Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Hope Andrade

When will we have that special election in SD06?

Sylvia Garcia would like to know.

Senate District 6 candidate Sylvia Garcia, today called on Governor Rick Perry to set an election date to fill the senate district seat as soon as possible.

“This is a simple taxation without representation issue,” Garcia said. “The working families of our district, most of whom are Latino and African American, deserve to have their voices heard in Austin without delay.”

“I have one thing to say to Governor Perry,” Garcia continued, “call this election now. The families of Senate District 6 deserve a strong voice in Austin for the legislative session that starts in January of 2013.”

According to published reports by the Houston Chronicle and Texas Tribune, Perry can set the special election for District 6 anytime between Dec 15, 2012 and February 5, 2012.

“The next legislative session begins in less than 2 months,” said City Council Member Ed Gonzalez. The legislature will be making decisions that impact our city and the citizens of Senate District 6. That is why it is so important that this election happens as soon as possible — the families of our district don’t have time to waste.”

Robert Miller helpfully laid out the timeline shortly after the regular election.

Gov. Perry must conduct the state canvas for the November 6 election no earlier than November 21 and no later than December 6. Sec. 67.012. After the canvas, Gov. Perry must call a special election within 20 days to fill the vacancy in SD 6. Texas Constitution Article III, Section 13.

Because the vacancy occurs within 60 days of the convening of the 83rd Legislature, the special election is an expedited election. Sec. 203.013. An expedited election must be held on a Tuesday or Saturday between 21 and 45 days after the date the election is ordered.

[…]

The following is my calculation of the earliest and the latest date for this decisive runoff.

Earliest scenario: If the canvas occurs November 21 and the Governor issues a writ of election the same day, the special election could be held Saturday, December 15. The local canvas could occur December 26, and the runoff election could be set for January 8.

Latest scenario: If the canvas occurs December 6, the Governor could issue the writ of election on December 26. The election could be called for February 5. If the local canvas then occurs February 15, the Governor could wait until March 6 to order a March 30 runoff election.

Summary: The SD 6 special election could occur as soon as December 15 or as late as February 5. The runoff could occur as soon as January 8 or as late as March 30.

The state canvass has not yet occurred as far as I can tell, which isn’t too surprising given that the 22nd was Thanksgiving. I have not seen any announcement about when it will occur, and with Secretary of State Hope Andrade stepping down as of Friday, my money is on a late canvass. I seriously doubt we will have this election before February 5, as Robert documents above.

On voter confidence

There was one more interesting aspect to that poll of Harris County from last week, and it had to do with how confident voters were that the vote they cast would be counted. This KUHF story goes into that result.

A new KUHF/KHOU poll shows that black voters aren’t as confident as other voters that their vote will be counted accurately.

[…]

Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein, who conducted the poll, says confusion and possible anger over voter ID could be fueling the lower level of assurance.

“African-Americans here are actually considerably less confident that their vote will be counted accurately than other African-Americans throughout the country, with the exception of states who’ve had this controversy over photo IDs.”

Stein says the difference between the KUHF/KHOU poll and national polls is the level of confidence African-American voters expressed. While nationally 40-45 percent of black voters are very confident that their vote will be counted accurately. Stein says the numbers are different for those voters polled in Harris County.

“Among African-Americans only about 36% are very confident, compared to 50% white and 44% Hispanic.”

Here are the relevant tables from the topline data:

Dr. Stein asked me for my feedback on this, and I replied as follows:

Interesting stuff. From a Dem perspective, I would add two things that likely add to the perception of one’s vote not being counted:

1. In my experience, Dems have a much higher level of distrust of electronic voting machines. Some of that is lingering paranoia and conspiracy-mongering from Ohio 2004, and some of it is the very legitimate concern that these machines aren’t terribly secure and could well be compromised without anyone knowing it. The fact that every cycle there seems to be a story about some well-connected Republican having an ownership stake in a company that produces these machines, as is the case this year with Tagg Romney, adds to this level of distrust.

2. Every time something happens that causes a problem with voting, or that results in misinformation about voting, it seems to affect people of color in a vastly disproportionate amount. See the recent debacle with the “dead voter” purge here, and the recent story in Arizona about the wrong date for Election Day being provided in Spanish-language materials. Add in the various official and unofficial efforts to suppress minority voting – voter ID, the King Street Patriots’ “poll watchers”, efforts to curb early voting in Ohio, etc etc etc – and it’s easy to see why some folks feel like their vote is discounted.

Almost as if on cue, we had this story in Friday’s Chron:

State election officials repeatedly and mistakenly matched active longtime Texas voters to deceased strangers across the country – some of whom perished more than a decade ago – in an error-ridden effort to purge dead voters just weeks before the presidential election, according to a Houston Chronicle review of records.

Voters in legislative districts across Texas with heavy concentrations of Hispanics or African-Americans were more often targeted in that flawed purge effort, according the Chronicle’s analysis of more than 68,000 voters identified as possibly dead.

It’s unclear why so many more matches were generated in some minority legislative districts. One factor may be the popularity of certain surnames in Hispanic and historically black neighborhoods.

That’s as may be, and as noted before there were Anglo voters and known Republicans affected by this as well. But still, there are only so many times that this sort of thing can happen before people stop believing it to be a coincidence or an innocent mistake. Texans for Public Justice argued last week that this was anything but an innocent mistake, as they accused Andrade of deliberately trying to suppress the vote. You can read the report and come to your own conclusions, but again I’m not surprised by the poll numbers. I’m sure there are other reasons I didn’t come up with. Maybe this is an anomaly, maybe it’s a small sample size problem, but it’s worth keeping an eye on, because people who don’t think their vote counts are less likely to vote. What do you think about this?

Texas Supreme Court dismisses voting machine lawsuit

This came out late Friday.

Dealing a blow to critics of electronic voting machines, the Texas Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a case brought by Travis County voters that alleged the machines were not secure or reliable.

The machines “are not perfect. No voting system is,” Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson said in his opinion.

But “we cannot say that (electronic voting machines) impose severe restrictions on voters, particularly in light of the significant benefits such machines offer,” he said.

The lawsuit, filed in 2006 but held up on procedural questions, sought to force Travis County to provide voters with a paper copy of their just-cast ballot to review for accuracy. That ballot would then be submitted to create a record that could be checked in event of a recount or problem with a machine.

The current system, which tabulates all votes cast on a machine but does not provide printed ballots, cannot ensure accuracy or provide a backstop to a voting system that has had problems in the past, the voters said in the suit.

Lawyers for Secretary of State Hope Andrade, the defendant in the case because she had certified the machines, argued the voters cannot show they have been harmed by the voting machines and therefore had no standing to sue.

Although the court held they had standing on some issues, it ultimately found that the machines did not unduly impinge on the right to cast a ballot.

Andrade “made a reasonable, nondiscriminatory choice to certify” the machines, Jefferson wrote.

Friday’s decision reverses opinions by the state District Court in Travis County and the 3rd Court of Appeals , which had ruled that the lawsuit could proceed to trial.

So five years after the lawsuit was filed, the Court has ultimately ruled that the lawsuit cannot be heard. I’m not a voting machine conspiracy theorist, but I would have liked to have seen their evidence presented in a courtroom. Guess that’s not going to happen.

Questions and concerns about electronic voting machines have been around as long as the machines themselves. There have been numerous instances of weird happenings, but so far nothing catastrophic. At least, nothing that we know of. I believe electronic voting machines are an improvement over what we used to have, and I don’t think paper ballots are a panacea, but the system could definitely do with some redundancy. As noted later in the story, many counties will be replacing their voting equipment, as the current machines are at the end of their life cycle. Which means that now would be an excellent time to push your county clerk or elections administrator to include requiring a paper component for the new machines. You’re not going to get any relief from the courts, that’s for sure.

Census forms start arriving next week

Fill out those forms and send them back, because redistricting and all that it entails will follow close behind.

Experts’ early looks at Census estimates point to a potential new congressional district in northwest Harris County. That could be alluring to state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who represents the area in the Legislature.

A new Hispanic-majority congressional district is likely to find a home along Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin.

Another Hispanic-majority district probably will land in Dallas County. But because of population shifts to the suburbs, Dallas likely will lose a seat in the Texas House of Representatives.

The location of a fourth congressional district for Texas will be the subject of political debate a year from now.

I had always been under the impression that the fourth seat would be down along the Rio Grande. If you take a look at Steve Murdock’s map of where the population growth has been in Texas, it’s pretty obvious, as the four locations correspond to the three places mentioned in the Chron story, plus the southernmost border counties. That would very likely be a Democratic seat, which won’t go over too well with the Republicans, who will as the story notes try to make up for it by taking aim once again at Rep. Chet Edwards. Obviously, there are far too many factors involved here to give any kind of accurate projection of what will happen, but some things you can see coming from miles away.

Of course, for South Texas to have any hope of getting a new Congressional seat, there has to be a thorough count. The State of Texas hasn’t exactly been out in front of the issue.

With Census Day just a few weeks away, Texas finally has a point person to coordinate the state’s push for complete participation by its residents in the project.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry named Secretary of State Hope Andrade the Texas Census Ambassador.

[…]

For months, Hispanic civil rights groups, border city and county officials and state legislators have been urging Perry to get involved in Census 2010 by forming a statewide Complete Census Count Committee. Groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have argued that Perry could have been better utilizing the enormous resources state agencies have to promote full participation in the Census. Up until now Perry has resisted such calls.

MALDEF staff attorney Luis Figueroa pointed out that more than 35 states have so far set up Complete Census Count Committees. “Obviously, with all the obstacles that we have, such as the hard to count communities and the colonias, Texas is really a state that needs to be proactive with the census,” Figueroa said.

State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, was the first elected official in Texas to call on Perry to set up a statewide Complete Census Count Committee.

“The stakes are high,” Villarreal said, in a letter to Perry last October. “Promoting participation in the census will improve our state’s chances of attaining the federal funding and political representation that our growing population deserves. If we succeed, we will receive more of our own tax dollars back from the federal government, easing our ability to meet our needs in transportation, education, health and human services and other ideas.”

Villarreal’s letter prompted calls in the Guardian in November for Perry to set up a statewide Complete Count Committee. The calls came from Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia, McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and McAllen Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Keith Patridge.

Here’s a copy of the letter Villarreal sent to Perry back in October, and here’s a story from February in which Villarreal called on Perry again to take this step. I know Perry’s been busy lately fighting off the depredations of the federal government single-handedly, but if he had the time to do this now, he had the time to do it six months ago. It just wasn’t a priority for him. A release from Villarreal about Perry’s appointment of Andrade is beneath the fold, and Texas Politics has more.

(more…)

No official guess on turnout

The Secretary of State doesn’t want to speculate about turnout for today’s election.

“We are not making a projection on the turnout for tomorrow,” Russell Dillard, spokesman for Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade, said Monday. “It’s pretty difficult to do for primary elections.”

[…]

Andrade is reluctant to guess an overall number because recent surges in early voting haven’t necessarily coincided with huge increases in turnout, Dillard said.

He noted that in the November 2008 presidential election, early votes were a misleading gauge. While more than 5.3 million Texans cast early votes in that election, they ended up being 66 percent of the total vote – not 51 percent, as they’d been in 2004.

“In 2008, we saw the early voting totals and thought there’d be a larger turnout on Election Day,” Dillard said.

The total vote was just under 8.1 million, not that big of an increase from the 7.4 million cast four years earlier.

For today’s primary, early voting began Feb. 16 and ended Friday. In the state’s 15 most-populous counties, early voting was nearly double what it was in the governor’s race primaries of 2006, Dillard said.

But “we are just not sure anymore what the early voting total means,” he said.

My assumption is that about 40 to 50% of the in-person votes were cast early. 2008 was an anomaly driven in part by a relentless “Vote Early!” message, mostly from the Democratic Party. Secretary Andrade didn’t factor that in when she projected that nine million people would vote in 2008. I guess I understand the reluctance to make a projection, but I still think it’s a bit wimpy. What’s at stake if she’s wrong?

Anyway. You can see the early vote totals for the 15 most populous counties here, and compare them to the 2006 results here. Anyone want to go where the SOS refuses to and make their own guess about turnout?