attorney Vince Ryan. The Chron gives their approval for another term.

Vince Ryan

Vince Ryan

[Ryan] said that he actively pursues pollution enforcement lawsuits against big companies – such as Volkswagen after it lied about emissions tests, or the corporations responsible for the San Jacinto waste pits. But in a state where legislators and regulators routinely erect barriers to citizens seeking justice from the industries that poison our water and pollute our air, Ryan’s headlines over matters of public concern look more like necessary leadership than disregard for cooperation.

That’s not to say Ryan hasn’t been an important team player with other law enforcement agencies across the county. He’s harnessed the power of the county attorney’s office to go after dangerous gangs, sex traffickers and Kush merchants. He also helped the county cut through the Gordian Knot of same-sex marriage by quickly and clearly instructing judges to follow the U.S. Supreme Court after it held bans to be unconstitutionally discriminatory, yet refrained from hounding individual county employees who preferred to pass onto their coworkers the historic duty of marrying same-sex couples.

Running for his third term, the former District C councilman and longtime assistant under former County Attorney Mike Driscoll brings a steady and experienced hand to an important position that has a vast spectrum of responsibilities, including advising county officials, preparing contracts, defending the county from lawsuits and protecting communities through civil action. He’s served the county well, and voters should keep him in office.

Other than some judges, Vince Ryan is the only Democrat elected countywide in 2008 to remain in office. Loren Jackson, who won a special election to fill the remaining term of District Clerk, lost in the 2010 sweep. HCDE At Large trustees Jim Henley, who resigned in 2014, and Debra Kerner, who lost in 2014, and Adrian Garcia, who stepped down as Sheriff to run for Mayor in 2015, followed. I feel pretty good about the Dems’ chances of adding to that roster this year, but it starts with Vince Ryan.

It’s not crazy to think that a downballot Democrat could win statewide this year

I’ll get to that headline in a minute. I’ve got some reading to sort through first. We’ll start with the most pessimistic, or perhaps the least blue-sky, story of how things are likely to go.

Arizona. Georgia. Utah. Indiana. Is Texas next?

Across the country in recent days, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has suffered polling collapses in a slew of traditionally conservative states. The deterioration raises the question: Is Trump such a catastrophic Republican standard-bearer that Democrats could actually poach their ultimate white whale, the Lone Star State?

No.

That’s the consensus of a raft of state and national Democratic insiders who discussed with the Tribune the possibility of Hillary Clinton winning Texas in November.

“I think that it could set off a little bit of a panic among Republicans, but you’re not going to see banners flying and people marching into Texas saying, ‘We’re gonna turn Texas blue,'” said Matt Angle, a Democratic operative with Texas roots.

[…]

So, what would an incremental victory look like for Texas Democrats on Election Day?

Party infrastructure was the mantra in several interviews. The aim is to excite dormant Texas Democratic voters into volunteering for the first time in a generation, even if it is out of distaste for Trump. Even now, Texas volunteers are phone banking to battleground state voters elsewhere in the country.

“We know it’s going to be a multi-cycle endeavor, but these numbers reinforce that we are making significant movement, particularly with Texas’ diverse new majority,” said Manny Garcia, the deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.

State Democrats are also cautiously hopeful they can make gains in the Legislature, and maybe lay the groundwork for a viable campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 when he is up for re-election.

Amid the cautious optimism, Democrats are willing to concede that anything is believable given the erratic nature of the Trump campaign.

Former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, an Arlington Democrat, echoed many Democratic insiders when he said he has heard no chatter about competing for Texas in the fall.

“This is a crazy election,” he said. “Anything can happen, but I still think Texas is a reach.”

A more optimistic take on where things stand.

The [PPP] poll shows Trump leading Clinton by a 44-to-38 percent margin, with his strongest support among senior-age Texans, especially men. Among that group, the New York business tycoon holds a 63-33 percent lead.

With voters under age 65, Clinton leads 49-35. For those under 45, she leads Trump 60-35.

Among nonwhite voters in Texas, Clinton has a 73-21 percent lead, according to the poll conducted by the Democrat-leaning polling firm Friday through Sunday of 944 likely voters; the poll has a margin of error of plus- or minus-3.2 percentage points.

That split, said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, who has studied how the changing generational demographics of voters affects elections, could be the most significant statistic from the poll and other recent surveys that have highlighted a similar trend in Texas.

“This election is an outlier because Trump in many ways transcends ideology and party,” Jones said. “The older the voters, the more likely they are to vote Republican. The younger the voters, the more likely they are to vote Democratic. And the Republicans’ base in Texas is growing older.”

[…]

Statewide, an estimated 14 million Texans are registered to vote, an increase of about 1 million voters over the last four years, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections. Whether those are new Republicans or Democrats or independents is unknown, and party affiliation is determined by which primary a voter casts his or her ballot.

Officials in fast-growing Williamson County, in staunchly conservative GOP territory just north of Austin, said their registration numbers are up significantly.

During the 2008 presidential race, Williamson County accounted for just more than 220,000 of the state’s registered voters. The most current figures put Williamson County’s voter total at 294,329.

In Fort Bend County, a fast-growing GOP suburban stronghold southwest of Houston, elections administrator John Oldham said registrations have grown by 25 percent since 2008. That has added nearly 100,000 new voters to the rolls in just under eight years, he said.

Oldham estimated that about half of recently registered have not had Anglo or Hispanic surnames. Many have last names traditionally associated with Asian, Middle Eastern and African heritages, he said.

“That’s where we’re seeing a lot of growth,” he said.

For Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, surburban areas like Fort Bend County are the places to watch in November.

“Republicans in Texas have dominated the suburban vote, and that’s been one reason for their success,” Rottinghaus said. “But in this election, Trump is doing poorly among these voters – the suburban women, college-educated voters who are younger. (Gov. Greg) Abbott and (U.S. Sen. Ted) Cruz still do well there, but crossover voting in the suburbs could cause a moment that might allow the Democrats to do better.

“That is how the Republicans got their foot in the door in congressional elections years ago,” he added.

And finally, an X factor to consider.

There are now 272 electoral votes in states that RCP rates as leaning toward Clinton, likely to go to her or solidly in her column. Another 112 come from states rated as tossups (plus Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, from which an elector is chosen independent of the statewide result). On Wednesday morning, Clinton had a lead in six of those eight states, including a statistically insignificant three-tenths-of-a-point edge in Deep South Georgia.

Furthermore, in talking to Democratic and Republican strategists in recent days, it has become clear that the polls could be significantly underestimating the Clinton margins that we’ll see on Election Day. Here’s why: Clinton has poured money into both television advertising and field organizing even in states where she has an outside chance of winning while Trump has been inactive.

Republican and Democratic experts in field organizing say that a tiptop organization can make a small but significant difference — maybe as many as four or five percentage points — in a particular state. That is, where Clinton’s building an operation and Trump isn’t, polls are likely underrepresentative of her strength.

In a chat last week on the social media platform Sidewire, former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn and GOP strategist Doug Heye lamented the absence of a Trump field operation on the ground in the battleground Hawkeye State.

“The boots have largely been outsourced to the RNC staff that’s been on [the] ground. They are hustling to staff up,” Strawn said. “And as everyone learned watching Hillary [and] Bernie battle during caucuses, if it comes down to mechanics versus message at the end … well, we know how that turned out.”

That last one isn’t about Texas at all, and it may be irrelevant to the discussion at hand, since Republican Presidential campaigns don’t bother investing in Texas for the same reason that Democratic ones don’t – there’s no reason to. But there is a correlation between the national level and the state level, and if there are concerns about Republican turnout nationally – and there are, and they go beyond worries about campaign infrastructure – then there are concerns about it here as well, if not necessarily as great.

Which leads me to a conclusion that I’ve seen only articulated once, briefly, in the Beatty memo, which is this: It’s not crazy to think that Texas Democrats could win a statewide race or two this November.

Note that I am not talking about the Presidential race. The Beatty memo suggests that the Railroad Commissioner’s race could go either way, as nobody knows who the candidates are. I’m thinking more about the races for Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals, for which the Dems have a full slate of candidates. The same argument about nobody knowing who the candidates are holds, but there’s also the numbers, for all of these races.

Look at it this way: A six-point Trump win in Texas, which is consistent with that PPP poll, translates to roughly a 400,000-vote margin for Trump. To pick some numbers out of the sky, a victory by Trump of 4,000,000 votes to 3,600,000 votes – a drop of about 12.5% for Trump from Mitt Romney’s 2012 total, with an increase of about nine percent for Hillary Clinton over President Obama in 2012 – would translate to 52.6% for Trump to 47.4% for Clinton in a two-person race. That’s a little less than six percent, but grant me that much optimism. (For the record, 4.1 million votes for Trump to 3.6 million for Clinton would be 53.2% to 46.8%, or a 6.4 point difference, so assume we’re somewhere in the middle if you want.) All disclaimers aside, I think we can all agree that as things stand today, a result like this is in the ballpark.

Now here’s the thing: There’s always some level of dropoff from the Presidential level to the downballot level. In the three most recent Presidential elections, there has been much more dropoff on the Republican side than on the Democratic side.


2004

Bush -  4,526,917
Kerry - 2,832,704

Candidate         Votes   Dropoff   Drop %
==========================================
Carrillo      3,891,482   635,435    14.0%
Brister       4,093,854   433,063     9.6%
Keasler       3,990,315   536,602    11.9%

Scarborough   2,872,717       N/A      N/A
Van Os        2,817,700    15,004     0.5%
Molina        2,906,720       N/A      N/A


2008

McCain - 4,479,328
Obama  - 3,528,633

Candidate         Votes   Dropoff   Drop %
==========================================
Williams      4,003,789   475,539    10.6%
Jefferson     4,092,181   387,147     8.6%
Wainwright    3,926,015   553,313    12.4%
Johnson       4,018,396   460,932    10.3%
Price         3,948,722   530,606    11.8%

Thompson      3,406,174   122,459     3.5%
Jordan        3,374,433   154,200     4.4%
Houston       3,525,141     3,492     0.0%
Yanez         3,428,179   100,454     2.8%
Strawn        3,482,718    45,915     1.3%


2012

Romney - 4,569,843
Obama  - 3,308,124

Candidate         Votes   Dropoff   Drop %
==========================================
Craddick      4,336,499    233,344    5.1%
Hecht         4,127,493    442,350    9.7%
Keller        4,257,024    312,819    6.8%

Henry         3,057,733    250,391    7.6%
Petty         3,219,948     88,176    2.7%
Hampton       3,163,825    144,299    4.4%

Republicans did better in 2012 than in 2008, to which I attribute greater enthusiasm on their part, which led to more straight-ticket and general downballot voting. They obviously had a lot of enthusiasm in 2004, but they also had some crossover votes at the Presidential level, as well as (I believe) a decent number of people who turned out just to vote for President. Dems, on the other hand, had less dropoff in every race except one, and in most cases the difference between R dropoff and D dropoff was large. I attribute that in one part to good messaging about straight-ticket voting, especially in 2008, and one part being that if you bothered to show up and vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate in Texas, you were probably pretty committed to the party as a whole.

I think this year combines the lack of enthusiasm on the Republican side that we saw in 2008, plus the possibility of people showing up to just vote for Trump and nobody else, like in 2004. Against that, some number of people who normally vote for Republican Presidential candidates will do something else in that race this year, then vote normally after that. Put it all together, and I think the likelihood of Republican dropoff in the 2004 and 2008 ranges is a reasonably likely outcome this year.

If that is the case, and if we are indeed headed for a Presidential race with roughly a six-point differential between Trump and Clinton, then the math is clear. Four million less ten percent is 3.6 million, or what I’m projecting Clinton to get. Sure, there will be some Democratic dropoff as well, but you could have 11 or 12 percent loss on the R side, with only one percent or so for a given D. That will vary from candidate to candidate for reasons none of us can predict or will understand, but that’s my whole point: Under these conditions, we’re basically at a coin toss for downballot statewide races. And if that happens, we could see one or more Democrats squeak past their opponents and win their races. Looking at the numbers for the two most recent elections above, Sam Houston and Susan Strawn would have won in this environment, with Mark Thompson, Linda Yanez, and Michelle Petty (2012) falling just short. All they needed was for the Presidential race to have been sufficiently close.

Now as always, this comes with a pile of caveats – the election is still three months away, this is based on one poll, even a seven or eight point lead for Trump would almost certainly render all this moot, there could be a whole lot of Johnson-plus-downballot-GOP voters, etc etc etc. I’m absolutely not saying this will happen, nor am I saying it is likely to happen. I am saying it is possible, and conditions could become better for it rather than worse. I wouldn’t have said this a month ago, and the next poll result may make me want to throw this whole post into the trash, but my original statement stands: As things look right now, it’s not crazy to consider the possibility that at least one downballot statewide Democrat could win this fall.

So now that we’ve had this thought, what are we going to do about it? I’ll address that in the next post.

Will Texas Republicans dislike Clinton as much as they dislike Obama?

Of course they will. I mean, come on.

Hillary Clinton

Texas Democrats will miss Obama. But so too will Texas Republicans.

Those three syllables — O-Bah-Mah — were all it took for Republicans to signal what they stood against.

“There was an element of vitriol against Barack Obama that just defies logic,” said Rodney Ellis, a Democrat who is poised to surrender his Houston state Senate seat after his expected election as Harris County commissioner in November.

“You hate to use the race card, but there was something different,” said Ellis, a Clinton delegate. “With an African-American, you hate to be the first, but there was a level of animosity by leaders in the Republican Party against Barack Obama and there was something about it that just went beyond politics.”

But last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland demonstrated that Hillary slips as easily off the tongue as Obama.

“I think it will be an easy transition,” said Republican political strategist Brendan Steinhauser, who managed U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s 2014 re-election campaign.

Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, said the most recent June poll suggests that Hillary Clinton will be just as unpopular with Texas Republicans as Obama.

I’m old enough to remember when Texas Republicans were openly rooting for Hillary Clinton to win the nomination in 2008 because of how much they wanted to run against her that year. They had no trouble adjusting to Obama as the nominee, and things haven’t changed much since then. See here and here for a bit of my thinking on this from that time. Reading stuff like this gives me whiplash and deja vu all at the same time.

One way to look at this question is to break it down into some smaller questions. To my mind, those questions are “Might Hillary Clinton do better among white voters?” and “Might Latino voters who had previously tended to vote Republican be sufficiently repulsed by Donald Trump to vote for Hillary Clinton, and perhaps also consider other Democrats downballot?” I suspect the answers to those questions are “Probably a little”, as there is national polling evidence to suggest that Trump is doing poorly among college-educated white voters and white women, though he’s doing better among non-college-educated whites, and “Probably for the first part, maybe but I’m dubious for the second part”. As always, more polling data would help us understand what if any effect there is.

Of greater interest to me is whether Hillary Clinton can do a better job turning out lower-propensity Democratic voters, especially in off years? I’m happy if she can flip some people from R to D, but that doesn’t mean much if it’s only for the Presidential race. I’d much rather she provide a boost to base Democratic turnout, which has been a big problem in recent elections. That remains to be seen. And if (fingers crossed) we get a boost in base turnout this November, we can finally begin to make progress on the problem of flat turnout in off-year elections. One step at a time, though. Either we get a step up this year, or we’re still stuck where we’ve been for too many cycles.

What it will take to win the District Court of Appeals benches

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that one place on the local ballot where Democrats could potentially gain some real ground is with the district Courts of Appeals. There are no competitive Congressional or State Senate races, the one competitive State House race in HD144 would be Democratic-favored in any Presidential year, and the countywide races have a greater dependency on the candidates themselves than any other contest. Republicans have done well in those races even as Democrats were winning district court benches, with the GOP successfully defending the offices of District Attorney and Tax Assessor in 2008 and 2012. The stakes are higher this year with the GOP hoping to keep the Sheriff’s office as well. Those races will get a lot of attention, with the outcomes less likely to be determined by partisan turnout levels.

The judicial races are where the candidates are mostly at the mercy of the blue/red mix. The wild card in those contests are for the 1st and 14th District Courts of Appeals, which encompass more than just Harris County. Jim Sharp broke through in 2008 to become the first (and so far only) Democrat in recent years to claim a spot on these benches, but several other races that year were fairly close, as each of the Democratic candidates carried Harris County. Republicans had a much easier time holding those positions in 2012, but the overall trend as well as the dynamic of this year’s Presidential contest suggests Dems may have a good shot at these. Let’s take a look at the numbers from the last two Presidential years and see if we can take a guess at what would need to happen for that to be the case.


2008

Race         Harris D  Harris R     Diff  Others D  Others R      Diff     Total
================================================================================
14th CJ       568,713   539,696  +29,017   199,332   258,576   -59,244   -30,227
1st Pl3       585,249   526,393  +58,856   209,510   250,194   -40,684   +18,172
1st Pl5       565,338   543,216  +22,122   198,502   259,452   -60,950   -38,828
14th Pl4      561,284   544,873  +16,411   194,751   261,775   -67,024   -50,613
14th Pl6      569,641   536,050  +33,591   198,463   257,779   -59,316   -25,815
14th Pl7      571,737   533,566  +38,173   198,849   257,265   -58,416   -20,245


2012

Race         Harris D  Harris R     Diff  Others D  Others R      Diff     Total
================================================================================
1st Pl2       567,793   572,351   -4,558   194,826   297,572  -102,746  -107,304
1st Pl6       565,699   572,594   -6,895   193,294   298,479  -105,185  -112,080
1st Pl7       565,258   572,326   -7,068   191,908   299,769  -107,861  -114,929
1st Pl8       560,865   575,397  -14,532   191,293   300,076  -108,783  -123,315
1st Pl9       567,466   570,529   -3,063   192,017   299,588  -107,571  -110,634
14th Pl3      580,356   557,224  +23,132   197,511   294,162   -96,551   -73,519
14th Pl4      555,639   580,450  -24,811   188,891   302,216  -113,325  -138,136
14th Pl5      557,972   578,436  -20,464   190,155   300,711  -110,556  -131,020
14th Pl8      575,206   562,417  +13,211   196,161   295,426   -99,265   -86,476

There are a couple of things going on here. The level of Democratic turnout in each year is roughly equivalent. The average dipped from 570,327 in 2008 to 566,250 in 2012, but that’a less than one percent. The Dem totals dropped a bit more in the other counties, falling from an average of 199,901 to 192,895, with the difference being exaggerated a bit by Jim Sharp’s showing in 2008. The bottom line remains that while the average Democratic candidate in these races received about 10,000 fewer votes in 2012, those totals didn’t affect the competitiveness of these races.

What did that were the Republican turnouts, which rose considerably in Harris and in the other counties, though for slightly different reasons. Republican voters in Harris County were far more likely to skip downballot races in 2008 than they were in 2012. It was the same way in 2004, with about ten percent of their Presidential voters disappearing for races like these, while Democratic voters were far more persistent about filling out their ballots. That pattern changed in 2012, with Rs and Ds about equally likely to fill the whole thing in. Some of that is no doubt the effect of straight-ticket voting, but there were still over 400,000 voters in Harris county who didn’t vote straight ticket in 2012. Maybe it was increased partisanship, maybe it was people absorbing the local message to vote all the way down, but whatever the case, it had an effect. As for the other counties, the increases are basically the result of population growth in Fort Bend, Galveston, and Brazoria Counties. Put the two together and you can see the effect.

Obviously, that makes winning these races this year a challenge, but I believe it can be done. Republicans have little to no prospect for growth in Harris County, and having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket is more likely to be a drag than an asset. Democrats need to put up a decent margin in Harris County, and they ought to be able to, but that won’t be enough. There needs to be some help in Fort Bend, Galveston, and Brazoria for there to be a fighting chance. I don’t know what is going on in those counties to try to boost turnout, though I know Fort Bend Democrats have been pretty active in recent years. I may be the only person in the state obsessing about these races as attainable targets for this year – these are low-visibility contests that have no immediate impact – but they represent an opportunity that we don’t often get, and it’s not like there are a bunch of legitimately exciting legislative or Congressional elections to focus on. The point I’ve been trying to make is that this is a good year to be thinking about other parts of the political bench, which includes county offices and judicial races. Remember, these appellate court positions come with six-year terms, so anyone who wins this year could if they chose run for a statewide bench in 2018 or 2020. There’s no downside to any of this, but we have to be aware of it first.

Mixed signals on voter registration

It’s mostly good news, but it could be better.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

While nonpartisan groups say funding is lagging to sign up Latinos to vote in the November election, voter registrations — likely fueled by Donald Trump’s salvos against people of Mexican heritage — are well ahead of 2012 along the Texas border and in the state’s largest counties.

Bexar County last week reported crossing the 1 million mark of registered voters for the first time, an additional 30,000 people this year and 80,000 more than in the 2012 presidential election.

“That’s the size of a small town we’ve registered this year,” Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said.

She attributed the expanding electorate to population growth and to an election season she termed “nonconventional.”

Harris County has posted an increase of 150,000 since 2012, thanks in part to the 1,200 to 1,500 newly naturalized citizens added each month to the voter rolls, Harris County Voter Registrar Mike Sullivan said.

[…]

Nonetheless, groups devoted to mobilizing Latinos contend that despite the many newly registered voters, they see complacence by donors and Democratic Party leaders.

“Don’t count on Donald Trump being the guy who’s going to get people out to vote in November,” said Ben Monterroso, executive director of California-based Mi Familia Vota.

Mi Familia, which has offices in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, has a goal of registering 95,000 people this year across the country. But the group is less than one-third of the way there and at least 10,000 behind the pace of four years ago.

At this point in 2012, the National Council of La Raza had significant operations in Florida, Colorado and Nevada and lesser programs in Texas and four other states.

Last week, the group was fully up and running only in Florida.

“We have one-fifth the funding we had back then even though Latinos are the talk of the town,” said Clarissa Martinez-de-Castro, the La Raza council’s deputy vice president.

Part of the problem, leaders say, involves planning delays due to the late-breaking race for the Democratic nomination. They say, too, that donor money that used to be spent on nonpartisan registration is landing in partisan political operations.

“A lot of it is flowing directly into PACs or focused on ads and mail,” Martinez-de-Castro said, “rather than the retail work and the elbow grease it takes to bring new voters into the equation.”

Harris County had just over 1.2 million registered voters in November of 2012, so that puts us north of 1.35 million, which is quite impressive. Considering that the 2012 total was barely higher than 2008’s, it’s even more so. As for Bexar County, their registered population actually declined by 11,000 voters from 2008 to 2012, so again, impressive. How much more could we have done if all of these groups that focus on voter registration had been properly funded? I couldn’t say. It would be nice to get all these efforts funded, and I expect that more attention will be focused on them now that the primary has finally been settled.

The again, some groups have done better in the resources department than others.

The goal for Latino Victory was spelled out in 2014: Elect Latinos to public office.

Two years later, the group shows signs of becoming a force in national politics, doubling its receipts and operating in campaigns around the country in a year when Latinos have high hopes for political success.

In mid-July, Latino Victory and allies plan to announce a major mobilization of Latino voters around the country to prepare for the November election.

“I think that the Latino Victory Project is poised to help create the national narrative about why it is important for Latinos and Latino families to have a stake in this election and how important it is for us to vote,” Muñoz said in an interview.

They seem to be more about turnout than voter registration, but it’s all part of the same package. In the end, what matters most is the result. Campos has more.

Our first general election poll of Texas

From the inbox:

In a poll released today and conducted June 13-14, 2016, Texas voters are specifically rejecting Donald Trump’s lies and the corruption of State GOP elected officials.

While Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 7 points (36.8 % – 29.7% ±3.1%) a deeper dive shows an overall unwillingness amongst Republican voters to pull the lever for a straight ticket. Republicans also make up the lions share of undecided.

998 responses were collected by live telephone calls from a random sample of Texas voters, balanced to the likely 2016 General Election turnout on June 13 and 14, 2016. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1%.  The poll was conducted by Leland Beatty, an Austin-based market research consultant with extensive experience polling Texas voters.

Below are the most important findings from today’s poll:

In Texas, Clinton Poised to Top Obama 2008 Vote; Gaining on Trump

Hillary Clinton is on track to top President Obama’s 2008 44% finish in Texas.  Obama’s performance in 2008 had a powerful down-ballot effect, pushing Democrats close to a majority in the Texas House of Representatives.

Trump will have significant difficulty adding to his 7 point lead (3.1% margin of error). Undecided voters were significantly concerned about their place in the economy and about the honesty and character of the candidates.

Undecided voters are also very fond of former President George W Bush.  Bush, together with most of his family, has declared he will not support Trump.

Economy and Corruption of Elected Officials Top Texan’s concerns; Immigration Barely Registers

By a 3 to 1 margin, Texas voters believe state government corruption is a real problem.Two-thirds of Trump supporters believe that corruption in Texas state government is a real problem.  Among the rest of Texas voters, 81% believe that state government corruption is a real problem, and 51% believe corruption is widespread throughout Texas government.

Because of continuing legal action and law enforcement investigations against incumbent Republican office holders, corruption concerns are certain to create a significant drag on the Republican ballot.

A quarter of undecided voters are most concerned about the economy, and the improving economy is likely to aid Clinton’s appeal to voters.

Only 7% of undecided voters (2% of the total vote) identified immigration as their primary issue. Trump and other Statewide Republicans are well outside of the mainstream on their immigration positions.

Trump Lies and Hush Money Scandals Bringing Down GOP Vote

Trump’s seemingly pathological problem with the truth is undercutting his potential among undecided voters.  1 out of 4 self-identified Republicans are, so far, refusing to support Trump. 80% of those feel favorably toward former President George W. Bush, and 40% expressed concern about the honesty of the candidates.  If Democrats successfully connect Trump’s truth troubles with voter’s concerns about corrupt state elected officials, a Democratic resurgence is almost guaranteed.  

The fact that many Republican elected officials have used taxpayer dollars to pay hush money to avoid personal lawsuits has the potential to cover the entire Republican ticket in perceived corruption.

Republican Straight Ticket Voters at Low Tide; Voters Suspicious of Statewide Leaders

Over half (52%) of self-identified Republicans say they may vote for candidates not on the Republican ballot. 27% of self-identified Republicans say they may not even vote Republican at the top of the ticket, because of their doubts about Trump.

Because so many self-identified Republicans have deep doubts about their own candidates, Republican straight ticket voting could fall in Texas to its lowest level since Republicans became the majority party—and that same doubt could bring a sooner than expected end to Republican dominance in Texas.

Crosstabs are here. As you know, I’ve been waiting for one of these to come along. Now that I have this one, here are a few thoughts:

– This poll is of registered voters, not “likely” voters. That’s fine, and I’d argue wholly appropriate at this time, but it’s a distinction to keep in mind when comparing polls.

– For comparison purposes and to keep my presentation consistent, here’s a table of the topline result:


Candidate    Pct
================
Trump      36.8%
Clinton    29.7%
Johnson     2.6%
DK/Else    31.0%

I’ll get to the undecideds in a bit. It’s interesting to me that in a year where the Libertarian ticket is being touted as a viable Trump alternative, and some people are speculating that they could reach the 15% national polling average needed to be invited to the televised debates, Gary Johnson landed at 2.6% here. To be fair, that’s considerably higher than the 1.11% he got in 2012, which in turn was the first time a Libertarian candidate finished with more than one percent of the vote in Texas. All of which to say, fifteen percent is a long way away. There was a followup question for the Johnson supporters asking what motivated their selection. Of the 26 total people who named Johnson as their choice, 11 said theirs was a protest vote, 10 said they were inspired by Libertarian principles, and five said they were unsure or didn’t know. Make of that what you will.

– It’s always possible that most if not all of the 31% of respondents who said they were undecided will simply not vote, though I think that’s less likely in a higher turnout election like Presidential year elections. Be that as it may, I like to filter out the undecideds when there are a lot of them and then recalculate the totals. If you do that, you get the following:


Candidate    Pct
================
Trump      53.3%
Clinton    43.0%
Johnson     3.8%

That puts Clinton within a hair of a single digit deficit, and puts her less than a point behind Obama’s 2008 performance, which was 43.7%. Not a bad start, all things considered.

– That said, most of the Undecideds are people who usually vote Republican and who rated George W. Bush the better President over Bill Clinton by a 2-1 margin. Trump therefore has more room to improve. In fact, if you assign the undecideds who preferred Bush’s presidency to Trump and those who preferred Bill Clinton’s to Hillary, you get


Candidate    Pct
================
Trump      56.7%
Clinton    40.5%
Johnson     2.8%

Which looks a lot like the 2012 Romney/Obama numbers. Point being, it really matters how undecided those voters are.

– Speaking of 2012, the closest Obama was to Romney in any poll was a PPP poll from April that had him down 50-43. No other poll had him higher than 41, which is within a point of where he wound up, or closer than down 11. One poll as we know doesn’t tell us much. We’ll see what the trends look like, to see if breaking 45% and/or finishing within ten points is feasible.

– The crosstabs that we have do not include demographic information other than gender, which was oddly skewed towards women (60% of respondents were female). That means I can’t tell you how white/black/Latino voters went, nor can I tell you anything about how people voted by age range. That also means we can’t make guesses about how increases in turnout level, which would almost certainly make the electorate younger and less white, might affect the result.

– A third of self-identified Republicans thought corruption in state government was “widespread”, a third thought it was “a problem, but not widespread”, and the rest were split between “not a problem” and undecided. More than half of Democrats and more than half of voters who did not identify as either R or D thought corruption in state government was “widespread”, with only five percent of Dems and ten percent of neithers thinking it’s not a problem. File that away for 2018.

I think that about covers it for now. According to this Chron story, the poll was commissioned by “a group of Texas House Democrats”. Wish I had more information about it, but that’s what I’ve got. I can’t wait to see what the next result looks like.

What should the goals for 2016 be for Texas Dems?

Given that carrying the state is highly unlikely, what else is there to aim for this year?

So will Democrats make a presidential play for Texas or not?

Presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton stoked the issue last month by saying she could win the Lone Star State. Texas Republicans responded with ridicule, pointing to their party’s longstanding dominance at the state level.

And on Tuesday, some key Democrats took a more measured approach.

“We’re not a battleground state,” said Garry Mauro, a former state land commissioner who’s a top leader in Clinton’s Texas campaign. “You won’t see the Democratic Party or Hillary Clinton spend a hundred million dollars in Texas.”

But, Mauro and others said, the bellicose talk of GOP nominee Donald Trump has presented Texas Democrats with opening – if they are willing to seize it.

“We’re going to have to do it ourselves,” interjected Jacob Limon, the Texas director for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

[…]

So does that include a real Democratic push this fall in Texas, where Democrats haven’t won statewide since 1994? Mauro insisted that Trump’s comments about minorities – and the state’s demographic mix – could make it difficult for him to carry Texas.

Crystal Perkins, the Texas Democratic Party’s executive director, didn’t disagree. But she also made sure to point to the future.

“We’re thinking about 2018 and 2020,” she said. “We have big priorities in Texas.”

I certainly agree with that last sentence, and the more we can tie Donald Trump to the state leadership, the better. Regardless of anything else, the main goal here should be to increase turnout over 2012, ideally over 2008. The conditions are right to bring a bunch of new voters to the polls, and then maybe – just maybe – a few of them will be persuaded to come out again in two years’ time. It’s nice to think, isn’t it? The first step needs to be taken before that can happen, and that’s voting this year. What’s a good number to set as a goal? I’ll let a Republican make a suggestion.

The last time a Democratic presidential candidate lost to a Republican by only single digits in Texas was the 1996 Bill Clinton-Bob Dole race, and Ross Perot that year got nearly 7 percent of the vote.

“It’s hard for me to see how Hillary breaks a 45 percent ceiling,” said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. “I would tend to respect Garry Mauro’s expert opinion about Texas a hell of a lot more than I would respect Hillary’s.”

Forty-five percent may sound daunting – you can count on your fingers the number of Dems who have reached that level since 2002 – but it’s not that far off. Obama got 43.68% in 2008, after all. To reach 45% would mean Hillary Clinton would need to collect 3.8 million votes if the total number of Republican and others remains the same – in other words, a 500,000 vote increase (15%) on 2012’s mark of 3.3 million. If Clinton can steal votes from Trump, or if he has the effect of depressing Republican turnout, then fewer votes are needed. Clinton would have to reach 3.6 million if total turnout remains at 8 million as it was 2012. That’s a 300,000 vote increase, or 9% higher than it was in 2012. I wouldn’t suggest that either of these targets will be easy to hit, but they’re hardly insurmountable.

The prize for this is twofold. One, an overall increase in turnout means an increase in places where it will swing elections, like Harris County, maybe Fort Bend County, CD23, the attainable competitive legislative districts, et cetera. Beyond that is the change of narrative that will come if Texas is not a double-digit win for the Rs as it has been and as they are confident it will continue to be. Even a nine-point gap will make people think “hey, that’s not THAT much”. If we want to get to the point where it does seem reasonable for a Presidential campaign to pump a few million bucks into the state, that’s the cover charge. Is this likely? It would be nice to know that there’s a plan in place with the strategy and resources to achieve it – I’ll say again, for whatever it’s worth, this was the original idea behind Battleground Texas – rather than just point to the Trump dumpster fire and hope it’s enough to move the needle. Is it doable? I certainly believe so. In the meantime, and until we finally get some polling for the state, let’s keep up the pressure on Trump’s local lackeys. In addition everything else, that’s fun.

Overview of the Harris County GOP Chair runoff

This is the Republican runoff I’m most interested in.

vote-button

Two years after wresting control of the Harris County Republican Party, Paul Simpson is facing an unexpected runoff challenge from political newcomer Rick Ramos in a race that again pits establishment fiscal conservatives against a group of socially minded GOP kingmakers.

Simpson finished second with 39 percent of the vote in March’s three-way primary, as Ramos and political novice Tex Christopher – neither of whom reported raising a penny – earned the remainder.

Caught off guard, several party activists and deep-pocketed donors have mobilized behind Simpson, as Ramos has leaned on the support of a trio of local power players: Steve Hotze, Gary Polland and Terry Lowry.

Both candidates painted the outcome of the low-profile race as crucial for the party’s future in Harris County, which recently swung majority-Democratic, according to Rice University’s Kinder Institute.

“We are a battleground county,” Simpson, a 61-year-old energy lawyer, said during a recent interview in his downtown office. “So, the only way we can keep Republican leadership in place is to be an effective party, and we weren’t for a long time.”

Ramos, a 45-year-old family lawyer, said the party needs to broaden its appeal among minority voters and get more involved in social policy fights.

“For the Republican Party to be able to go forward … we have to have more diversity. We have to be able to reach out to communities at large within our own county, and what worked 20 years ago, 30 years ago for the Republican Party is not going to work in the immediate future,” Ramos said. “I think we have to be more proactive, more innovative, and really give the party somewhat of a face-lift.”

The down-ballot race drew scarcely any attention amid the Super Tuesday hubbub, when about two-thirds of the Republican voters cast ballots for party chair.

Little appears to have changed ahead of the May 24 runoff, for which Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said he expects just 50,000 Republican voters to turn out.

I was going to cast aspersions on Stanart’s estimate of GOP runoff turnout, partly because he so comically mis-estimated March turnout and partly because as is the case on the Dem side there’s not really anything to drive runoff turnout, but there were 40,547 GOP primary runoff votes in 2008, when there was even less to push people to the polls, so given that 50K seems quite reasonable. (The 2012 runoffs, which were all about Cruz v. Dewhurst for Senate, are not a viable comparison.) I don’t have anything to add to this story, as I don’t know the combatants and have no stake in the outcome, but like many people I was caught off guard by the March result and have been waiting for a Chron story on the race. This one does answer some of my questions, and it offers the hint of continued GOP infighting after whoever gets elected, which is always nice to contemplate. Beyond that, I’ll leave it to those who will vote in this race to offer up their thoughts on it.

Still debating the Trump effect in Texas

This time with input from trained professionals.

Republicans say it’s just wishful thinking, but Democrats are hoping that Trump’s controversial comments will make some GOP voters stay home in protest and boost the number of Democrats going to the polls to vote against him if he becomes one of the presidential nominees. If that happens, it could help Democrats down the ballot.

“Democrats know they have no choice but to turn out and vote,” said Deborah Peoples, who heads the Tarrant County Democratic Party. “The more caustic and divisive that Trump’s message becomes — and he has insulted every group in America — the more it energizes people to turn out and do something.

“And if Republicans decide to stay home and Democrats decide not to stay home, it could be a good thing for us in Tarrant County.”

Either of those options could affect candidates farther down the ballot, from state representatives to constables, who already see fewer votes than candidates at the top of the ballot.

Local Republicans say they hope Democrats don’t get their hopes too high over the possibilities if Trump is the GOP presidential nominee.

“I think there will definitely be a Trump effect,” said Jennifer Hall, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party. “Trump affected almost every vote in the primary — people either came out to vote for him or against him.

“But we are hearing from a number of Democrats who say if Trump is our nominee, they will vote for him,” she said. “They say they like him better than Hillary [Clinton] or Bernie [Sanders].”

[…]

“County and city races may be hardest hit, along with judicial races,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, an associate professor of political science at the University of Houston. “Without a steady Republican turnout, the usual higher turnout in a presidential election will bring more Democrats and may cost the party some local seats.

“When given a reason, Democrats do turn out in big numbers, especially in presidential elections,” he said. “Trump’s bombastic political swagger may encourage less frequent Democrats to get to the polls and spike Democratic numbers around the area.”

Not only that, but GOP candidates in general might be tainted for some voters.

“The image of Republican candidates in down-ballot races would be tarnished in the eyes of some regular Republican voters due to their indirect association with Trump as their party’s presidential standard bearer,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

“Trump’s anti-Latino rhetoric would be utilized by Democrats to ramp up Latino turnout and to drive a wedge between Latinos and the Republican Party,” he said. “Since Latinos in Texas tend to lean Democratic, higher Latino turnout alone will benefit Democrats, let alone if formerly Republican leaning Latinos switch their support to Democratic candidates as a result of Trump’s candidacy.”

We’ve discussed this before, and I’ll say once again that the way to move away from pure speculation and into slightly better-informed speculation is to get some polling data. Downballot races are where any effects will be felt, but a macro view of the statewide mood will help us gauge what those effects might be. Harris County, with its knife-edge balance these last two Presidential years, could definitely look a lot different after November. As for Tarrant County, it’s been an amazingly accurate mirror of statewide Presidential results over the past few cycles:


Year  Tarrant R  Texas R  Tarrant D  Texas D
============================================
2012     57.12%   57.17%     41.43%   41.38%
2008     55.43%   55.45%     43.73%   43.68%
2004     62.39%   61.09%     37.01%   38.22%

It will be interesting to see if that holds again this year. Maybe someone can just do a poll of Tarrant Count as a proxy for the state as a whole. We don’t have statewide poll numbers yet, but as do know that Latinos are extra engaged this year, that they really hate Donald Trump, and thanks to shift in Latino preferences, Harris County is more Democratic than ever. I’ll have more on that latter link tomorrow, but in the meantime what we do know points in one direction. The question is how far in that direction it points.

When are we going to get a general election poll of Texas?

As goes Utah

According to a new Deseret News/KSL poll, if Donald Trump becomes the GOP nominee, the voters of Utah would opt for a Democratic candidate for the first time in over 50 years. Poll respondents said they would support either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders over Trump, though Clinton was only two points ahead of Trump in the poll, falling within the margin of error (as opposed to the 11 points Sanders has over Trump). As many as 16 percent of respondents said they would skip the election altogether if Trump was the nominee. The survey also indicated that either John Kasich or Ted Cruz would defeat the Democratic candidate if they were nominated.

It’s only one poll, but that didn’t prevent it from shocking Chris Karpowitz, the co-director of Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. Said Karpowitz to the News, “I know it is early and these things can change. But the fact that a Donald Trump matchup with either Clinton or Sanders is a competitive race is a canary in a coal mine for Republicans.”

Let me lay down a million qualifiers here: Just one poll. Way, way early. Lots of undecideds – indeed, Clinton’s lead is 38-36, and you can guess what most of the others would do if all else where equal. The poll was conducted around the same time that Trump was trashing Mormons in general and Mitt Romney in particular, which strikes me as a damn fine way to alienate a lot of Utahans. So yeah, stock up on the salt for this one.

But it still makes one wonder, just what the Trump effect may be in various red states. Utah is one of the few places that can out-Republican Texas, after all. I’ll cop to being an eternal optimist, but according to RG Ratcliffe on Facebook, former Texas GOP Chair Steve Munisteri said on CNN that if Trump is the nominee, Texas could be carried by the Democrats. I’ll need to see a few poll results before I let myself get too irrationally exuberant, but let’s play with a few numbers and see what we can game out.

In 2008, some 3.5 million Texans voted for Barack Obama; in 2012, it was 3.3 million. In 2008, 4.4 million voted GOP, and in 2012 it was over 4.5 million. It’s my opinion that the GOP Presidential vote is close to maxed out, so let’s say 4.6 million as a starting point, with 3.5 million as a starting point for the Dems. Perhaps between the newly minted citizens and other efforts, perhaps boosted by Julian Castro on the ticket, Dems van boost themselves to 3.8 or 3.9 million. Let’s be conservative and say 3.8 million.

The big question then becomes, how many Republicans refuse to vote for Trump, and what do they do instead? Sit it out, vote Libertarian or a third party candidate (who will not be Rick Perry) if one can get certified for the ballot by May 9 (good luck with that), or *gag* vote for Hillary? Either of the first two reduces the R total, while the latter also increases the D number. If 400,000 Republicans – about nine percent of their total – skip the race or go third party, and another 200,000 go for Hillary, that gets us to a tie in my scenario. Millennial voters would apparently be likely to flip from R to D if the R is Trump.

How unlikely is my red-to-blue scenario? Probably pretty unlikely. But not impossible! When we finally get some November polling, we’ll see where on the impossible-to-unlikely scale it is. I should note that however you slice it, some number of Republicans would have to sit it out entirely and not just skip the top of the ticket for this to have a coattail effect downballot. The main ingredient to the Democratic legislative success of 2006 was unusually low turnout among Republicans. We’re now moving from “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” to “are they two-stepping or polkaing” territory, so I’d better quit while I’m ahead. Bottom line is, I’d like to see some November polling, sooner rather than later. It may provide some good entertainment, if nothing else. Martin Longman, ThinkProgress, and Marc Campos, who is way more skeptical than I am of a Trump effect in Texas, have more.

Precinct analysis: 2016 Republican Presidential primary

How did things look on the Republican side, with its record-breaking (though not 2008 level) turnout?


Dist     Cruz   Trump   Rubio    Cruz%  Trump%  Rubio%
======================================================
126     9,206   5,012   3,604   46.45%  25.29%  18.18%
127    13,475   6,585   4,579   49.53%  24.20%  16.83%
128    10,789   5,618   2,166   54.41%  28.33%  10.92%
129    10,906   5,812   4,288   46.71%  24.89%  18.37%
130    16,313   7,227   4,674   53.40%  23.66%  15.30%
131     1,409     813     573   44.62%  25.74%  18.14%
132     8,936   4,403   2,931   50.17%  24.72%  16.46%
133    11,465   7,630   8,696   35.58%  23.68%  26.99%
134     8,702   6,534   9,195   29.84%  22.40%  31.53%
135     8,276   4,020   2,814   50.38%  24.47%  17.13%
137     1,679   1,394     945   37.01%  30.73%  20.83%
138     7,380   3,794   2,862   47.84%  24.59%  18.55%
139     2,981   1,464   1,096   48.28%  23.71%  17.75%
140     1,372     727     415   51.19%  27.13%  15.49%
141     1,061     610     263   50.40%  28.98%  12.49%
142     2,287   1,107     827   49.86%  24.13%  18.03%
143     1,974     966     608   51.76%  25.33%  15.94%
144     2,471   1,334     615   51.84%  27.98%  12.90%
145     2,601   1,333   1,023   47.98%  24.59%  18.87%
146     2,293   1,287   1,338   40.74%  22.87%  23.77%
147     2,039   1,406   1,659   34.39%  23.71%  27.98%
148     3,693   2,219   2,434   39.38%  23.66%  25.96%
149     3,422   2,053   1,524   43.97%  26.38%  19.58%
150    13,090   6,513   4,115   50.51%  25.13%  15.88%

As was the case with yesterday’s analysis, the percentages don’t sum to 100 because of the other candidates, whose numbers are now shown. There’s a lot more of them here, and their collective numbers are larger, but the top three took at least 80% of the vote in all districts, in many cases more than 90%. I briefly thought about including John Kasich’s numbers, but I quickly regained my senses.

The first thing that strikes me is how consistent Donald Trump’s numbers were. With the exception of HD137, he’s in a tight band between 22% and 29%, and even in 137 he’s only just above 30%. He did not win any districts, coming closest in HD134 where Ted Cruz had his weakest showing, but Marco Rubio did. Three cheers for the Establishment, I guess. Cruz won a majority in eight districts. That includes three of the five predominantly Latino districts, though how many Latinos actually voted in the GOP primary is not something I can answer from this data.

I don’t know that I have any deep insights here. 2012 and 2008 were such different years, with 2008 also having different district boundaries, that it’s hard to make meaningful comparisons. The main thing I think we should all take away is that when races are hot enough, more voting may take place on Election Day than one might normally expect. Hopefully, that will inform the decisions about what precinct locations and how many voting machines to have in the future.

Precinct analysis: 2016 Democratic Presidential primary

I love the smell of precinct data in the morning, don’t you? Here’s a breakdown of the Democratic Presidential primary vote for Harris County:


Dist   Bernie Hillary  Bernie%   Hill%
======================================
126     2,315   4,649   33.04%  66.35%
127     2,621   4,905   34.54%  64.64%
128     1,756   3,532   32.46%  65.30%
129     3,425   5,247   39.24%  60.12%
130     2,376   3,692   38.89%  60.44%
131     2,481  10,874   18.40%  80.65%
132     2,619   4,547   36.26%  62.95%
133     2,980   5,561   34.79%  64.92%
134     5,588  11,759   32.11%  67.57%
135     2,672   4,892   35.10%  64.27%
137     1,824   3,374   34.76%  64.30%
138     2,500   4,093   37.68%  61.70%
139     2,711  10,826   19.81%  79.12%
140     1,312   4,145   23.58%  74.50%
141     1,453   8,499   14.46%  84.57%
142     2,086   9,663   17.53%  81.20%
143     2,037   6,403   23.47%  73.78%
144     1,336   3,044   29.83%  67.96%
145     2,749   5,403   33.11%  65.07%
146     3,089  11,078   21.62%  77.52%
147     4,819  12,743   27.20%  71.91%
148     3,901   7,365   34.24%  64.64%
149     2,079   5,523   27.04%  71.84%
150     2,595   4,994   33.96%  65.36%

Percentages don’t add up to 100 because of the other candidates, whose totals I didn’t show. I’ve said before that races that aren’t close seldom offer interesting precinct data. That’s the case here, where Hillary Clinton took over 70% of the vote in Harris County. There was some variation – as has been the case around the country, Clinton dominated in the predominantly African-American districts, while Sanders’ six best districts were all Republican-held, and no coincidentally predominantly Anglo. Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot to say. Clinton lost the county in 2008, though she did do well in Anglo and Latino districts (apologies for the formatting on that one; I was still using Movable Type back then, and the code apparently didn’t port that well to WordPress). Different year, different result. I’ll look at the Republican Presidential primary tomorrow.

What’s next for Adrian Garcia?

We haven’t seen the last of him, I suspect.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

In less than a year, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has gone from being the top Democratic elected official in Harris County to an also-ran in back-to-back elections.

Garcia’s resounding primary loss to U.S. Rep. Gene Green on Tuesday leaves him politically precarious, having alienated several onetime allies by resigning the sheriff’s post last May to run for Houston mayor and later challenging an incumbent in a safe Democratic seat.

“When you take an oath, you run and take an oath to hold an office, it’s supposed to mean something,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, who backed Green. “And to leave in the middle and look like an opportunist and want to run for mayor, and then you don’t make that, and then you run against a congressman that most people felt was doing a very good job, a congressman that actually endorsed you for mayor … I think Adrian’s got real problems.”

Garcia’s campaign said he was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but he said at his election watch party Tuesday night the race was not personal and that he planned to rest before assessing future options.

“Will this be my last campaign? I doubt it,” he said to applause. “I lost two campaigns, but I jumped in always with the idea of doing more. I took a chance. My heart was in the right place.”

[…]

Many of the former sheriff’s attacks were biting. “Gene Green perpetuates the cradle to prison pipeline,” read a news release from late February. Another, from January, declared, “Gene Green protects polluters, not Pasadena.”

Facing limited financial resources, as well as opposition from many Democratic officeholders and area unions, however, Garcia was unable to outmaneuver Green, who outspent him $585,000 to $171,000 during the first six weeks of the year.

Those affiliated with Garcia’s campaign framed that financial shortfall as critical.

“We had a lot of factors working against us. We were in an extremely short two-month race against a 23-year incumbent who’d accumulated significant financial resources, and, yet, we made significant strides and held Congressman Green to 58 points,” Garcia campaign spokesman Sergio Cantu said in an email. “The message and the messenger were not the problems. We are proud of what we achieved, and we hope this opens the door to see change on the issues in this district.”

Several of the former sheriff’s supporters remained optimistic about Garcia’s political future.

“Will he run again? He might if it’s the right place for him to serve,” Garcia consultant Mustafa Tameez said. “That’s the nature of politics. You win some and you lose some. But he’s demonstrated his ability to raise money. He’s demonstrated his ability to get the votes.”

It’s true that after leaving the Sheriff’s office and having it handed to a Republican as well as running what were basically two contested Democratic primaries in the space of five months, Garcia has a few bridges to rebuild with past allies. But let’s not forget, he won five November elections before this, plus two contested primaries, so there’s no reason to believe he’s finished just because those last two elections did not go his way. There’s a very simple way for Garcia to get back into the good graces of his fellow Democrats, and that’s by working, vigorously and visibly, to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot this fall. Hold fundraisers, donate to candidates, attend as many campaign events for the party and for candidates as possible. Continue working on engaging with and boosting turnout in the Latino community. Keep talking about the issues that drove those two campaigns, and the good work that was done as Sheriff. Do those things, and I guarantee, bygones will be bygones.

Assuming we get to that point, then what office might Garcia reasonably seek in the near future? Before he resigned as Sheriff, when his Mayoral campaign was still in the rumor-has-it stage, I suggested Garcia stay in office, declare he wasn’t running for re-election in 2016, then at his first opportunity declare his candidacy for County Judge in 2018. He could still do that, but as we know there are some other people – Annise Parker, for one – who have expressed interest in that office as well. Now, there’s no reason why Garcia couldn’t declare for County Judge. No one is entitled to anything, and he’s be as strong a candidate as anyone we could put forth. But if we’re looking to maintain some harmony, if we’re trying to ensure that the reservoir of goodwill that he just finished refilling doesn’t get immediately drained, then we should at least consider a Plan B.

Which is why my suggestion is: County Commissioner, Precinct 2, the seat formerly held by Sen. Sylvia Garcia. It’s still a county office, which given Garcia’s tenure as Sheriff is a good fit, he’d be extremely likely to have a clear path to the nomination, and if we also have a strong candidate for County Judge it would put thoughts of having a Democratic majority on Commissioners Court in people’s heads, which is sure to get folks fired up. When I say this seat is a good fit for Garcia because of his time as Sheriff, I’m particularly thinking of all the crap he had to endure as Sheriff from the rest of the Court, which was generally hostile to him and got even more so after Jack Morman knocked off Sylvia Garcia in 2010. As a former Sheriff and a candidate for Commissioners Court, Garcia could turn a lot of the criticism they gave him back on them, in terms of budgeting, putting pressure on the criminal court judges to use Pretrial Services and set reasonable bail, and screaming from the rooftops in favor of Medicaid expansion and the much-needed boost for mental health funding and treatment it would bring. I can’t think of anyone better positioned to make these arguments in a Commissioners Court race, or anyone who could pose a bigger threat to a sitting Commissioner. We know Garcia can raise money, and the people who are grumbling about his Mayoral and Congressional races now would surely be willing to pitch in and help him in a race like this. If I had the power to do so, I would absolutely make this happen.

I don’t have that power, of course, I’m just another schmoe in the cheap seats making noise. But this is my scenario for Adrian Garcia, for whatever it’s worth. The path I’m highlighting is easy this year and a lot harder after that, but it’s all doable. What he chooses to do is up to him, but if he wants to know what I think, here it is.

2016 primary reactions and initial impressions

First, a couple of minor notes. Rep. Byron Cook ultimately pulled out a win in his nasty and high-profile primary. That’s good news for Speaker Joe Straus and the general forces of “government that isn’t like a three-year-old coming off a sugar high”. Rep. Wayne Smith was forced into a runoff but did not lose outright. Also forced into a runoff was Rep. Doug Miller in HD73 – I missed that one on Tuesday night – and on the Democratic side, Rep. Ron Reynolds in HD27. That one apparently happened after midnight; Reynolds will face Angelique Bartholomew in May.

With all 7,963 now having reported, Democratic primary turnout statewide was 1,433,827, with over 800,000 votes coming on Election Day. To put that into some perspective, since the only point of reference any news story I’ve seen lately seems to be the off-the-charts year of 2008, here’s was turnout was for every Democratic primary through 1992, which is as far back as the SOS archives go:


Year      Turnout
=================
2016    1,433,827
2014      554,014
2012      590,164
2010      680,548
2008    2,874,986
2006      508,602
2004      839,231
2002    1,003,388
2000      786,890
1998      654,154
1996      921,256
1994    1,036,907
1992    1,483,047

In other words, 2016 will have had the second highest turnout in any Democratic primary since 1992. Yes, I know, there are a lot more voters now than there were in 1992, but still. That’s not too shabby. Republican turnout with all precincts in was 2,832,234, so while it’s obviously a record-breaker for them, it falls short of the Dem number from 2008. So there.

One thing to touch on here is that in both primaries, well more than half the vote came on Election Day, which as a result meant that the final turnout projections were low. Over 1.6 million Republicans voted on E-Day, so in both primaries about 43% of the vote was early, and 57% came on Election Day. You may recall that the early/E-Day split was similar in 2008, whereas in 2012 the early vote was about 52% of the total. The two lessons I would draw from this are 1) Final turnout projections are always a guess that should always be taken with a healthy serving of salt, and 2) The more hotly contested and high-profile a race is, the more likely that people will wait till the last minute to decide. Someone with more resources than I have should take a closer look at the makeup of the early and late voters to see what percentage of each are the hardcore and the casual voters; my guess, based on a completely unscientific survey of my Facebook friends, is that more hardcore voters than you might think waited till Tuesday. There’s an opportunity here for someone with an enterprising spirit and some number-crunching skillz.

Also on the matter of turnout, 226,825 Democrats and 329,014 Republicans cast ballots in Harris County. 61.4% of all Democratic votes and 59.1% of all Republican votes were cast on Tuesday. See my previous paragraph for what that means to me.

On the matter of the Republican primaries for Court of Criminal Appeals, here’s what Grits had to say during early voting:

Statewide, I’ll be watching the Sid Harle/Sid Smith race on the Court of Criminal Appeals to see if Texas GOP voters have flat-out lost their minds, and the Keel-Oldner-Wheless race to see if Judge Wheless’ strategy of ignoring the establishment and seeking Tea Party, pro-life and generally conservative movement support is enough to win a primary in a low spending, low-profile race.

Well, of the four candidates running in the primary for Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 5, Steve Smith and Sid Harle came in third and fourth, respectively. A couple of guys named Scott Walker and Brent Webster will be in the runoff. As for Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2, Raymond Wheless came in second and will face Mary Lou Keel in the runoff, while Chris Oldner of Ken Paxton grand jury fame is on the outside looking in. I’ll leave it to Grits to tell me What It All Means.

There were a few races on the Dem side that had people shaking their heads or their fists, but there weren’t any truly bizarre results. For sure, there was nothing on the Dem side that compares to this:

The newly elected chair of the Republican Party in the county that includes the Texas Capitol spent most of election night tweeting about former Gov. Rick Perry’s sexual orientation and former President Bill Clinton’s penis, and insisting that members of the Bush family should be in jail.

He also found time to call Hillary Clinton an “angry bull dyke” and accuse his county vice chair of betraying the values of the Republican Party.

“The people have spoken,” Robert Morrow, who won the helm of the Travis County GOP with 54 percent of the vote, told The Texas Tribune. “My friends and neighbors and political supporters — they wanted Robert Morrow.”

Morrow’s election as Republican chair of the fifth-largest county in Texas left several members of the Travis County GOP, including vice chair Matt Mackowiak, apoplectic. Mackowiak, a Republican strategist, immediately announced over social media that he would do everything in his power to remove Morrow from office.

“We will explore every single option that exists, whether it be persuading him to resign, trying to force him to resign, constraining his power, removing his ability to spend money or resisting any attempt for him to access data or our social media account,” Mackowiak told the Tribune. “I’m treating this as a coup and as a hostile takeover.”

“Tell them they can go fuck themselves,” Morrow told the Tribune.

All righty then. Morrow, whose comedic stylings are collected here, was a regular inhabitant of the comment section at BurkaBlog, back when Paul Burka was still writing it. He was also Exhibit A for why one should never read the comments. I’d feel sorry for Travis County Republicans, but as the story notes Morrow is now Greg Abbott’s county party chair, and that’s just too hilarious for me to be empathetic about. Have fun with that, y’all, because there’s not much you can do to make him leave before his term expires. Trail Blazers has more.

I’ll start digging into the data tomorrow, when I hope all the precinct results will be in for the SOS website, and when I get a draft canvass from the Harris County Clerk. The Trib has a graphical view for the Presidential race if you can’t wait for me. Any other results or tidbits you want me to look at? Let me know. David Collins lists the races that will go to runoffs, and Harold Cook, Marc Campos, PDiddie, the Obserer, and the Current have more.

Final EV totals for the 2016 primaries

It all comes down to Tuesday now:


Year       Dem      GOP
=======================
2008   177,088   64,431
2012    37,887   78,081
2016    85,816  131,145

EarlyVoting

For your reference, the 2016 totals are here, and the 2012 totals are here, and the 2008 totals are here. You can still see the SOS archive for 2008, with the final Dem totals here and the Week Two Day Two GOP totals here. EV totals for the 15 biggest counties statewide through Thursday are here.

Hey, remember when I said ” I wouldn’t be surprised if 50,000 people vote today, 20K in the Dem primary and 30K for the GOP”? The actual last day totals were 20,362 Dems and 32,993 Reps. I’m a freaking genius. This keeps us on track for the same projections, which is to say about 165K Dems and 250K Republicans. Note that the actual early vote totals reported by the County Clerk on Tuesday night will be a bit higher than what we have here, as there are still several thousand mail ballots out. Some number of them will get returned by Tuesday. The only question at this point is what share of the vote has been cast and what is left to come, and how much the existing GOTV activities will affect that latter number. Have you voted yet?

Day 10 EV totals for 2016 primaries

One more day left to vote early. Vote tomorrow, or take your chances at a precinct location on Tuesday:


Year       Dem      GOP
=======================
2008   143,169   49,373
2012    30,538   63,817
2016    65,454   98,152

EarlyVoting

For your reference, the 2016 totals are here, and the 2012 totals are here, and the 2008 totals are here. You can still see the SOS archive for 2008, with the Week Two Day Four Dem totals here and the Week Two Day Two GOP totals here. EV totals for the 15 biggest counties statewide for the first seven days (i.e., through Wednesday) are here.

One more day to go for early voting, and history suggests it will be pretty heavy. I wouldn’t be surprised if 50,000 people vote today, 20K in the Dem primary and 30K for the GOP. Regardless, right now the Dems are up 114% from 2012, which projects to 163,937 overall. Republicans are up 54%, which would lead to 252,205. Gotta say, credit where it’s due, those numbers are awfully damn close to what Stan Stanart predicted earlier this week. His initial projection was lousy, but this one looks spot on. Of course, that’s based on an assumption of what the share of early voters will be. We’ll know soon enough.

Day 8 EV totals for 2016 primaries

Eight days down, three days to go:


Year       Dem      GOP
=======================
2008    98,980   35,332
2012    22,752   46,769
2016    45,389   66,135

EarlyVoting

For your reference, the 2016 totals are here, and the 2012 totals are here. I do now finally have a copy of the daily resuits from 2008, which you can see here, with thanks to Marc Campos for sending them. You can still see the SOS archive for 2008, with the Week Two Day Two Dem totals here and the Week Two Day Two GOP totals here. EV totals for the 15 biggest counties statewide for the first seven days (i.e., through Monday) are here.

So I think we all agree that turnout hasn’t quite been what we thought it would be. It’s been more balanced, with more Dem participation (though obviously not at 2008 levels) and more modest GOP numbers than originally expected, though yesterday was pretty good for the GOP. Here’s the Chron’s what’s-up-with-turnout-so-far story:

The heated presidential nominating contest has driven expectations of blockbuster GOP turnout across the Lone Star State, but early voting in Texas’ 10 largest counties shows that Democrats and Republicans have ventured to the polls in roughly comparable numbers.

More than 176,000 Republicans in those counties had cast an early or absentee ballot as of Sunday, compared with nearly 161,000 Democrats – a much narrower difference than in either 2012, when Republicans cast more ballots in the first six days of early voting, or 2008, when Democratic turnout dwarfed GOP numbers.

Those figures reflect a 71 percent increase in Republican participation from the first six days of early voting in 2008, the last open-seat presidential election year. Democratic turnout was cut in half.

Political scientists attributed the relatively small turnout gap between parties to a closer-than-expected race between Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, though they noted that Texas’ urban areas tend to be bluer than the rest of the state.

“For a long time, there was this suspicion that the Republicans were more fired up. They’ve been out of office for eight years. They’ve got a lot of candidates on their side. And on the Democratic side it looked like a coronation,” said Daron Shaw, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “While it’s nothing like 2008, the Democrats suddenly have a more interesting contest.”

[…]

Nearly 45,000 Harris County Republicans cast a ballot through Sunday, an 88 percent increase over 2008. Democratic turnout in the county topped 32,000, less than half of what it was in 2008.

Last week, Stanart, a Republican, said he expected half of Harris County’s votes to be cast early. He revised that down slightly on Monday, projecting a total Republican primary turnout of 265,000 and a Democratic turnout of 160,000, with 48 percent of the vote cast prior to Election Day.

Just as a reminder, here’s what Stanart said before any in-person ballots were cast.

All told, Stanart said he expected close to 400,000 people will cast primary ballots in the state’s largest county. Whereas Democrats dominated interest in 2008, Stanart predicted three-quarters of the turnout in Harris County will be on the Republican side, where native son Ted Cruz and New York billionaire Donald Trump are duking it out at the top of a shrinking list of GOP candidates.

That would mean Harris County Republicans made up 62.35% of total turnout. As of today, Republicans constitute 59.30% of turnout. We could still get there from here, but they’re going to have to pick up the pace.

Day 7 EV totals for 2016 primaries

Day One of Week Two is in the can:


Year       Dem      GOP
=======================
2008    81,843   28,773
2012    20,058   41,447
2016    38,547   55,228

EarlyVoting

For your reference, the 2016 totals are here, and the 2012 totals are here. I don’t have daily EVPA totals from the Harris County Clerk for 2008, so my reference for those numbers is the SOS archive for 2008, with the Day One Dem totals here and the Day One GOP totals here. EV totals for the 15 biggest counties statewide for the first six days (i.e., through Sunday) are here. I think I had under-calculated the values I reported yesterday – honestly, sometimes this gets a little confusing – but I double-checked the numbers for today, so all should be fine now.

So with the first week in – and the caveat that the first week was six days this year and 2008 but seven days in 2012 – I thought I’d take a look outside Harris County as well. Here are the first week totals – i.e., through Sunday – for the ten most populous counties, as per the Secretary of State’s early voting archives:


Democratic

County        2008      2012      2016
======================================
Harris      66,756    17,635    32,211
Dallas      49,485    11,577    25,293
Tarrant     35,144     6,825    17,033
Bexar       42,198    11,622    21,744
Travis      36,890     6,988    20,369
Collin      15,155     1,330     6,185
El Paso     23,794    14,563
Denton      11,180       763     5,145
Fort Bend   13,581     1,820     5,243
Hidalgo     25,564    23,579    21,662


Republican

County        2008      2012      2016
======================================
Harris      23,851    36,612    44,844
Dallas      13,770    13,813    26,135
Tarrant     14,416    18,477    30,918
Bexar       14,033    15,971    18,505
Travis       7,396     7,768     9,207
Collin       9,756    11,247    17,017
El Paso      4,406     3,108
Denton       6,348     8,892    16,234
Fort Bend    7,344    10,804     8,520
Hidalgo      1,494     2,063     2,899

The El Paso numbers for 2016 are weird – for each primary, all of two votes were recorded for Sunday, and even if assume a more normal total, things look decidedly under where you’d expect them to be. As such, I skipped them for 2016. Some of the variations are interesting, but without knowing the early voting tendencies and trends in these counties, I’m hesitant to draw any conclusions. Even for Harris County, remember that most of the vote came on Election Day for the primaries. At this point I’m mostly interested in seeing how much the daily totals tick up. Have you voted yet?

Day 6 EV totals for 2016 primaries

We are one (short) week in, with what should be the bigger week for turnout coming up:


Year       Dem      GOP
=======================
2008    66,756   23,851
2012    15,980   36,612
2016    32,233   44,844

EarlyVoting

For your reference, the 2016 totals are here, and the 2012 totals are here. I don’t have daily EVPA totals from the Harris County Clerk for 2008, so my reference for those numbers is the SOS archive for 2008, with the Day One Dem totals here and the Day One GOP totals here. Day One EV totals for the 15 biggest counties statewide for the first five days (i.e., through Saturday) are here.

One thing to note with the above totals is that for 2008 and 2016, there were six days of early voting through Sunday, as in both years the first Monday was Presidents Day and thus the polls were not open. In 2012, the primary was in May thanks to redistricting-related litigation, so the totals above reflect seven days’ worth of voting. This weekend was pretty brisk – Sunday in particular was up quite a bit from 2012 – with the Dems’ numbers ticking up more than the GOP’s. At this time, the Dems are running 101.7% ahead of 2012, which projects to 154,272 overall, while the Rs are up 22.5% from 2012, or a final tally of 200,875. That would mean Republicans constituted 56.6% of the primary total, and no I’m not going to stop harping on Stan Stanart’s increasingly dumb three-to-one prediction.

As for the week ahead, normally the second week, when polls are open a full twelve hours each day, is the heavier time for early voting. A number of people have expressed the view that some regular voters may have been waiting to see what happened in Nevada and South Carolina before deciding who to vote for. Other than the presumably small contingent of Jeb! fans, I’m not sure how much those results may have changed things, but who knows. Bear in mind also that as heavy as 2008 Democratic primary early voting was, nearly 60% of that vote came on Election Day. That was only in 2008, though – in 2012, more than half of the votes cast in both primaries were early. So take all projections of total turnout with a grain of salt.

Day Three EV totals for 2016 primaries

Three! Three days of early voting:


Year       Dem      GOP
=======================
2008    28,464   12,092
2012     9,871   21,635
2016    18,398   25,954

EarlyVoting

For your reference, the 2016 totals are here, and the 2012 totals are here. I don’t have daily EVPA totals from the Harris County Clerk for 2008, so my reference for those numbers is the SOS archive for 2008, with the Day One Dem totals here and the Day One GOP totals here. Day One EV totals for the 15 biggest counties statewide are here.

Not a whole lot to say today, as I’m a bit pressed for time. Democrats have 41.5% of the total share of the early Harris County vote so far. They’re down 35% from 2008 but up 86% from 2012, while Republicans are up 114% from 2008 and up 20% from 2012. Up 20% from 2012 final totals would be 196,776, not too shabby but not exactly doors-blown-off. For Dems, up 86% from 2012 is 142,264, which I’d consider kind of meh. It’s early days, and I do think we’ll see heavier action next week. But so far, I’d say the structural integrity of Harris County’s doors remains sound.

Day Two EV totals for 2016 primaries

Here you go:


Year       Dem      GOP
=======================
2008    19,578    8,654
2012     8,135   17,846
2016    14,001   19,376

EarlyVoting

For your reference, the 2016 totals are here, and the 2012 totals are here. I don’t have daily EVPA totals from the Harris County Clerk for 2008, so my reference for those numbers is the SOS archive for 2008, with the Day One Dem totals here and the Day One GOP totals here. Day One EV totals for the 15 biggest counties statewide are here.

I haven’t broken this down by mail versus in person voting in the table, but for the record the Democrats have returned 7,191 mail ballots out of 18,251 that have been sent out, while the Republicans have sent back 9,755 of 28,814. Friday is the last day to request a mail ballot. They’re not going to be a huge part of the final early total, so I’m not too focused on them. For what it’s worth, Republicans have requested 61.2% of the mail ballots, while their share of the mail ballots returned is 57.6%. Not sure how we get to that three to one turnout ratio that Stan Stanart predicted, but it is still early days.

A couple of Day One early voting stories so far. First, from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Tarrant County Republicans shattered their turnout records Tuesday as early voting kicked off for the March 1 presidential primaries in Texas.

By mid-afternoon, more local Republican ballots had been cast than through the end of the first day of early voting in the past four presidential primaries.

“It’s exciting,” said Frank Phillips, Tarrant County elections administrator. “Look at the primaries that have proceeded us — Iowa and New Hampshire. Turnout was large there too.

“I don’t know why we would be any different,” he said. “And this is Day One. It usually climbs all week.”

By the end of the day in Tarrant County, Republicans cast 4,617 ballots in person and Democrats cast 2,922 ballots in person, local election records show.

[…]

In the 2004 primary in Tarrant County, 332 Republicans and 472 Democrats turned out on the first day of early voting, state records show.

Then Texas, a large state that generally has a small voice in the battle for the White House, drew nationwide attention for Democratic turnout in 2008.

That year, local Democrats weighing in on the primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton broke turnout records.

On the first day of voting that year, 5,732 local Democrats voted, compared with 2,606 local Republicans.

In the next presidential election, numbers went down on the first day of voting: 2,147 Republicans and 798 Democrats in Tarrant County cast ballots that day, records show.

Not much to see here. Dems are above 2012 but below 2008, which is what you’d expect. Republicans, who have a couple of hot legislative primaries to go with the top of the ticket, have the lion’s share of the vote total.

And over in Dallas:

In total, 5,588 people have voted in Dallas County, 2,828 Democrats and 2,760 Republicans.

“That’s really good,” said Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole. “Most of the activity is being driven by the presidential election.”

Dallas Dems cast 9,834 first day early votes in 2008, while Republicans contributed 2,912. In 2012, those numbers were 2,555 D and 3,411 R. Interesting that 2012 was hotter on the R side than 2016, at least right off.

The Chron takes a broader view:

Republican primary turnout on day one of early voting nearly doubled from 2008 in Texas’ 10 largest counties, likely reflecting elevated interest in the heated contest for the Republican presidential nomination.

Data compiled by the Texas Secretary of State shows that 41,508 Republican voters cast an early or absentee ballot in the state’s 10 largest counties as of Tuesday, up from 21,130 on the first day of early voting in 2008.

Participation increased just 13 percent from Texas’ Mary 2012 Republican primary, however, when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was leading the Republican field by a wide margin.

[…]

Democratic turnout in the state’s 10 largest counties, meanwhile, dropped 30 percent from 2008, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s hotly-contested primary drove turnout in Texas to record highs.

If you look at the included chart, it appears that Day One Dem turnout is roughly double what it was in 2012. Not sure why that wasn’t noted in the story, but whatever. I’ll keep an eye on the other counties as we go forward as well. Have you voted yet?