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Hidalgo County

The people who would have been denied the opportunity to vote in 2016

There were a lot of them.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

At least 16,400 Texans who voted in the November election wouldn’t have been able to cast ballots if the state’s voter identification law had been in full effect, state voting records show.

[…]

Through a public records request to the Texas secretary of state’s office, the American-Statesman obtained copies of the more than 16,400 Reasonable Impediment Declarations signed by Texans in the November election. More than 2,300 of the forms, legal affidavits punishable with a perjury charge if found to be false, were signed by Travis County voters.

The voters who signed the affidavits were concentrated in urban areas, with six counties alone — Harris, Travis, Dallas, Collin, Tarrant and Hidalgo — accounting for more than half of them.

Those voters arrived to the polls without one of the seven forms of ID, but were able to vote after signing the form and providing a voter registration certificate, birth certificate, utility bill, bank statement, government check or any other government document that included the registered voter’s name and address.

To sign the forms, all of those voters would’ve had to have been registered to vote and to produce documentation proving who they were.

[…]

Former Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, an appointee of Gov. Greg Abbott who stepped down after overseeing the November election, said the potential of 16,400 voters being turned away was less worrisome in light of the fact that about 9 million Texans voted.

“When you put it in perspective, to me it’s not a large number,” said Cascos, a Republican.

Asked if that meant those voters would have been disenfranchised, Cascos said, “I would agree. That is a way to look at it.”

And, he observed, the number of potentially disenfranchised voters “might not be important for a presidential race or a statewide race, but it very well might matter for local votes, where there can be really small margins.”

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure every qualified Texan who can vote should be allowed to vote,” he said, “(16,000) people wanted to vote and got to vote, so that’s great.”

Cascos is right – sixteen thousand out of nine million isn’t that much. He’s also right that every single one of them would have been disenfranchised had they been turned away, and for no valid purpose. That sixteen thousand just represents the people who tried to vote. We don’t know how many others didn’t bother to show up because they didn’t know that they could have voted – it’s not like the state’s “outreach” was terribly effective. And those sixteen thousand voters who would have been disenfranchised, plus those however many who actually were in this one election, are way way way more than the total number who have ever been credibly accused of any form of vote fraud. As long as we’re putting things in perspective, let’s keep that in mind as well.

Statewide review: 2016 was like 2008, but not in a good way

vote-button

There’s no point in beating around the bush, so I’ll just come out and say it: Despite the excitement about increases in voter registration and heavy early voting turnout. statewide Democratic candidates outside of Hillary Clinton generally did not do any better than their counterparts in 2008. Republican statewide candidates, on the other hand, were generally setting new high-water marks for vote totals. Every statewide Republican other than Wayne Christian topped Donald Trump’s 4,681,590 votes, with all of them but one besting it by at least 100,000. Meanwhile, only Dori Contreras Garza’s 3,598,852 votes exceeded President Obama’s 2008 tally. Overall turnout was up in Texas (in absolute numbers, though not in percentage), but while Dem turnout was better than 2012, it didn’t hit any new heights. I fear we may be at a plateau, as we have been in the off years since 2002.

Why am I not more encouraged by Hillary Clinton’s 3.8 million-plus total? Because I estimate at least 100,000 of her votes came from people who supported Republicans in other races, and because the dropoff from her total to downballot candidates was enough to show no visible growth. For these purposes, I’m using judicial races as my metric, as I believe it is a better proxy for partisan intent. I used as a baseline for comparison between 2012 and 2016 two Court of Criminal Appeals races – the 2012 Sharon Keller/Keith Hampton race, and the 2016 Mike Keasler/Robert Burns race. I believe these contests are low enough profile to draw a relatively small number of crossovers, and in this particular case they were the only such races each year to have just a Libertarian candidate in addition, thus allowing for a more apples-to-apples comparison. I put all the county totals into a spreadsheet and then calculated the difference between the two. From a Democratic perspective, there’s good news, so-so news, and bad news.

I’ll get to the news in a second. You can see the spreadsheet here. I’ve put a list of the 62 counties in which Democrats gained votes from 2012 to 2016 beneath the fold. Take a look and then come back, and we’ll talk about what I think this means.

Ready? Democrats really killed it in the big urban counties. Harris, Bexar, Travis, El Paso, and Dallas combined for nearly 240,000 more Democratic votes in 2016, compared to 83,000 for the Republicans, a net of over 150K. Dems took such a big step forward in Harris County that HD144 might not really be a swing district any more, while HDs 132, 135, and 138 are now in the picture as pickup opportunities, with HD126 a little farther out on the horizon. I’ll have more to say about Harris County beginning tomorrow, but I feel like maybe, just maybe, we’ve finally turned a corner. I know that the off-year turnout issue is a problem until we can demonstrate that it’s not, but I believe it’s getting hard to dispute the assertion that there are just more Democrats in Harris County than there are Republicans. I also believe that national conditions will be different in 2018 than they were in 2010 and 2014. Doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be better, but they will be different, and when you’ve consistently been on the short end of the stick, having conditions change – even if you don’t know how they will change – is a risk you ought to be willing to take.

Democrats also showed a nice gain in the big Latino counties (Hidalgo, Cameron, and Webb), while netting over 9,000 votes in Fort Bend. I’ll be looking at Fort Bend data later as well, and while this wasn’t enough to push any non-Hillary Dems over the top there, it’s a step in the right direction.

The so-so news is that Dems more or less held steady in most of the big suburban counties, by which I mean they mostly lost a little ground but not that much. Other than Fort Bend, Dems posted a solid gain in Hays County and barely gained more votes in Brazoria County than the GOP did. They had modest net losses in counties like Tarrant, Collin, Denton, and Williamson, such that one might feel we are at or near an inflection point in those counties. In math terms, the second derivative is approaching zero. This is a genteel way of saying that we’re falling behind at a slower pace. Better than falling behind in huge chunks, but still not good news.

The bad news is that in several other suburban counties, and basically all the non-Latino rural ones, Democrats got crushed. Montgomery County continues to be a sucking chest wound, with 21,087 more Republican votes and 8,432 more Dems. Comal County is Montgomery’s little brother, with continued steady growth and a deep red tint that shows no signs of abating. And if you’re old enough to remember when Galveston County was reliably Democratic, well, the score here is 10,335 more votes for the GOP, and 1,521 more for the Dems. So, yeah.

It’s the rural counties where things really become dreary. I said the Dems gained votes over 2012 in 62 counties. That means they lost votes in 192 others. Now, most of these are small counties, and the losses themselves were small in most of them; the average loss was 323 votes. But Republicans gained an average of over 700 votes in each of those counties, and as they say after awhile it adds up. Plus, some of these counties are now more exurban than rural, and like the suburbs are seeing steady growth. Two examples for you are Johnson County, northwest of Travis and home of Cleburne, and Parker County, west of Tarrant where Weatherford is. Those counties saw a combined voter registration increase of about 20,000. Of that, 17,201 were Republican and 449 were Democratic. That right there is enough to negate the Democratic net gain in Dallas County.

The single most eye-catching item in here is Polk County, up US59 between Houston and Lufkin; Livingston is the county seat. Unlike Johnson and Parker, it has about the same number of voters as it did four years ago. The difference is that in 2012 fewer than half of registered voters bothered, while this year nearly everyone did. Turnout in the Presidential race in Polk County was an mind-boggling 89.48%, and nearly the entire increase came from Republicans. In this CCA comparison, Mike Keasler got 12,183 more votes than Sharon Keller did, while Robert Burns improved on Keith Hampton by only 1,845 votes. All this with only 38,530 total registered voters. OMG, to say the least.

So what should we be doing about this? Well, we should keep doing what we’re doing in the urban counties, because it definitely bore fruit this year. I’d like to think we’re starting to maybe get a little traction in the suburbs, at least some of them, but it’s going to take a lot more resources and an effort that doesn’t just gear up at campaign time to really get that going. Mostly, we need to have a way to make sure we’re being heard in these places, because I don’t think we are, not outside of the faithful who are there. If I were a fabulously wealthy person who wanted to move the needle outside the urban counties, I’d throw a bunch of money at the Texas Organizing Project and ask them to figure out (and execute) a way to do for these suburbs and exurbs what they’ve been doing in Pasadena. It’s slow and methodical and just one piece of the puzzle, but we have got to start somewhere.

Data on the counties where Dem turnout grew is beneath the fold. More to come over the next week or so.

(more…)

State settles birth certificate lawsuit

Good.

After undergoing mediation, the state of Texas has reached an agreement with undocumented families in a lawsuit over its denial to issue birth certificates to children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants.

The state will clarify and expand the types of secondary forms undocumented immigrants can use to prove their identity, according to attorneys representing the group of undocumented parents and their U.S-born children who filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Previously, immigrants in Texas could request birth certificates for their children if they had two secondary forms of ID, including Mexican voter registration cards and foreign IDs with a photo.

In the agreement, the state said it would accept voter ID cards received by undocumented immigrants in Texas by mail under recent changes to Mexican law, the attorneys said. Until earlier this year, the Mexican voter registration cards could only be obtained in Mexico.

The state also agreed to accept certain documents Central American parents can obtain from their consulates in the U.S. as secondary forms of ID if they are signed and stamped by consular officials. Under the agreement, the list of acceptable secondary documents was also expanded to include other supporting documents, such as copies of utility bills, paycheck stubs and letters relating to public assistance benefits, according to the families’ lawyers.

“We feel confident that undocumented parents with children born here will be able to access their children’s birth certificates,” said Marinda van Dalen, a staff attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.

See here and here for the background. The plaintiffs’ argument was that the state had no basis for changing its rules for what ID it would and would not accept, and the state’s defense to that argument didn’t resonate with the judge, so given all that a settlement seems like the best outcome all around. With the exception of the immigration executive order lawsuit, it hasn’t exactly been a great month in the courts for the state of Texas, has it? A statement from the Senate Hispanic Caucus is here, and the NYT and the Observer have more.

Dolly Elizondo to run for CD15

This bears watching.

Dolly Elizondo

Dolly Elizondo, a Texas Realtor and local Democratic activist, said Thursday she will run in the state’s 15th District, a campaign that, if successful, could make her the first Latina to represent the Lone Star State in Congress.

Elizondo joined a growing intra-party fight for the seat, rated Safe Democrat by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call, which is being vacated by Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, for the first time in two decades.

“I am a firm believer that ordinary people such as myself need to participate in government. While we have struggled, have had to work hard and fight for resources, we’ve been able to overcome those obstacles and succeed,” she said in a statement. “Now it is our responsibility to get involved and advocate for others.”

Elizondo’s announcement came less than two weeks before the Dec. 14 filing deadline. Already, two other Democrats – lawyers Vicente Gonzalez and Juan Palcios Jr. – have begun their campaigns for the March 1 primary. No Republican has entered the race.

Elizondo’s website is here. That last bit in the story is not true – there are at least two Republicans running, according to The Monitor, which previewed Elizondo’s announcement; the stories that accompanied Rep. Hinojosa’s retirement announcement also noted Republican opposition. And Elizondo isn’t just a “local Democratic activist”, she’s the former Hidaldo County Democratic Party chair. This is what you get from a DC-based publication. Anyway, Elizondo will try to do what other Latina candidates have not been able to. She has drawn some interest from Emily’s List, which ought to help her in the primary if they throw in. I wouldn’t necessarily call CD15 “safe”, though in a Presidential year it should be pretty favorable to Democrats. It would still be best to have a strong candidate running. Elizondo has been on the radar for several years now. It would be way cool if she were to be that candidate.

Oral arguments in birth certificate lawsuit

Here we go.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman heard oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by a group of undocumented parents and their U.S.-citizen children against the state Department of State Health Services, which has effectively blocked the children from obtaining birth certificates.

The families allege that the department has violated the children’s constitutional rights by ordering local county registrars to stop recognizing Mexican consular IDs — known as a matrícula consular — and foreign passports without valid visas, as proof of identification that the parents may use to obtain the vital records. The state argues the documents are susceptible to fraud.

“Is this a solution in search of a problem?” Pitman asked assistant attorney general Thomas Albright, representing the agency, health Commissioner Kirk Cole and State Registrar Geraldine Harris. “What makes this burden necessary?”

Pitman’s remarks came after he told the state’s attorneys he would not allow them to debate the importance of birth certificates, a document he said was “the primary evidence of U.S. citizenship.”

The hearing came after the families asked for an emergency injunction ordering the health department to identify two acceptable forms of identification parents can use to obtain birth certificates.

Attorney Jennifer Harbury, representing the families, reiterated her belief that Texas changed its policies without warning in reaction to the national debate over illegal immigration that reached a fever pitch in 2011. After that, she said, Texas became the only state in the country to prevent undocumented immigrants from getting birth certificates.

But Albright said the families haven’t proven their case enough for Pitman to grant the emergency order, and instead said the issue should play out through a regular trial.

“There is no burden on us to say ‘We’re great. Our rule is perfect,’” he told Pitman. “Today is just one step in what is a longer process. I don’t think they’ve argued the proof that you need.”

Albright also focused on the Mexican matrícula, conceding it has been made more secure and tamper proof but saying it is still susceptible to fraud.

Harbury said the families would be amenable to a ruling that excluded that document from a list of approved items. Her argument, she said, is that nothing else is currently acceptable.

“Forty-nine other states accept another form [of ID],” she said.

Though he seemed to question more than one of the state’s claims, Pitman also appeared hesitant to make a decision without more information. It’s unclear when he will rule.

See here, here, here, and here for the background. If you get the impression that the state didn’t have the strongest argument for its defense, you wouldn’t be alone.

Judge Robert Pittman did not offer many clues about his feelings on the case during the three-hour hearing, but he did grill Albright about the extent of birth certificate fraud, asking several times whether the new state policy was a “solution in search of a problem.”

“If you’re asking if there’s some statistical analysis … I don’t have that,” Albright conceded.

He was quick to add, however: “That’s not my burden.”

Still, the judge did not grant the emergency order, and it is not clear when he will rule. So until then, things will continue to be as they were. The Observer has more.

More on the state’s refusal to issue birth certificates

The Observer follows up.

Two legislators have weighed in on the controversy over Texas’ refusal to grant birth certificates to some children of undocumented families. On Wednesday, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, sent a letter to Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Kirk Cole, referencing an Observer story published online Monday. He wrote that he was “alarmed” by the article as well as “a lawsuit that surfaced this week” over the agency’s refusal to issue birth certificates to people born in the United States.

At least 17 families have joined the lawsuit filed last month by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid attorney Jennifer Harbury and Texas Civil Rights Project attorney Jim Harrington.

In his letter to Cole, Hinojosa noted that 13 of the 17 plaintiffs are residents of Hidalgo County, in his Senate district. “By denying these birth certificates, DSHS is denying these children their U.S. citizenship. These children were born in the United States, are United States citizens, and are entitled to receive their own birth certificates.”

State Rep. Ramon Romero, Jr., D-Fort Worth, also sent a letter to Cole. “Any person born in Texas deserves all documentation and privileges concomitant with being both a United States and Texas citizen,” he wrote. “The U.S. Constitution speaks directly to the issue of birthright citizenship. It makes clear that birthright citizenship is a matter of constitutional right.”

Harbury says she’s grateful the legislators are weighing in on the matter. At the crux of the lawsuit is the state’s sudden decision not to honor the matricula consular, which is an official photo ID issued by Mexican consulates to Mexican nationals living in the U.S. In the past, Texas has deemed the matricula consular an acceptable form of ID.

In his letter to Cole, Hinojosa noted that the state’s “new policy” has never been “stated or even publicly proposed.”

See here for the background. What’s interesting is that while the Observer story from this week appears to be the catalyst for this issue getting wide attention, the lawsuit was filed in May. That happened as the Legislature was winding down and the state was getting walloped by floods, so perhaps it’s understandable that it went under the radar. Be that as it may, people are paying attention now. The DSHS claim that this has been their policy since 2008 seems awfully weak, and the evidence we have points to this being spurred on by the influx of Central American kids several months ago. Whatever the case, it’s clearly unconstitutional. The state is filing its response next week. I hope whoever the judge is will act quickly. Daily Kos, Hair Balls, and the Latin Post have more.

Lawsuit filed over state refusal to issue birth certificates

I’m sure this won’t be contentious at all.

For nearly 150 years, the United States, under the 14th Amendment, has recognized people born here as citizens, regardless of whether their parents were citizens.

But Texas has other plans. In the last year, the state has refused to issue birth certificates to children who were born in Texas to undocumented parents. In May, four women filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services alleging constitutional discrimination and interference in the federal government’s authority over immigration.

Jennifer Harbury, a lawyer with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, who is representing the women, said the deluge of birth certificate refusals began last winter. “I’ve never seen such a large number of women with this problem,” she says. “In the past someone might be turned away, but it was always resolved. This is something altogether new.”

According to the lawsuit, the women who requested birth certificates for their children at the state’s vital statistics offices in Cameron and Hidalgo counties were turned away because of insufficient proof of their identities. State law allows the use of a foreign ID if the mother lacks a Texas driver’s license or a U.S. passport.

But employees at the offices, which are run by the Texas Department of State Health Services, told the women they would no longer accept either the matricula consular, which is a photo ID issued by the Mexican Consulate to Mexican nationals living in the U.S., or a foreign passport without a current U.S. visa. Undocumented Central American women are also being turned away because they only have a passport without a U.S. visa. “They are locking out a huge chunk of the undocumented immigrant community,” says Harbury.

[…]

James Harrington, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, is also representing the undocumented families. The legal team is seeking a court order to reinstate the use of the matricula consular and foreign passports as valid proof of identity for undocumented mothers.

“Even in the darkest hours of Texas’ history of discrimination, officials never denied birth certificates to Hispanic children of immigrants,” said Harrington in a written statement. “Everyone born in the United States is entitled to the full rights of citizenship.”

Here’s the Express-News story from May that the Observer post references; it has some more detail so read it as well. Just as a reminder, the 14th Amendment grants birthright citizenship, so I have no idea on what ground the Department of State Health Services thinks it has to stand. Here’s a bit from a press release from MALC that expands on that:

Recently, several parents were denied birth certificates for their U.S. born children by employees at offices administered by the Department of State Health Services, after administrators declined to accept their foreign government forms of identification. This is a major departure from prior practice, as parents had been able to obtain a copy of their child’s birth certificate by providing their passport or a consular ID from their country of national origin in lieu of a US-issued ID.

“The legal standing for this prerequisite is questionable. No section under Texas’s Health and Safety Code mandates that the Department require verification of immigrant status or national original before the issuance of a birth certificate to the parents of an American-born child. This practice also runs counter to the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which grants citizenship to all children born in the United States, regardless of whether their parents are citizens.

The full statement is here. I’d hope this would spur a quick reversal, but I know better than to expect it. We’ll see what the courts have to say. TPM has more.

Abbott and the Latino vote

The Trib drops a number on us.

I guess I need to find a new Abbott avatar

Along with his 20-point margin of victory, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott accomplished something on Election Day that many naysayers doubted the Republican could: He took 44 percent of the Hispanic vote.

For Texas conservatives, Abbott’s performance indicated that Republicans are making headway among this increasingly crucial voting bloc, which tends to lean Democratic. But upon taking office, Abbott will find himself in turbulent political waters.

[…]

But election results show that despite Republican outreach efforts, Abbott does not have a strong hold on areas of the state where most of the population is Hispanic, particularly the border counties Abbott repeatedly visited during his campaign.

In Cameron County, which Abbott had set out to win, he garnered 42 percent of the vote while Davis took 55 percent. He fared worse in Hidalgo County, with only 35 percent of the vote to Davis’s 63 percent.

The results could prove troublesome for a party looking to hone its outreach efforts as the state’s Hispanic population swells. Although they make up less than a third of eligible voters in the state, Hispanics are expected to make up a plurality of Texas’ population by 2020.

Abbott outpaced his predecessors in winning support among Hispanics, but navigating the crosscurrents of appealing to a far-right base and conservative Hispanics continues to prove difficult for Republicans when it comes to immigration.

The article is about how Abbott is going to try to balance his madrina-friendly image with the ugly xenophobia of his party. I’m not going to prognosticate about that – lots of people have been opining about what the Abbott-Dan Patrick dynamic is going to be like – but I am going to focus on those numbers. I presume that 44% figure comes from the exit polls we were promised. I know they were done and I’m aware of some complaints about their methodology, but I’ve seen basically no reporting or other analysis on them. Be that as it may, I’m going to do three things: Check the actual results to see if they line up with the 44% figure given, compare Abbott to Rick Perry in 2010, and I’ll hold the third one back till I’m ready to show you the numbers.

Comparing Latino voting performances is always a bit dicey, since the best we can do at this level is use county and State Rep district data, which is a reasonable enough rough approximation, but which can be distorted by the presence of non-Latino voters, especially if Latino turnout is lower than expected. But it’s what we’ve got, and we can at least draw some broad conclusions. A full comparison to Rick Perry in 2010 won’t be possible until all the legislative district data is published by the TLC in early 2015, but we’ll use what we do have. Here’s a look at county comparisons:

County Perry Abbott White Davis ========================================== Cameron 40.82% 42.01% 57.30% 55.46% El Paso 36.76% 37.25% 61.29% 60.32% Hidalgo 31.75% 34.79% 66.82% 62.70% Maverick 26.83% 26.27% 71.86% 70.27% Webb 22.92% 28.86% 75.60% 68.03%

So yes, Abbott did improve on Rick Perry, but not by that much. In Cameron County, which as the Trib story notes Abbott was claiming he wanted to win, he beat Perry by a bit more than one point. He did do three points better in Hidalgo and six points better in Webb, but only a half point better in El Paso and a half point worse in Maverick. Again, this is incomplete data – the State Rep district data will tell a better story – but if Rick Perry was scoring in the low thirties in 2010, it’s hard for me to say that Abbott did any better than the mid-to-upper thirties. It’s an improvement, and he gets credit for it, but I don’t see how you get to 44% from there.

I do have State Rep district data for Harris County, so let’s take a look at that:

Dist Perry Abbott White Davis Dewhurst LCT ============================================================ HD140 27.9% 32.2% 70.7% 66.3% 31.6% 65.9% HD143 29.6% 35.0% 68.9% 63.7% 33.4% 63.9% HD144 45.2% 51.7% 52.7% 46.3% 50.8% 46.0% HD145 36.3% 40.8% 62.0% 57.2% 41.6% 54.8% HD148 36.3% 39.1% 61.6% 58.7% 45.0% 50.8%

The caveat here is that the Hispanic Citizen Voting Age Populations (Hispanic CVAPs) are lower in these districts than in many other Latino districts. HD140 is the most Latino, at 60.6%; by comparison, the lowest CVAP in the six El Paso districts is 59.4%, with the other five all being greater than 70% and three of the six topping 80%. Be that as it may, Abbott clearly beat Perry here, by four to six points. That also comes with an asterisk, however, since as we know Bill White outperformed the rest of the Democratic ticket on his home turf by about six points. I included the David Dewhurst/Linda Chavez-Thompson numbers as well here to serve as a further point of comparison. Add it all up, and Abbott got 39.6% of the vote in Latino State Rep districts in Harris County. That’s impressive and a number Democrats will have to reckon with, but it’s still a pretty good distance from 44%.

I’ll revisit this question later, once the TLC has put out its data. In the meantime, there’s one more dimension to consider: How well Greg Abbott did in 2010 versus how well he did in 2014:

County Abb 10 Abb 14 ========================== Cameron 48.21% 42.01% El Paso 42.43% 37.25% Hidalgo 37.72% 34.79% Maverick 26.31% 26.27% Webb 29.12% 28.86% Dist Abb 10 Abb 14 ========================== HD140 35.1% 32.2% HD143 37.2% 35.0% HD144 54.0% 51.7% HD145 46.4% 40.8% HD148 48.6% 39.1%

Now of course this isn’t a real apples-to-apples comparison. Abbott was running for Attorney General in 2010 against a candidate who had no money and a self-described “funny name”. That’s a formula for him to do better. Of course, one could say that voters in these places liked him more when he had a lower profile. The more they heard about him, the less likely they were to vote for him. Make of that what you will.

2014 Day Four EV totals

EarlyVoting

Here are your Day 4 EV totals and the full 2010 EV totals. Mail ballots continue to be strong, up a bit from Day Four in 2010, but in person totals continue to lag. Overall, 2014 now trails 2010 at this point in the process by about 5,000 votes, with about 142,000 having been cast so far this year. As we discussed last time, the mix of voters is more important than the totals. So far, indications for Harris County say “better than 2010 for Dems, but not where we want to be yet”. If the pattern for this year is like it was in 2012, Saturday is the key day. It would be nice to do better than that before then.

Here are the statewide three day totals and the comparable figures from 2010. As we have seen on other days, overall turnout is up thanks in large part to the strong mail ballot returns. The TDP sent out an email earlier today taking a victory lap for that. I hope they have reason to brag, but I don’t have any data on it.

Finally, a couple of turnout-related news stories. From the Statesman, a reminder that we don’t yet know who it is that is turning out, and from the Monitor a story about strong EV turnout in Hidalgo County. We can’t say yet that more early voting will necessarily mean higher final turnout, but that’s still encouraging to see.

UPDATE: Almost forgot: Check out Drive for Democracy and volunteer to help drive someone to the polls. And for my Heights friends, why not have breakfast with Leticia Van de Putte on Saturday morning before heading to the polls?

2014 Day Three EV totals

But first, a little angst.

EarlyVoting

I feel a bit uncomfortable after Day Two of Early Voting in Person. Here are a couple of concerning tweets from yesterday:

Scott Braddock ‏@scottbraddock 2h2 hours ago
Those Harris County early vote totals are not good for Democrats. *If* Texas is a battleground, #Houston is ground zero #TxLege

And:

Teddy Schleifer @teddyschleifer • 5h 5 hours ago
Dems excited by big vote-by-mail numbers here in Harris County, but in-person down 25%. Not good for them. #HOUNews | http://blog.chron.com/houstonpolitics/2014/10/in-person-early-vote-turnout-still-down-in-harris-county/ …

Here is from Chron.com:

The number of voters showing up at Harris County’s 41 early-vote locations was down by 25 percent for the second straight day on Tuesday, according to tallies released by the County Clerk.

A total of 20,380 registered voters cast a ballot on Tuesday, more than 7,000 fewer voters than cast one on the first Tuesday of early voting during the last midterm election in 2010. While Monday’s results revealed a massive increase in the number of mail ballots received this fall, the number received on Tuesday slightly trailed those seen on the corresponding Tuesday in 2010. A majority of the vote-by-mail ballots typically arrive on the first day.

A total of 21,612 votes were cast Tuesday, 1,232 of them mail ballots. On Monday, the first day of the two-week early-voting period, 61,735 total votes were cast.

A Commentary review of Early Voting locations likely frequented by African American and Latino voters shows a slight decrease in voter turnout as compared to the 2010 numbers after Day Two. Sure Dems are doing better with the mail ballots but we have to increase the Early Voting in Person numbers – or else. What is happening out there?

Here are your Day Three totals, and here are the full 2010 EV totals. As was the case with Day Two, in person totals are below what they were in 2010, though there were more absentee ballots received. The grand total so far for 2014 is 107,433, while the comparable total for 2010 was 107,782, so we are now officially a smidgen behind 2010. Does that mean we’re doomed?

Well, that depends on who is turning out. We’ve been through this before, but let’s remember, “turnout” doesn’t just mean Democrats. Republican voters count towards “turnout” too, and as you may recall they turned out like gangbusters in 2010. One of the prerequisites for Democrats doing well, or at least doing better, this year was for Republican turnout to come back down to earth. If what we’re got here is a Democratic increase combined with a Republican decrease, that would be pretty good, no?

Now bear in mind, the early vote gap – both in person and mail ballot – from 2010 in Harris County was pretty massive. A review of the 2010 numbers suggests it was about 59-39 in favor of the GOP, with mail ballots going 68-31 and in person early votes being 58-40. There’s a lot of room for Ds to go up and Rs to go down without the leader changing.

There are two indicators to suggest that the gap has narrowed considerably, though not all the way. One is that while Campos’ observation about Latino EV locations is accurate, it’s not the whole story. Here are the three day totals for the heaviest EV locations in GOP districts, then and now:

Location name SRD 2010 2014 ===================================================== Champion Forest Baptist Church 126 4,110 3,206 Kingwood Branch Library 127 4,075 2,823 Freeman Branch Library 129 4,190 3,044 Cypress Top Park, Cypress 130 3,548 3,052 Trini Mendenhall Community Center 138 3,839 3,048

Those are some pretty steep declines. Some of this I would attribute to the large increase in absentee votes, as I believe some of that represents people changing their behavior from voting early in person to voting by mail. Some of it I would (hopefully) attribute to the surge of 2010 Republican voters abating. Greg’s Day Two analysis, which suggests mail ballots are running about 50-50 and overall turnout being about 46% Dem, supports that. No question, we’d like to see Dem in person performance improve, but those mail ballots count, too, and they’re clearly making a difference. The usual pattern is that Dems turn out big on Saturday and generally participate more in Week 2, so we’ll see if that holds. Right now, all signs clearly point to Dems doing considerably better than they did in 2010. Doing better than 2010 is not that high a bar to clear, of course, so there’s still room to go up. Just don’t fixate on the “total turnout” number without at least considering where that turnout is coming from.

At the state level, the picture is interesting. The two day EV results for 2014 on the SOS webpage show an overall increase over 2010, fueled entirely by the massive uptick in mail ballots. Democratic counties like Dallas, Travis, El Paso, Hidalgo, and Cameron are up a bit. So are Republican counties like Montgomery, Collin, Williamson, and Denton, but Galveston is down and Fort Bend is flat. Tarrant is way up, but that’s Wendy Davis’ home turf. Again, it’s a function of who is showing up. I don’t have enough information to make any guesses.

Bottom line, keep calm and keep working to turn out our voters. There’s a Walk2Vote event at UH-Downtown tomorrow, to turn students out there. If you really want to make a difference, consider helping out with Drive for Democracy, which aims to help people who need a ride to the polls get them. I’m told they have identified around 1000 voters who need a ride to the polls and are recruiting volunteers to help with those rides. I can’t think of a better way to get involved. Check ’em out, and sign up to help if you can.

A closer look at the turnout issue in 2014

I wrote yesterday about turnout for this year’s election. The main problem that Democrats face this year is that turnout has basically been flat for them since 2002 in the off year elections. I began to write a post to illustrate this last year, back when Battleground Texas was being viewed as a long-term experiment in increasing Democratic turnout, before we had Wendy Davis and a race we want and hope to win this year, but between the endless legislative summer and the short turnaround into the 2013 elections, not to mention the change in story line for this year, I never finished it. Now that we’re focusing on 2014, this is the time to polish that off.

I had previously suggested that BGT set some benchmarks for the 2014 election, back when we didn’t have anyone running statewide. We have the candidates and an updated mission now, but we still need to be clear about where we start out. What I did was take a look at the county by county results in the contested Railroad Commissioner races of 2006 and 2010. I did this for two reasons: One, generally speaking a low-level race like that is almost entirely a recapitulation of party ID, and two, 2006 Democratic candidate Dale Henry and 2010 Democratic candidate Jeff Weems got nearly identical vote totals – 1,752,947 for Henry, and 1,757,183 for Weems. I’m not taking into account their percentages or the vote total of any other candidate, because we’re focusing exclusively on Democratic turnout. The first questions to consider, therefore, are where did Weems do better than Henry, and where did he do worse? Here are the counties in which Weems did the best relative to 2006:

County Henry Weems Diff ==================================== Harris 253,845 335,689 81,844 Dallas 192,780 210,021 17,241 Hidalgo 27,213 44,372 17,159 Fort Bend 41,013 55,472 14,459 Bexar 116,909 128,360 11,451 Webb 12,012 19,451 7,439 Travis 121,035 125,283 4,248 Maverick 2,427 4,719 2,292 Collin 40,184 41,712 1,528 Hays 13,146 14,497 1,351 Williamson 29,684 30,910 1,226

I’ve said before that Harris County Democrats did not have a turnout problem in 2010. This is the clearest example I can give of that. All of these are counties where you’d like to see the Democrats improve, and where there is room for such improvement. It’s especially heartening to see gains in counties like Hidalgo, Webb, and Fort Bend. Maverick County deserves special mention because it’s easily the smallest county on this list, but still produced a decent-sized gain for the Dems. That’s mostly because overall turnout in Maverick in 2006 was a pathetic 14.8%. Turnout in 2010 was still only 24.1%. That’s in a county that went 72% Democratic in 2010, meaning there’s plenty of room to add a couple thousand more votes to the D column. I’d consider an improvement in Maverick County to be a necessary yardstick for measuring BGT’s progress in 2014.

Given that Weems got about as many votes as Henry, the fact that there were counties in which he gained means there were counties in which he lost as well. In fact, there were far more counties in which Weems lost ground than ones in which he gained. Here were the biggest losers:

County Henry Weems Diff ==================================== Nueces 30,018 24,021 -5,997 Tarrant 127,293 121,721 -5,572 Johnson 10,140 6,123 -4,017 Wichita 9,577 5,803 -3,774 Grayson 9,935 6,190 -3,745 McLennan 20,680 17,211 -3,469 Galveston 28,718 25,279 -3,439 Angelina 8,611 5,367 -3,244 Orange 8,060 4,903 -3,157 Parker 7,838 4,988 -2,850 Lubbock 14,537 12,169 -2,368

The good news is that Tarrant excepted, these are not strategic counties for Democrats. Of course, a vote lost in Wichita or Angelina is still a vote that has to be made up somewhere if you don’t want to lose ground overall. BGT clearly understands this, and I have no doubt that they will put resources into places like these in order to maximize Democratic turnout, even if it means just moving the needle a few points in a dark red county. The challenge is to give a reason for Democrats in places where there are no local Democratic candidates running for anything a reason to show up. I don’t envy them the task.

It should be noted that some of the counties listed above lost voters during the period. By the same token, there were numerous counties that gained quite a few voters between 2006 and 2010. Here’s a look at the 20 counties that had the largest increase in registered voters and how the Dems did in them.

County Growth Grow % Diff 06 AV% 10 AV% Ratio ============================================================ Collin 42,851 11.22% 1,528 10.52% 9.82% 0.93 Fort Bend 41,272 15.41% 14,459 15.32% 17.95% 1.17 Travis 38,234 6.75% 4,248 21.38% 20.73% 0.97 Denton 31,242 9.37% 904 10.13% 9.51% 0.94 Williamson 29,242 14.02% 1,226 14.24% 13.00% 0.91 Montgomery 22,928 10.10% -915 8.49% 7.35% 0.87 Harris 19,198 1.00% 81,844 13.23% 17.32% 1.31 Hidalgo 16,531 5.90% 17,159 9.72% 14.96% 1.54 Hays 12,609 14.73% 1,351 15.36% 14.76% 0.96 Tarrant 12,414 1.34% -5,572 13.77% 12.99% 0.94 Brazoria 7,252 4.43% -351 12.57% 11.83% 0.94 Bexar 7,172 0.80% 11,451 13.01% 14.17% 1.09 Guadalupe 6,768 9.95% -191 10.90% 9.66% 0.89 Cameron 6,552 3.91% -323 12.47% 11.82% 0.95 Parker 6,189 9.13% -2,850 11.56% 6.74% 0.58 Webb 6,097 6.01% 7,439 11.84% 18.09% 1.53 Comal 5,879 8.66% -706 10.22% 8.45% 0.83 Rockwall 5,706 14.22% -262 9.32% 7.59% 0.81

“Growth” is the increase in voter registrations; “Grow %” is the percentage increase. “Diff” is the difference between Weems’ vote total and Henry’s, so a positive number means Weems had more votes and a negative number means Henry had more. “06 AV%” and “10 AV%” is the ratio of Democratic votes to all registered voters, which is basically a straight up measure of turnout. “Ratio” is the ratio of the 06 AV% to the 10 AV%, so numbers greater than one are good. It’s good that the Dems gained votes in places like Collin, Denton, Hays, and Williamson, but they didn’t keep up with the increase in registered voters. This is what I was trying to get at with my earlier post about BGT’s efforts in Collin County. There’s a voter registration component to that, but the much bigger piece of that puzzle is reaching out to the Democrats and would-be Democrats that are already there and convincing them that their vote this fall really matters even if they lack local candidates to back, or if the local candidates they have face much longer odds than the statewide slate. It matters for this election and it matters for the future elections. We can’t just turn out voters in the strongholds, we have to turn them out everywhere. Democrats can’t and won’t be competitive statewide until that happens.

Gallup’s poll of Latinos in Texas

I have four things to say about this.

Texas Hispanics are decidedly Democratic in their political party preferences, 46% to 27%, but that 19-percentage-point Democratic advantage is much smaller in Texas than the average 30-point gap Democrats enjoy among the Hispanic population in the other 49 states. And white Texas residents are decidedly more Republican (61%) than the average among whites residing in other states (48%), complicating whether Texas will turn into a “blue” Democratic state in future elections.

Political Preferences by Race

With an increasingly large minority population, including the second-largest Hispanic population of any state, Texas has the potential to see a once-in-a-generation political re-alignment, which could transform the nation’s largest reliably Republican state.

These latest results come from 2013 Gallup Daily tracking poll data, which consists of 16,028 Hispanics nationwide, including 2,536 Hispanics residing in Texas. The Lone Star state is experiencing significant changes in its population — it is one of the top destinations for state to state migration — and these data provide a crucial, updated look into Texan Hispanics’ political preferences over the past year.

Texas holds a gubernatorial race this year, and some Democratic operatives are hoping Texas’ evolving demographic makeup will allow them to more effectively compete for the governor’s mansion. In 2010, Gov. Rick Perry was re-elected handily, defeating his Democratic opponent by 13 percentage points.

In Texas, GOP Making Small but Meaningful Gains With Hispanics

Relative to 2008 — the year of President Barack Obama’s landslide presidential victory — Texan Hispanics have gradually become more Republican, even as the percentage of Hispanics identifying with or leaning toward the Republican Party has remained relatively stable nationwide. The six-percentage-point gap between the percentage of Texan Hispanics and Hispanics living in all other states who identify or lean GOP is the highest it has been in over six years.

Hispanic Party Identification, Republican Party

Meanwhile, Hispanics living in Texas have followed the broad national trend in terms of primarily identifying as Democrats. The 46% of Texan Hispanics who now lean or identify Democratic is seven points below the 2008 crest; by contrast, U.S. Hispanics living in the other 49 states report support of the Democratic Party that has declined by a slightly smaller four points between 2008 and 2013.

Hispanic Party Identification, Democratic Party

1. I presume this was a poll of registered voters. It would have been interesting if they had also asked about how often they voted in recent elections. There’s polling evidence that suggests lower-propensity Hispanics are almost as strongly Democratic when they do vote as African-American voters, while higher-propensity Hispanics are considerably less Democratic than Hispanic voters as a whole. Would have been cool to have gotten another data point on that. Be that as it may, it remains the case that Latinos heavily favor Democratic candidates, and even if the gap is smaller than it is nationally, there’s nothing to suggest that boosting turnout among them would be anything but an unalloyed good for Dems. And on a side note, at least this poll may mean that it will be cited as the “official” level of Latino support for the GOP in Texas, and not whatever figure Mike Baselice retrieves from his nether regions. For that and that alone, this is a good result.

2. I’m deeply suspicious of that 20% “Independent/No Lean” number. There’s scads of evidence nationally to show that the number of true could-go-either-way indies is tiny, and they’re usually a proxy for the less engaged folks that just plain don’t vote much. Again, an additional question or two about recent voting history, broken out by R/D/I would have been instructive. If I had to bet, I’d say some of these respondents don’t vote much, and some others may just be mad at their party for whatever the reason and refuse to identify with them. Self-declared party ID moves around a lot more than actual voting behavior.

3. As far as the poll result goes, I think the level of Latino support for Republicans is about right, but I’m not sure about the trend. I’ve discussed this topic ad nauseum, so let me just cut to the chase and say that by every indicator I’ve examined, the level of support for Democratic candidates in Latino areas went up from 2008 to 2012, not down. I’ll repeat myself one more time and say that some questions about actual voting behavior would have shed a lot more light on this survey. Being me, I couldn’t leave it at this and got to wondering if there were some other way to corroborate or contradict the evidence from this poll. What I came up with was to look at the level of Republican primary voting in some heavily Latino counties. Here are the numbers:

GOP primary turnout County 2008 2010 2012 ===================================== Cameron 4,822 4,601 5,311 El Paso 18,727 15,386 11,556 Hidalgo 5,753 5,015 6,401 Webb 1,232 1,224 1,189 Total 30,534 27,221 24,457 Registered voters County 2008 2010 2012 ===================================== Cameron 167,656 171,024 174,077 El Paso 372,000 375,128 371,321 Hidalgo 290,454 290,097 291,724 Webb 100,606 105,012 106,579 Total 930,716 941,261 921,701

Let’s be clear, this is an extremely crude measure. I wouldn’t use this to make a point, I’m just looking to see if there’s any correlation to the Gallup charts. The answer appears to be “not really”. The numbers ticked up in Cameron and Hidalgo, and declined in El Paso and Webb. Note that even in these predominantly Latino counties, the people casting these GOP primary votes could still be majority Anglo. We just don’t know. All I can say is that this tidbit of anecdotal evidence neither corroborates nor refutes the hypothesis. I’d need a much more precise measuring tool to be able to say.

4. While the Latino support for Republicans feels about right to me in this poll, the Anglo support for Republicans feels a little low. I’d have pegged it closer to 70%, based on polls and results from 2012. I have a hypothesis that will drop a couple of points post-Obama, but that’s just intuition, not based on any empirical evidence. I do think Wendy Davis et al will need to chip into that if she/they want to have a shot at winning this fall. I think if the Rs are getting only 61% of the Anglo vote in November, they could be in trouble.

From the “Wooing Latino Voters: You’re Doing It Wrong” department

Greg Abbott visits McAllen and gives the locals his best reason why they should vote for him.

Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott called for unity between Republican candidates and Hispanics in McAllen on Monday, with the promise of being in South Texas much more.

As evidence voters should elect him governor in 2014, Abbott cited the 27 lawsuits he’s brought against the federal government as Texas attorney general, and he spoke of fighting against human trafficking in the Rio Grande Valley.

McAllen is in Hidalgo County, which in 2012 voted 70.3% to 28.6% for President Obama. Many of those lawsuits involve the Affordable Care Act, the environment, and the Voting Rights Act. Latinos – Hidalgo County is 90.9% Latino – are among the strongest supporters of Obamacare, and will be the main focus of its rollout, since so much of the nation’s – and the state’s – uninsured population is Latino. Latinos are also big supporters of having the EPA set standards to reduce air pollution, and of President Obama using executive power to fight climate change. And of course Latinos also strongly support the Voting Rights Act.

So go right ahead, Greg Abbott. Talk about those 27 lawsuits and how deeply committed you are to fighting President Obama and his efforts to expand access to health care, clean up the environment, and protect voting rights. I’m sure Latino voters will be listening.

More counties for Medicaid expansion

All of these are from last week. Bexar County:

It’s constitutional – deal with it

On a bipartisan vote, Bexar County commissioners Tuesday urged Texas lawmakers to expand the state’s Medicaid program and take advantage of federal matching funds under the Affordable Care Act.

“From 2014 to 2017, expansion will bring $27.2 billion in federal revenue to Texas for just over $3 billion in state investments,” said County Judge Nelson Wolff.

In Bexar County, the expansion “would provide insurance for more than 200,000 currently uninsured” residents, Wolff said.

The court’s resolution noted that Texas has the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured residents, 24 percent, and Bexar County has 396,000 uninsured.

Unanimous approval of the resolution came after the head of the University Health System said the county stands to gain $53 million a year.

[…]

Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin Wolff, the court’s lone Republican, said it was difficult to support the resolution but did so because significant funds were at stake.

“I will support this even though philosophically our governor is right” in opposing expansion, Wolff said.

“This has got to be fixed at a different level than ours,” he added.

Hidalgo County:

Hidalgo County Commissioners Court has become the first governmental entity in the Rio Grande Valley to pass a resolution in support of expanding Medicaid to include coverage for adults.

The resolution, which was supported both by the RGV Equal Voice Network and Valley Interfaith, passed unanimously on Tuesday.

“We are very grateful county commissioners have supported this resolution to expand Medicaid, particularly since Hidalgo County has the highest rate of uninsured people,” said Ann Williams Cass, chair of the RGV Equal Voice Network’s health working group.

“This will allow the parents in a family of four that makes less than $14 an hour to qualify for Medicaid coverage.”

Cass said Hidalgo County needs healthy families and a healthy workforce. “This is opportunity to get over $400 million a year in federal money for the first three years for Adult Medicaid in Hidalgo County,” she said.

Cass paid tribute to the work of Texas Well and Healthy, Center for Public Policy Priorities, the Children’s Defense Fund. All three are supporting the expansion of Medicaid to include adults. “They have offered us so much help. They deserve credit for all the hard work they have done,” Cass said.

Travis County:

With more than $200 million a year at stake, the Travis County Commissioners Court is urging the Legislature to expand Medicaid coverage to more needy people in Texas, the state with the highest rate of uninsured residents.

The court spent time Tuesday tweaking the resolution that it passed last week to satisfy its lone Republican member, Gerald Daugherty. It was approved unanimously, 5-0. Austin Interfaith leader Oralia Garza Cortes called the bipartisan support “absolutely critical” and said that sister organizations of the advocacy group in Dallas and Bexar counties helped pass similar resolutions this month.

Austin Interfaith and its allies hope those efforts put pressure on the Legislature to expand Medicaid, a central but now optional part of the federal health care law.

See here for the original story. Cameron County joined in last week as well. A long and getting longer list of organizations that support Medicaid expansion, put together by Progress Texas and Texas Well & Healthy, can be found here. Despite Harris County Judge Ed Emmett’s support of Medicaid expansion, I am not currently aware of any action on Harris County Commissioners Court’s part to pass a resolution. It should be noted, however, that while counties are the ones that are on the knife’s edge for this, other government entities can call on Rick Perry and the Legislature to act as well. Both Austin City Council and Waco City Council have passed resolutions or legislative agendas in support of Medicaid expansion. It would be great if Harris County Commissioners Court got in the game, but there’s no reason for Houston City Council to sit out.

One more thing. PDiddie, who was at the big rally for Medicaid on Tuesday, reminds us that Medicaid expansion isn’t just about saving lives, it’s also about making them worth living.

Then there are the personal stories. For example: my father, 86, who had a good job all his working life and then a comfortable retirement, is at medium-to-end-stage dementia and has essentially outlived his assets. So it’s humiliating enough for seniors like him who find themselves at the prospect of spending the very end of their lives on the government dole (when they are even capable of understanding that). But because health care providers are refusing new Medicaid patients — in large part because the state pays its Medicaid bills very slowly — people like him are falling straight from middle class all the way through the shredded safety net.

And people like him have no advocates. My dad can’t write a letter or an e-mail; can’t make a phone call, can’t go to a townhall meeting to speak to his state rep, can’t march at a rally. You know what’s even worse about his situation, though? If he lived in Arizona, or New Jersey, or Florida, he would be getting covered. Because their conservative governors can see the benefits of expanding Medicaid. Not our governor, though.

Everyone who is in a position to do something about expanding Medicaid but refuses to do so should be required to look Perry and his dad in the eye and explain themselves to them. Maybe that would finally break the grip of whatever madness it is that envelops them. BOR has more from the rally.

Did Ted Cruz do better in Latino areas than other Republicans?

Lisa Falkenberg drops the following tidbit in her post-election column on why the GOP in general and in Texas needs to figure out how to appeal to Latino voters.

In Texas, the best data so far show a 70-30 split for Obama among Hispanic voters, according to Rice University political science chairman Mark Jones. Romney performed several points worse than Sen. John McCain did in 2008. At the same time, Jones points out, Hispanics became a larger share of the vote in Texas, going from 20 percent in 2008 to 25 percent in 2012.

Republican Ted Cruz, who will become the first Hispanic U.S. senator from Texas, may have received a boost linked to his surname. Exit polling showed he outperformed Romney and Republican congressional candidates by 6 percent.

In the long run, Republicans can’t rely on surnames to appeal to Hispanics, although a few more on the ballot wouldn’t hurt.

“They’re going to have to reach out and do more than say that ‘Hispanics have values that are similar to ours.’ That’s an old refrain, which apparently is not bearing any fruit with the Hispanic population,” says Tatcho Mindiola, associate sociology professor and director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston.

Falkenberg doesn’t say what exit polls she was looking at. The Latino Decisions poll of Texas only asked about the Presidential race and Democrats in general, so it’s of no help here. Be that as it may, we can approach this question by comparing how Cruz did in heavily Latino counties to how Romney did. Here’s how he fared in the five counties I looked at last week.

County Obama Romney Sadler Cruz ========================================== Cameron 49,159 24,955 41,930 27,881 El Paso 112,273 56,517 101,467 59,237 Hidalgo 97,879 39,786 88,316 41,591 Maverick 8,302 2,171 6,550 2,674 Webb 37,592 11,074 30,431 14,943

Some of Paul Sadler’s dropoff in votes from President Obama can be attributed to the usual downballot effect, but clearly Cruz outperformed Romney, and given his higher vote totals there had to be some Obama/Cruz voters in each of these counties. In fact, if you look at all of the counties in Texas where Cruz received more votes than Romney, you get the following list: Webb, Cameron, Ellis, Hidalgo, Maverick, Willacy, Starr, Zapata, Zavala, Dimmit, Kleberg, Jim Hogg, Brooks, Jim Wells, Frio, Culberson. So yes, he did do better in heavily Latino areas, and I’m sure I’ll find the same effect in Harris County when I get precinct data.

There’s a bit more to this, however. It wasn’t just Cruz who benefited from being Latino and having a non-Latino opponent in these counties. For example, the Libertarian candidate running against Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman was a Latino. Take a look at how he did versus how other non-Latino Libertarians did in statewide races where the Republican had no Democratic opponent. Here’s Cameron County, for example.

Railroad Commissioner - Unexpired Term Barry Smitherman REP 25,866 48.72% Jaime O. Perez LIB 23,875 44.97% Josh Wendel GRN 3,347 6.30% Justice, Supreme Court, Place 2 Don Willett REP 32,963 62.76% Roberto Koelsch LIB 19,555 37.23% Justice, Supreme Court, Place 4 John Devine REP 30,797 58.42% Tom Oxford LIB 17,212 32.65% Charles Waterbury GRN 4,707 8.92% Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 7 Barbara Hervey REP 32,107 61.09% Mark W. Bennett LIB 20,448 38.90% Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 8 Elsa Alcala REP 36,619 68.72% William Strange LIB 16,664 31.27%

The same pattern holds for El Paso, Hidalgo, Maverick, and Webb counties. In the latter two, Libertarian candidate Perez scored a majority of the vote against Smitherman, which just blows my mind, and you will see the same effect for Latino Democratic candidates for the Fourth Court of Appeals, all of whom wound up winning. These were all low-profile, low-information races – even the Senate race was mostly below the radar, with Cruz avoiding debates and not running many ads, while Sadler barely had the money to do any advertising – so it’s not too shocking. Because of all this, I’d be careful about drawing any firm conclusions regarding Cruz and Latino voters. Latino voters have a stronger belief in the role of government and by a sizable majority support the Affordable Care Act and believe that the federal government should ensure that all people have access to health insurance. Needless to say, these views are incompatible with those of Ted Cruz. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait till 2018 to see how these voters will behave when they have a fuller understanding of what Ted Cruz is about.

UPDATE: Latino Decisions did ask about the Senate race specifically, and you can see the result here, which shows Sadler leading Cruz 65-35. I didn’t see that at the time I wrote this post.

First pass at analyzing the 2012 results

This is kind of a brain dump, based on the information available now. I’ll have plenty more to say once precinct data has been released.

– The current tally in the Presidential race on the Secretary of State webpage, with comparison to 2008, is as follows:

2008 Votes Pct =========================== McCain 4,479,328 55.45% Obama 3,528,633 43.68% 2012 Votes Pct =========================== Romney 4,542,012 57.19% Obama 3,285,200 41.36%

Slight uptick for Romney over McCain, slightly larger downtick for Obama. My sense is that this is mostly a turnout issue, that Obama’s coalition was mostly intact but not quite as fired up as in 2008, much like what we saw nationally. I think that’s fixable, but it’s going to take the same thing to fix it (money money money) as it has always been. I mean, Team Obama invested millions in a turnout operation in various parts of the country, and by all accounts it was successful. What effect might that have had here? I hope someday to find out.

– For all my skepticism of the polling in Texas, the pollsters were fairly in the ballpark on Romney’s margin of victory. I have to say, had you told me on Monday that Romney was going to win here by 16 points, I would never have believed that Wendy Davis and Pete Gallego would have won, and I would have doubted Dems’ ability to win the four contested seats in the Lege that they did. But they did, which is both a tip to the skill of the redistricters and a reminder that things could have been better. Overall, I’d grade it as a B- for Texas Dems – the Davis, Gallego, and Craig Eiland wins were huge, but there were missed opportunities, especially in Harris and Dallas Counties, where too many judges lost in the former and two Democratic legislative challengers fell just short in the latter.

– I don’t want to dwell too much on the legislative races, since we’re going to get a new map once the San Antonio court incorporates the DC Court’s ruling into their lawsuit, but there will clearly be more opportunities in 2014. Still, it should be apparent by now just how steep the hill is. Dems came close to parity in the Lege last decade in large part to a sizable rural contingent and an ability to win seats in otherwise-Republican districts. Well, the rural Dems are virtually extinct, and outside of Davis and maybe Eiland I doubt there were any crossover stars this time around; I’ll know for sure when I see precinct data. I still think there will be opportunities for both based on the forthcoming school finance ruling and 2013 legislative session, but we’re a long way from each and candidates still need to be found.

– One question I had going into this race was how well Obama would do in predominantly Latino areas. In 2008, Obama lagged behind the rest of the Democratic ticket in these areas, possibly due to lingering resentment over Hillary Clinton’s loss to him in the primary, but as we know Democrats nationally and Obama specifically have seen Latino support go up since then. Here’s a quick and dirty comparison to 2008 in some heavily Latino counties that will have to do until I get precinct data:

County 08 Obama 12 Obama 08 turnout 12 turnout ======================================================== Cameron 64.08% 65.72% 43.37% 41.46% El Paso 65.87% 65.63% 47.67% 44.58% Hidalgo 69.01% 70.42% 42.83% 45.59% Maverick 78.20% 78.60% 40.43% 37.84% Webb 71.44% 76.56% 44.40% 44.28%

Nice gain in Webb, modest gains in Cameron and Hidalgo. It’s a start.

– Congressional loser Quico Canseco is whining about fraud.

Gallego finished 13,534 votes ahead of Canseco early Wednesday morning.

“The race is not over, and it won’t be until all votes are properly and legally counted,” Canseco said in a statement the morning after the election.

Gallego campaign spokeswoman Rebecca Acuna said there is “no way” voter fraud occurred. “This just shows a lot about [Canseco’s] character, because he chose to go this route” rather than concede and congratulate Gallego, she said.

Canseco’s campaign alleges that officials in Maverick County double- or triple-counted some of the early vote sheets. A complaint to the Secretary of State indicates that Canseco’s campaign found a minimum of 57 duplicate votes when reviewing a list provided by the Maverick County Elections Office. The campaign also alleges that another county used photocopied ballots, a criminal offense, and that an extended delay in counting votes from other counties left “other questions unanswered.”

“There are too many disturbing incidents to declare this race over,” Scott Yeldell, Canseco’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “During the next several days we will be looking into these reports to assure only legal votes have been counted in this election.”

But Acuna said even if all the votes from Maverick County — where Gallego received 6,291 more votes than Canseco — were excluded, Gallego still would have come out ahead. “His argument — it’s not at all valid,” she said. “We won this race; it’s simple math.”

I don’t expect this to go anywhere.

– In Harris County, those last nine precincts were finally counted. Obama’s margin of victory in the county inched up to 585 votes, but as far as I can tell none of the downballot races were affected. Obama’s total was down about 6000 votes from 2008, while Romney improved on McCain by about 13,000 votes. Still, as noted in the comments yesterday, provisional ballots have not yet been counted, and overseas ballots are still arriving, Judges Kyle Carter (1,499) and Tad Halbach (2,786) had the smallest margins in those races, while Mike Sullivan also had a close shave, winning by 2,498 votes and a 48.94% plurality thanks to the presence of a Libertarian candidate that received 2.34%. I still don’t think any races are likely to change, but I daresay all three of these gentlemen will not rest easy until the counting has truly ceased.

– I have to mention a couple of national stories. First, Tuesday was a great day for marriage equality.

Voters in Maryland and Maine legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote Tuesday, the first time in U.S. history that gay marriage has been approved at the ballot box.

In Maryland, voters approved marriage equality 52 percent to 48 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. The state government passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, but opponents succeeded in putting the issue on the ballot in November.

“Over these past few weeks, Marylanders joined together to affirm that for a free and diverse people of many faiths — a people committed to religious freedom — the way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights and human dignity of all,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), a champion of marriage equality in the state, said in a statement late Tuesday.

The AP also declared Maine voters had approved same-sex marriage Tuesday after defeating a referendum on it just three years ago, a sign of how quickly Americans’ views on the issue are evolving. With 57 percent of precincts reporting, the ballot measure led 54 percent to 46 percent.

In a third victory for gay rights advocates, Minnesota voters defeated a state constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage, according to CNN and the AP. Thirty other states have gay marriage bans on the books, including North Carolina’s, approved as recently as May 2012.

Proponents of marriage equality were still hoping Wednesday for a fourth victory in Washington, where a measure to approve gay marriage was still too close to call as of Wednesday morning.

Remember when this was an issue used to bludgeon Democrats? Never again, and thank goodness for it.

Poor John Cornyn. At the beginning of this year, you could have gotten lower odds on the Astros winning the World Series than the Democrats not only holding the Senate but making gains. Yet that’s exactly what happened.

“It’s clear that with our losses in the presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party,” the Texas Republican said in a statement released by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which he directs. “While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight. Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.”

As of early Wednesday morning, Democrats (with an assist by an Independent in Maine) had picked up four Republican seats while losing just one of their own. Not a single Democratic incumbent was defeated.

Cornyn, who hopes to win a party leadership position in the new Congress, is now explaining the reasons for the 2012 failure.

“We know that our conservative vision is the right one to secure a stronger America for future generations,” Cornyn said in his statement. “We know that we are the party of big, bold ideas with the courage to fight for what’s right even if it’s not politically expedient. It was that courage and that vision that led to important gains for our party in 2010. But all of us should continue to learn from both our victories and our defeats, and work together to build an even stronger Republican Party.”

Basically, the Republicans had first and goal at the one yard line. Then, after a false start, two quarterback sacks, and an intentional-grounding penalty, their 50-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Elizabeth Warren, and returned for a touchdown by Joe Donnelly. The Democrats then added insult to injury by going for two and converting successfully. You just cannot overstate the degree and the stunningness of the turnaround in fortune. And if Big John thinks that the Republicans should just keep doing what they’ve been doing, well, I won’t try to persuade him otherwise.

– Other results of interest: The city of Austin will adopt City Council districts, while League City banned red light cameras. At least some things never change.

That’s all for now. PDiddie, Mark Bennett, Murray Newman, Harold Cook, and TM Daily Post have more, while Texas Parent PAC takes a victory lap.

New map, new opportunities: Outside the urban areas, part 1

Here’s the first post in my series of analyses of the new districts. I’m using 2008 electoral data, since the next election is a Presidential year, and I feel confident that the districts were drawn with an eye strongly towards protecting Republican gains in such a year. Without further ado, here we go.

HD12

District: 12

Incumbent: None

Counties: McLennan (part), Limestone, Falls, Robertson, Brazos (part)

Best 2008 Dem performance: Sam Houston, 46.67%

This district contains parts of Jim Dunnam’s old district, with the eastern part of the old HD57 being chopped off and reconstituted to accommodate Marva Beck. Lack of an incumbent is a big part of the draw here. A big downside is the eight point spread from the top of the ticket – neither Obama nor Noriega cracked 40% – to the Sam Houston number, which suggests that any Democratic candidate may have to swim against the tide. Lack of an incumbent also means you can’t accuse the other guy of voting to gut public education. Not a top priority, and may never be on the radar, but deserves a decent candidate for the first go-round at least.

HD17

District: 17

Incumbent: Tim Kleinschmidt (first elected in 2008)

Counties: Lee, Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes

Best 2008 Dem performance: Susan Strawn, 48.27% (plurality)

Big change in this district, which used to contain Burleson, Colorado, Fayette, and parts of Brazos. Basically, it shifted south. Bastrop is the population center, and it was a purple county in 2008, with Strawn and Sam Houston scoring pluralities there. The more it becomes an Austin suburb a la Hays and Williamson, the better the prospects for a win. This district was on the radar for Dems in 2008 as an open D seat and in 2010, and I expect it will continue to be.

HDs 32 and 34

District: 32
District: 34

Incumbent: Todd Hunter (HD32, first elected in 2008); Raul Torres and Connie Scott (HD34, first elected in 2010)

Counties: Nueces

Best Dem performance in 2008: For HD32, Sam Houston, 46.20%. For HD34, Sam Houston, 58.83%

HD32 can charitably be described as a reach if Hunter runs for re-election. Nueces County has been trending away from the Democrats, the three counties that were removed from HD32 (Aransas, Calhoun, and San Patricio) were a net winner for Juan Garcia, whom Hunter defeated in 2008, and Hunter has done very well both in terms of fundraising and moving up the ladder in his two terms. However, it’s the worst kept secret in the state that Hunter wants to run for Congress, and if that map is at all favorable to him this seat may be open in 2012. So keep that in the back of your mind.

I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure why Torres and Scott were paired, unless they were considered to be hopeless cases for salvation. This is the more Democratic part of Nueces, with all Dems in 2008 winning a majority, up to 20 points in their favor downballot. This has got to be one of the easiest pickup opportunities for the Dems in 2012.

HD35

District: 35

Incumbent: Jose Aliseda (first elected in 2010)

Counties: Atascosa, LaSalle, McMullen, Live Oak, Bee, San Patricio, Duval

Best 2008 Dem performance: Sam Houston, 50.77%

Republicans have been trying to carve out a South Texas district for themselves for awhile, and this one may be their best shot going forward. The good news for them is that McCain and Cornyn scored solid wins in 2008, with McCain getting nearly 55% and Cornyn 51%. The bad news is that Dems carried the rest of the races, with Houston, Strawn, and Linda Yanez all getting majorities. Aliseda got into one of the more entertaining kerfuffles during the House debate over HB150; I don’t know if he got what he wanted or not, but what he got is a very swingy district that may be a battleground through the decade.

HD41

District: HD41

Incumbent: Aaron Pena (first elected as a Democrat in 2002, switched parties after the 2010 election)

Counties: Hidalgo (part)

Best Dem performance in 2008: Sam Houston, 60.15%

I can’t think of a single seat the Democrats would like to win more than this one. Technically, Pena is the incumbent in HD40, and Veronica Gonzales is the incumbent in HD41, but as the Legislative Study Group noted:

CSHB150 also radically changes Hidalgo County districts in an effort to squeeze a partisan performing district out of the existing population. The incumbent in HD 40 would only represent 1.5 % of his current district, and the incumbent in HD 41 would only represent 1.1 % of her district. The gerrymandered map in Hidalgo County takes great pains to draw the incumbents in HD 40 and 41 into almost entirely new districts, narrowing down to one city block at times.

For this reason, the district numbers were swapped, thus giving Pena and Gonzales most of their previous constituents back. Despite being on the Redistricting Committee and drawing what one presumes was the best map he could for himself, Pena isn’t exactly sitting pretty. The low score among Democrats was Obama’s 54.83%, with everyone but Jim Jordan getting at least 56%. Do his constituents love him enough to overcome the party label or not? Assuming he does run for re-election, that is.

Peña said he is in employment negotiations with a law firm that would require him to move out of the Valley. If he does take the job, he said, he won’t seek office in 2012.

In other words, he’s got a graceful way out if he decides that he can’t win his custom-designed district. We’ll find out soon enough. More non-urban areas coming up next.

Solomons State House map 2.0

Go to http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/ and check out Plan H134 for a revised State House map from House Redistricting Chair Burt Solomons. Here’s the Harris County view:

Harris County, take two

Still 24 districts, with either Rep. Scott Hochberg or Rep. Hubert Vo on the outside looking in. In this variation, HD143 goes back to being an East End seat, and HD148 regains some of its old territory in the Heights, but my part of the Heights gets moved into HD145, which would make me a constituent of Rep. Carol Alvarado. As with Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, I would be delighted to be her constituent, but heartbroken not to be Rep. Jessica Farrar’s constituent. HD134 gains a little more outside the Loop territory, but most of the districts on the west side look not too different than they were before. Beyond Harris County, the only thing I looked for was the weird uterus-shaped HD149 that surrounds and passed through Williamson County. It’s still there. You’ve got to be a little desperate to maintain Republican hegemony if you’re drawing districts like that.

Also, State Rep. Garnet Coleman has submitted a plan, Plan H130. The Harris view:

Rep. Coleman's map for Harris County

That one has 25 seats in Harris County, so Reps. Hochberg and Vo can remain. It also puts me back into HD148, which just feels right. And as we turn our eyes to Williamson County, we see no uterine districts. All of which means that this map won’t be given a moment’s thought.

With regards to Rep. Hochberg, I note that someone has been whispering into Burka‘s ear.

I haven’t discussed Hochberg’s plans with him, but I did hear from sources close to Sarah Davis that she expects Hochberg to move into her district and run against her.

I don’t know who his sources are and I don’t know who his sources’ sources are, but I do know that I have not heard anything like this from Democrats as yet. In fact, the reaction many of us had was that it was Rep. Vo who’d gotten the short end of the stick, since the HD137 drawn (in the original map, anyway; I can’t vouch for the revised map just yet) has more of Hochberg’s precincts in it than Vo’s. I personally thought Vo might be better off running against Rep. Jim Murphy in HD133, since as noted before it might be viable for him. Burka’s sources may be right and they may be wrong, I’m just saying that I’m not hearing the same buzz that he is.

Finally, a couple of stories from the Monitor and the Guardian about redistricting in South Texas and the disposition of Hidalgo County. I figure they wind up getting shafted again, which is to say business as usual.

UPDATE: The following was sent out by email from Karen Loper, Rep. Vo’s campaign manager, last night:

Message from Hubert Vo for help with redistricting

The Texas House Committee on Redistricting  has re-drawn the district lines of the State Representatives and  filed the plan as HB150.   District 149 which is Hubert Vo’s district has been eliminated.  Many of the  precincts in his district have been moved to other districts which breaks up the voting strength of all  ethnicities including the Vietnamese.  The only 3 current Vo precincts left after they move the others are combined with District 137.

Letters should be sent as soon as possible to the redistricting committee.  We have attached two sample letters to email or fax – one is for you to use if you live in District 149 and the other should be sent if you live somewhere else.  These letters will be used  for  the committee and also will be sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ) where the redistricting map must be approved .

All you have to do is date the letter and type in your name and address at the bottom.   You can make additions to the letter if you wish to do so. The letters should not argue the Democratic and Republican point because that is not part of the DOJ’s concerns.  You can email or fax the letter. The e-mail address and fax number are listed below.  PLEASE SEND A COPY TO HUBERT VO ALSO

SEND YOUR LETTER TO:

marc.veasey@house.state.tx.us or Fax (512) 463-1516

AND SEND A COPY TO:

hubert.vo@house.state.tx.us or Fax (512) 463-0548

Sample letters were included. You can see them here and here.

MALC files redistricting lawsuit

This is the second lawsuit that has been filed in the state of Texas related to the Census and redistricting. And to think, we don’t even have a map produced by the Redistricting Committee yet.

A group of Hispanic lawmakers has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Perry and the state of Texas, seeking to halt redistricting activities based on what they say are flawed and discriminatory undercounts of Hispanics during the 2010 U.S. Census.

The lawsuit by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, filed Tuesday in Hidalgo County, alleges census officials missed 4 percent to 8 percent of the population with their special door-to-door counts in low-income colonias, unincorporated shantytowns settled largely by illegal immigrants.

The suit would apply to decennial redistricting maps currently being drawn for the Legislature, Congress and the State Board of Education.

An accurate count would mean more state and federal representation for Hispanic border and urban areas, including Cameron and Starr counties, as well as areas of Dallas and Houston, MALC spokeswoman Christina Gomez said.

There’s more on the story in The Monitor, and you can see a copy of the lawsuit here. The first lawsuit was filed in February by a group of North Texas voters who claim that only citizen populations should be used to draw legislative boundaries. You can see that lawsuit here, and there are some good comments noting the legal history of such claims in this Trib story. The irony, as noted by several people, is that if you remove undocumented immigrants from the population count, Texas surely would not have gotten four more Congressional seats. Anyway, the game is officially on, and there are likely to be more lawsuits before the inevitable one that directly challenges whatever maps are ratified (if any are) gets filed. Years ending in one are such fun.

Early voting, Day One

One day of early voting is in the can, and when all was said and done 26,051 in person votes were cast. In 2006, 8,545 in person early votes were cast. You can see a spreadsheet of 2006 daily EV results here. Daily 2010 EV results will be here.

I voted yesterday at the Metro Multi-Service Center on Gray and though there were a lot of voters, there were also a lot of available voting machines, so I got right in. Apparently, at some other locations, there was some trouble, though not of the mechanical kind.

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan expects to meet this morning with the county’s Democratic and Republican chairmen after receiving complaints of possible voter intimidation on the first day of early voting on Monday.
The complaints came from predominantly minority precincts.

“We have a long way to go in this election, and we’re committed to having it done lawfully and successfully,” said Terry O’Rourke, first assistant Harris County attorney.

The complaints, he said, came from Kashmere Gardens, Moody Park, Sunnyside and other predominantly minority neighborhoods. The complaints included poll watchers “hovering over” voters, “getting into election workers’ faces” and blocking or disrupting lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots.

[…]

True the Vote, a nonprofit organization founded by several Tea Party activists who go by the name King Street Patriots, had promised to verify voters’ credentials at polling places, but it was unclear whether complaints involved members of the group.

“I’m pretty confident that’s who it is,” said Gerry Birnberg, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party. “Just connect the dots. No. 1, too much of the same thing was going on at each of the polling locations. No. 2, it’s consistent with what they announced they were going to do.”

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s who it is, too. And I’m glad Vince Ryan is in the County Attorney’s office, because I’m confident he’ll thoroughly investigate this and ensure that nothing illegal is going on. If you encounter anything like this, this is all you need to know to cast a vote.

To vote, a person may present one of the following documents: a voter registration card, a driver’s license, a picture identification of any kind, a birth certificate, a U.S. Citizenship or Naturalization certificate, a U.S passport, a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter. First time voters who registered by mail and did not provide their driver’s license number or identification number will need to provide another form of identification other than their voter registration certificate.

Don’t let anyone stop you from exercising your right to vote.

Beyond that, the big question is about turnout. Out of curiosity, to see if there are any clear indicators of a surge in partisan voting, I compared the totals in the different State Rep districts. Here’s how that looks:

2006 final Strong R = 74,821 = 43.7% Medium R = 19,117 = 11.2% Medium D = 32,971 = 19.2% Strong D = 39,756 = 23.2% 2006 Day One Strong R = 3,411 = 39.9% Medium R = 1,004 = 11.7% Medium D = 1,821 = 21.3% Strong D = 1,912 = 22.4% 2010 Day One Strong R = 12,240 = 47.0% Medium R = 2,314 = 8.9% Medium D = 4,689 = 18.0% Strong D = 6,125 = 23.5%

I define as follows:

Strong R = HDs 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 135, 136, 150
Medium R = HDs 133, 138, 144

Medium D = HDs 134, 137, 149
Strong D = HDs 131, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 145, 146, 147, 148

I excluded the downtown location from all calculations, so the percentages don’t sum to 100. Combining the two:

2010 Day One R = 55.9% 2010 Day One D = 41.5% 2006 final R = 54.9% 2006 final D = 42.4% 2006 Day One R = 51.6% 2006 Day One D = 43.7%

Lots of things to keep in mind here. Early voting in general is more prevalent now than it was in 2006, when a smidge fewer than 30% of all votes in Harris County were cast early in person. That’s especially true this year, when everyone has been urged to vote early due to the fire that destroyed all of the county’s voting equipment. I’d guess that at a minimum, we’ll have double the in person early vote total from 2006. This is also a very crude way to gauge partisan interest, since even the strong partisan districts can have big pockets of voters from the other party. We’ll know a lot more when the roster of who voted gets released, so we can see what precincts these voters are in. Finally, strong early voting isn’t particularly predictive of final turnout. A lot of these early voters are just people who would have voted on Election Day in previous years. It’s way too early to make any guesses about final turnout, but it will be important to not overestimate based on EV totals.

The vote by mail totals are way up as well, with a bit more than twice as many mail ballots being sent in 2010 than in 2006. Mail ballots tend to be heavily Republican, but I expect that this too is mostly a shift in voting behavior rather than an increase in votes. I also figure more Democrats than usual requested absentee ballots, as an alternative to early voting. But we’ll see how it goes.

Campos has a comparison to 2008, which is interesting but not quite the same thing, as Presidential years draw very different voting populations. The early vote totals for the top 15 counties are not up yet, so we can’t say how things look elsewhere, though Hidalgo County showed good numbers for Monday. Again, how much of that is an increase in voters and how much is a shift in voting behavior is unclear. We’ll know more soon enough. BOR has more.

So much for Abbott’s big “voter fraud” case

Back in 2005, Attorney General Greg Abbott announced with a flourish a rash of arrests in South Texas on various counts of voter fraud. These arrests, some of which were announced while the Lege was debating a voter ID bill, were cited as evidence by Abbott of an “epidemic”, for which voter ID was naturally the solution. Many of these cases ultimately wound up being dismissed, with the last batch in Hidalgo County getting dropped last week.

In 2005, Belasquez and seven other politiqueras — operatives paid by campaigns to collect votes — were indicted on charges they mishandled ballots of elderly and disabled voters during their work on the McAllen mayoral race earlier that year.

At the time, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, described the case as yet another reminder that “voter fraud is occurring on a large scale when viewed statewide, and consequently, our state elections are significantly impacted.”

Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra, a Democrat, cautioned local politicians that the indictments should serve as a warning to all those who thought they could get away with tampering with local elections.

But despite the fanfare, nearly all the charges have been dismissed five years later.

[…]

The problem with all the McAllen voter fraud cases, said Guerra during a recent interview, was that the investigations were weak, pushed on his office by the Texas Rangers and the attorney general and nearly impossible to prove at trial.

Many of the allegations involved politiqueras purportedly pressuring disabled and elderly voters to select certain candidates on their mail-in ballots. But without actually proving the election workers filled out or changed the ballots themselves, it was nearly impossible to convince a jury that criminal activity occurred, the DA said.

“I don’t care what party you’re from, you’re going to have people out hustling votes,” he said. “In some places, they’ll call them politiqueras. In others, they’ll call it paid campaign staff.”

See here, here, and here for some background. One thing that’s been true in all of the cases Abbott has pushed is that they involved mail in ballots, which as I’ve observed would be unaffected by any legislation that required photo ID to vote in person. Abbott and his allies, of course, never drew that distinction, since the purpose of the voter ID legislation that keeps getting pushed in the Lege isn’t about stopping the kind of voter fraud that actually happens, it’s about making it harder for certain people to vote. In the end, even the fraud cases that Abbott claimed to have found turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. It’s no surprise to me.