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recount

CD23 update

Today is the last day to cure a provisional ballot. In the meantime, the counting goes on in the closest Texas Congressional race.

Gina Ortiz Jones

Election officials in 29 Texas counties are furiously counting outstanding votes in the Congressional District 23 election, in which Republican Rep. Will Hurd holds a narrow lead with at least 859 ballots outstanding.

Hurd, a two-term incumbent, thought he had a comfortable win Tuesday night, when the Associated Press called the race for him around 11 p.m.

But the contest tightened in the early morning hours Wednesday, and it appeared — for a half-hour — that Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones had pulled off an upset.

Then the lead changed hands again, and the state’s unofficial results showed Hurd winning by 689 votes. Later Wednesday, a tabulation error in Jones’ favor was discovered in Culberson County. Once the error was corrected, Hurd’s margin had increased to 1,150 votes — out of more than 200,000 cast.

[…]

On Friday, Bexar County — which accounts for more than half the votes in the district — updated its tally to reflect 446 ballots counted since election night. Hurd received 183, Jones 253 and Libertarian candidate Ruben Corvalan 10.

Jones gained a net 70 votes, reducing Hurd’s overall margin to 1,080.

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said there’s been a steady stream of lawyers and campaign workers at the county’s Elections Department asking questions about the uncounted ballots.

“We haven’t seen so many lawyers in here since forever,” she said.

At least 859 ballots are still outstanding, according to county elections officials across the district, but it’s unclear how many will ultimately be included in the final count.

See here for some background. The SOS still shows Hurd with a 1,150 vote lead, but as you can see the Bexar County elections page shows more votes counted, so the SOS page is a bit out of date. Ortiz Jones is pushing for more information about the provisional voters, though Bexar County officials say they’re just following the rules about what can and cannot be disclosed at this time. I still don’t expect there the be enough uncounted votes to make it likely that she could catch up, but we’ll know soon enough.

In the meantime, the HD138 and HD108 races remain in contention, while Gina Calanni’s lead in HD132 has increased to 97 votes. Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Carol Donovan put out a statement yesterday about the HD108 race that included this curious bit:

One of the hold-ups is caused by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Though Texas law allows people to register to vote when renewing their drivers license, the DMV is notorious for sitting on these registrations and failing to turn them in to the election department of the counties in which they operate. Without this documentation, the local election departments are unable to determine if certain provisional ballots should be counted. In Dallas County, it is estimated that approximately 1,000 provisional ballots are being held, pending the documentation from the DMV. This number is significantly higher than the number of votes that separate the candidates in House District 108.

Not really sure what to make of that, but as I said, we should at least get some official numbers by the end of the day today. Stay tuned.

How many recounts might there be?

More than one, is my guess.

Rep. Morgan Meyer

On Wednesday, Dallas state Rep. Morgan Meyer, a Republican, tweeted that he was “honored and grateful” voters had decided to send him back to the Texas Legislature for another term in office.

But his Democratic opponent in the race, Joanna Cattanach, isn’t ready to concede in House District 108, which includes Park Cities, Uptown Dallas, parts of downtown and Old East Dallas.

[…]

In Houston, Republican state Rep. Dwayne Bohac inched ahead of Democratic challenger Adam Milasincic on election night with 137 votes. Milasincic, too, is waiting on all votes to come in.

“I want to see the final numbers before we make any determination one way or another,” Milasincic said, adding that he hadn’t expected the count to draw out this long.

In Houston, Republican state Rep. Dwayne Bohac inched ahead of Democratic challenger Adam Milasincic on election night with 137 votes. Milasincic, too, is waiting on all votes to come in.

“I want to see the final numbers before we make any determination one way or another,” Milasincic said, adding that he hadn’t expected the count to draw out this long.

“I wish it had been over on election night,” he said.

In Collin County, state Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, with 378 more votes in unofficial returns, declared victory over Democrat Sharon Hirsch.

But Hirsch posted a message on her website noting the close margin and adding that she is “waiting until this process concludes before making any final remarks.”

[…]

State Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Houston, who trailed Democrat Gina Calanni by 49 votes, told his supporters on social media Thursday morning that “Tuesday’s results are not final yet.”

“The Harris County Clerk advises me that there are many votes yet to be counted — more absentee ballots and provisional ballots. We will continue to wait for a final vote count.”

And of course there’s the still-unsettled CD23 race. Meyer leads Cattanach by 440 votes, which is the widest margin of the it-ain’t-over-till-it’s-over State Rep races. I can’t think of an example of a race that was materially affected by overseas and provisional ballots – my impression is that such votes tend to be countable on one’s fingers – but I suppose there has to be a first time at some point. The last successful recount that I can think of was the 2004 Dem primary between Henry Cuellar and Ciro Rodriguez, in which a bunch of ballots were found after Election Day. This is all part of the process and people are entitled to ask for recounts. I just don’t ever expect them to change anything.

The CD23 race isn’t quite over yet

I believe it is highly unlikely that the outcome in CD23 will change from the current close win for Rep. Will Hurd, but we are not done counting the votes just yet.

Gina Ortiz Jones

The Texas congressional race between incumbent Republican Will Hurd and Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones is still too close to call following a dramatic overnight in which Ortiz Jones pulled ahead, Hurd pulled back on top, and news outlets across the nation retracted their projections.

On Wednesday morning in Congressional District 23, the state’s only consistent battleground district, Hurd was leading Ortiz Jones by 689 votes, with all precincts counted.

“This election is not over—every vote matters,” said Noelle Rosellini, a spokesperson for Ortiz Jones. “We won’t stop working until every provisional ballot, absentee ballot, and military or overseas ballot has been counted.”

She did not mention the possibility of a recount, although Ortiz Jones’ campaign is well within the margin to do so in Texas. (According to state law, the difference in votes between the top two finishers must be less than 10 percent of the winner’s total votes — in this case, about 10,000.)

But that did not keep Hurd from declaring victory. “I’m proud to have won another tough reelection in the 23rd Congressional District of Texas,” he said in a statement on Wednesday morning, noting that he would be the only Texas Republican to keep his seat in a district carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

[…]

Many news outlets, including The Texas Tribune, called the race for Hurd late on Tuesday evening, with Hurd declaring victory on Twitter and in person to his supporters at a watch party in San Antonio as Ortiz Jones conceded defeat across town.

“While it didn’t shake out the way we would want, we ran a campaign that we are proud of and that really reflected Texas values,” Ortiz Jones said at her campaign headquarters, according to the San Antonio News-Express. Her campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But as more vote totals kept coming in, she surpassed Hurd by a margin of fewer than 300 votes with all precincts reporting. Early on Wednesday morning, news organizations withdrew their call of the race and Hurd deleted a tweet saying he won.

But vote totals from the last of eight Medina County precincts were inputted incorrectly — they had left out about 4000 votes when first entering totals. The fixed results put Hurd just over Ortiz Jones by a margin of fewer than 700 votes.

See here for some background. The current tally has Hurd up by 1,150 votes now, out of 209,058 votes cast. Apparently, a second county erred in how they initially reported their results, in a way that had inflated Ortiz Jones’ total. Late-arriving mail and provisional ballots still need to be counted, though usually there are not that many of them. I’d like to see a more thorough review of what exactly happened in Medina County, but beyond that I don’t think there’s much joy to be found here.

This race was a bit confounding well before any votes came in. The NYT/Siena College live polls had Hurd up by eight points in September and a whopping fifteen points in October. The NRCC pulled out around the time early voting started, presumably from a feeling of confidence in the race, then a lot of late money poured in, presumably in response to the off-the-charts turnout. I had faith this would be a close race, as it always is, but I had no idea what to make of all this.

In the end, the story of this race appears to come down to found counties. Compare the 2018 results to the 2016 results, in which Hurd defeated Pete Gallego in a rematch by about 3000 votes, and you see this:

– In Bexar County, Ortiz Jones improved on Gallego’s performance by 5000 votes, while Hurd received about 4500 votes less than he did in 2016. In theory, that should have been more than enough to win her the race.

– However, in El Paso, Maverick, and Val Verde counties, Hurd got nearly identical vote totals as he had in 2016, while Ortiz Jones underperformed Gallego by 3000, 2500, and 1200 votes, respectively. That was enough to put Hurd back into positive territory.

There was some float in the other counties, but these four told the main story. Both candidates had slightly lower vote totals than in 2016, and indeed Ortiz Jones got a larger share of the Gallego vote than 2018 Hurd did of 2016 Hurd. It just wasn’t quite enough.

From the “I may have spoken too soon” department

First, Will Hurd was declared the winner in CD23. But there were still a few precincts out, some in deep red Medina County and others in El Paso County. Hurd started the evening with a 6K early vote lead, but Jones cut into it through the night. Then we had this:


CD23

Will Hurd - Incumbent   REP    100,627  48.88%
Gina Ortiz Jones        DEM    100,909  49.02%
Ruben Corvalan          LIB      4,311   2.09%

And it looked like all the precincts had been counted, and Gina Ortiz Jones had pulled it out in the end. But then it turned out there may have been a mistake in the Medina numbers, and the SOS page showed one precinct still out. When the dust cleared, we got this:


CD23

Will Hurd - Incumbent   REP    102,903  49.11%
Gina Ortiz Jones        DEM    102,214  48.78%
Ruben Corvalan          LIB      4,402   2.10%

Harold has the screenshots. One way or the other, I smell a recount.

Which leads to this:


HD132

Mike Schofield (REP)    32,629  49.14%
Gina Calanni   (DEM)    32,678  49.21%
Daniel Arevalo (LIB)     1,097   1.65%

There were only a tiny number of uncounted precincts left in Harris County when I posted that omnibus report, but apparently some of them were in HD132, and they gave Gina Calanni enough support to overcome the 270-vote advantage Mike Schofield had owned. Again, for sure there will be a recount, but if this results now stands, Democrats will have 67 of 150 seats in the State House, for a gain of twelve (!) in that chamber. I am amazed. And I won’t be surprised if I find out that something else has happened in one of these races, or any other for that matter.

Luman will request recount

John Luman posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

John Luman

Talk about close races! As of last night’s “unofficial” results, only 27 votes separate Anne Sung and me. Given the tightness of the race, I feel compelled on behalf of all of you who supported and invested in me to ask for a ballot recount. Had I been the one up by only 27 votes, I would expect Anne to do the same.

While we wait for the “official” results of this race, enjoy time with your family and friends—the folks we put it on the line for.

Thanks for your support!

As I expected. I agree with what Luman says about if the result had been the other way. I can’t imagine anyone not asking for a recount when down by this small a margin, which stands now at 27 but may change by a few one way or the other when the vote is canvassed and provisional ballots (assuming there are any) are counted or not. That said, the recount is highly unlikely to change the result, because recounts almost never change results. But it’s part of the process in close races, and Luman is entirely within his rights to ask for it, as would any other candidate be. I’d have to check to see what the schedule will be for doing the canvass and then the recount, but my guess is we’ll have a final result before Christmas.

Anderson maintains lead after recount

It’s over.

Terry Meza

Terry Meza

After a recount, state Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, is still the apparent winner in his re-election battle against Democrat Terry Meza.

It was not immediately clear what the exact official outcome of the recount was, but the Dallas County GOP said in an email that Meza “conceded upon discovering Rep. Anderson would maintain his victory by a margin of 64 votes.” The recount had started Monday and stretched into Tuesday.

[…]

Meza trailed Anderson by 64 votes after all provisional ballots were tallied a week ago. That margin was far less than 10 percent of Anderson’s vote total, the threshold under which a loser can ask for a recount.

See here and here for the background. I didn’t expect anything to come of this because it’s almost never the case that recounts make a difference. It’s worth the effort, just not worth much hope. At this point the best thing to do is make sure whoever runs in 2018 has whatever he or she needs to do the job. Thanks to Terry Meza for her effort, and better luck next time.

Recount in HD105

Still not decided yet.

Terry Meza

Terry Meza

The tight Texas House District 105 race between Republican state Rep. Rodney Anderson and Democratic challenger Terry Meza is headed for a recount. Meza trails Anderson by 69 votes, according to the latest Dallas County elections office tally.

The Secretary of State’s office today approved Meza’s request for the recount, which is scheduled for Nov. 28.

“I’m cautiously optimistic and just feel like we owe it to the voters when we say, ‘Every vote counts,'” Meza said Monday.

[…]

The current vote difference is less than one-fifth of a percent of the 47,369 ballots cast. But this eastern Dallas County district that covers parts of Irving and Grand Prairie is no stranger to close contests.

Former State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown famously held on to the seat in 2008, when she beat a Democrat by a mere 19 votes. That race also went to a recount and prompted a series of lawsuits that stretched the contest into December. But the race had higher stakes eight years ago: Harper-Brown’s eventual victory gave Republicans a narrow 76-74 majority in the lower chamber. Now, Republicans hold a comfortable majority in the 150-seat chamber regardless of who wins this seat.

See here for the background. Meza actually made up about half of her initial deficit with the overseas and provisional ballots, which is impressive in and of itself. I seriously doubt the recount will change the current margin, however. Since I started blogging, there have been three legislative races closer than this one that went to a recount (and in two cases to an election contest heard in the House) without the result changing: Hubert Vo in 2004, Donna Howard in 2010, and the aforementioned Linda Harper-Brown in 2008. I strongly suspect that Rodney Anderson will prevail, and will face an even stronger challenge in 2018.

Cain retains lead in HD128 after recount

It’s all over.

Rep. Wayne Smith

After a recount, Briscoe Cain remains the winner in his Republican primary challenge to state Rep. Wayne Smith of Baytown.

Cain, an attorney from Deer Park, edged out Smith, a longtime incumbent, by 23 votes last month in House District 128. After initially conceding defeat in the May 24 primary runoff, Smith requested a recount.

The Texas Republican Party said Friday afternoon that Cain has won the recount. It was not immediately clear whether he prevailed by the same margin.

[…]

The deadline for requesting a recount of last month’s primary runoffs is 5 p.m. Monday.

See here for the background. We had previously been told that Thursday, June 2, was the deadline for requesting recounts. Not that it really matters at this point. In any event, as there is no Democrat running in HD128, Cain is the newest member of the legislative caucus from Harris County, so congratulations to him on his election.

Two runoff recounts in the works

It’s not over yet in HD128.

Rep. Wayne Smith

In a reversal, state Rep. Wayne Smith is now pursuing a recount in his narrow loss in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff.

Deer Park attorney Briscoe Cain beat Smith, a longtime incumbent from Baytown, by 23 votes in the runoff. As soon as the outcome became clear in House District 128, Smith conceded the race, and his campaign confirmed the next morning that he was not interested in a recount.

But in a statement issued Thursday night, Smith indicated he had changed his mind.

“After much thought and careful consideration, I have decided to move forward with a recount,” Smith said. “Whenever a race is this close, the option for a recount must be considered. In the past two days, I have been overwhelmed by friends and supporters who have encouraged this option.”

Smith lost in the closest race of the runoffs, though not the closest race of the cycle. I was surprised when he initially declined to ask for a recount, so I’m not surprised he changed his mind.

The other recount was announced immediately in the aftermath of Tuesday’s runoffs.

Tuesday’s Republican primary runoffs may not be over yet for at least one candidate.

The contests produced a number of narrow margins — including in House District 54, where Killeen Mayor Scott Cosper won by just 43 votes. His opponent, Killeen optometrist Austin Ruiz, said late Tuesday night he has “decided to pursue filing for a recount.”

[…]

A losing candidate can ask for a recount if the number of votes by which he or she lost is less than 10 percent of the total number of votes his or her opponent received, according to the secretary of state’s office. The deadline to apply for a recount is by the end of the fifth day after the election or the second day after the vote totals are canvassed.

That deadline is Thursday, June 2, at 5 PM, according to the Secretary of State. I can’t imagine there will be any other requests, as the only other runoffs for which the races were close have had the losing candidates concede. But if Wayne Smith can change his mind then someone else could, too.

George Scott hangs on after recount

A win by six votes is still very much a win.

George Scott

George Scott

A longtime Katy ISD board member conceded defeat Tuesday to a district critic in a closely watched race after a recount did not show him closing the narrow margin.

Trustee Joe Adams’ concession means that conservative blogger George Scott will be joining the board of the fast-growing suburban district west of Houston.

Adams has served on the board for 27 years.

Two four-member counting committees began recounting votes at 9 a.m. Tuesday. After mail-in ballots were recounted and votes did not swing Adams’ way, the incumbent conceded the race, not waiting for electronic votes to be recounted.

Before the recount, the district had said unofficial results showed Scott had defeated Adams by three votes out of nearly 3,000 votes cast. The recount showed Scott with 1479 votes to Adams’ 1473.

[…]

Scott blamed Adams for a lack of leadership on the board, though he softened his tone on Tuesday.

“Joe conducted himself with class and dignity in every way he interacted with me. He had a right to a recount,” Scott said Tuesday. “Obviously, I’m very excited. The issues that I campaigned on have not changed … but today is not about the issues. Today is about this incredible process.”

See here and here for the background. Scott had started with a three-vote lead, which expanded to six as the absentee ballots were counted and led to Adams’ concession. Scott’s swearing in date has not been announced, but he has been in attendance at recent board meetings, so I’m sure he’ll hit the ground running. Covering Katy, which includes a statement by Scott in the comments to their story, has more.

George Scott holds on in Katy ISD race

Every vote matters, y’all.

George Scott

George Scott

A longtime critic of the Katy Independent School District has ousted a 27-year incumbent from the board of trustees, winning by three votes out of nearly 3,000 cast, according to unofficial total results announced Friday.

Conservative blogger George Scott received 1475 votes to Trustee Joe Adams’ 1,472 votes, district officials said Friday. The final tally came six days after election day results left the Position 1 race too close to call.

Results will become official when the seven-member board canvasses them at a meeting Wednesday. Scott would be sworn in at the May 23 board meeting, along with Trustee Rebecca Fox, who was re-elected earlier this month.

Scott’s victory signals a major shift for the district. Adams is a widely recognized figure in the Katy area and has served on the board of directors for the Texas Association of School Boards.

A former media liaison for the Harris County Appraisal District and past publisher of The Katy Times newspaper, Scott has for years questioned the board’s fiscal decisions, transparency to the public and deference to Superintendent Alton Frailey, who is retiring this summer.

Scott contended that trustees became too influenced by Frailey and hadn’t held him sufficiently accountable. He criticized the district’s push for a $62.5 million stadium, a project that still divides the community because of its price tag. It is now being built alongside an existing one and is set to open next year.

In challenging Adams, Scott suggested that the incumbent had become complacent. Scott said voters heard that message.

“I’ve been a very strong critic, but my goal is to try and work with the other board members,” Scott, 66, said Thursday, a day before the final results were announced. “Can we agree that the district can do a better job with communication to the media and public? Can we hold the superintendent more accountable? I want those talks to be professional.”

Scott was ahead by seven votes with 14 provisional ballots to review and the possibility of overseas ballots still to come. Adams would have needed to net eight votes, which would be an 11-3 win on provisionals if they all counted. In the end, eight of those ballots were counted and Adams won them 6-2, but pending any recounts, Scott wins by a nose.

Covering Katy, which provided the details on the provisional ballots, also provides a peek at how first-time candidate Scott ousted the nine-term incumbent.

Even though it was a very close election, it was not easy to beat a man who has been re-elected nine times in a row. Scott won by running “a flawless campaign,” according to supporter A.D. Muller, who has worked as an advisor on numerous campaigns in Katy, including Scott’s campaign.

“I’ve never seen a Katy school board race with zero mistakes until this one, and I’ve never seen such an unconventional race as Scott has run this year,” Muller said.

Among the unconventional tactics Scott used was spending no money on campaign signs, until the very end of the campaign. Instead, Scott spent all of his advertising budget with Covering Katy during much of the campaign. Later in the campaign he also used direct mail.

“People thought I was crazy, but I know everyone reads Covering Katy,” Scott said. “I did not have a big budget. My choice was buy yard signs or buy a great advertising position on Covering Katy. The decision to go digital instead of traditional was a no-brainer for me. I had to constantly tell my supporters to trust me. They thought I was crazy because no one had ever run a successful campaign without yard signs,” Scott said.

“I didn’t buy a single campaign sign until the very end when a supporter said he’d donate to my campaign if the money was used for yard signs, so I bought some signs,” Scott said. Otherwise, he said he would not have purchased any signs.

Weather played in Scotts favor too. When the recent flooding hit Katy it spiked Covering Katy’s page views, meaning Scott’s advertisement was seen nearly 800,000 times in the last four weeks of the campaign.

Meanwhile, Joe Adams ignored Covering Katy. He would not provide a phone number or email address to be contacted for stories on the election. He never personally responded to any requests for interviews or comments.

Scott recognized Adams’ mistake and saw an opening. He provided Covering Katy with a barrage of big name endorsements, which bought him credibility with many Katy newcomers who didn’t know his background as a former member of the Harris County Hospital District, a staffer with the Harris County Appraisal District and the former owner of The Katy News.

Scott also quietly made amends with people he’d criticized on his blog George Scott Reports. Known for his slash and burn commentaries, Scott criticized people on all ends of the political spectrum. At the start of the campaign he needed to know if those he criticized would turn against him during the campaign. He visited with them and was surprised to find almost every person said they’d support him, some key people even endorsed his campaign publicly.

“At times during this campaign I’ve wondered what did I do to deserve this type of support after being so critical of these folks over the years,” Scott said. “I told them I’d understand if they told me no, but they all felt I’d do a good job on the school board and pledged their support. I’ve been supported by a lot of good people, and I appreciate what they’ve done for this campaign,” Scott said.

There’s more, and it’s worth the read. Small campaigns like this are just different than large ones, and there’s nothing that substitutes for personal contact from a candidate, which you can do much more easily in a campaign of that scale. I know a few campaign professionals who are nodding their heads vigorously at the bit about not spending money on yard signs. Anyway, as someone who appreciated George’s writing on property tax issues, I’m glad to see he won. Congratulations, and best of luck with the new gig.

Runoff watch: JPs and Constables

OK, sit back and settle in, this may take awhile.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 1 – Democratic

Judge Dale Gorczynski

The race to succeed retiring JP Dale Gorczynski turned out to be a bit of a barnburner. The two leading candidates, Eric William “Brother of District Judge Kyle” Carter and Tanya Makany-Rivera, finished 144 votes apart, out of over 36,000 cast. Four of the five other candidates were African-American, and there some speculation before the election that they might split the vote enough to make it hard for any of them to make it into the top two. As they combined for 40% of the total vote, with #s 3 and 4 grabbing enough votes together to beat the frontrunners, this wasn’t a crazy thought. Of interest is that Carter led Makany-Rivera by about 1,500 votes after early voting, but she wiped out nearly all of that deficit on Election Day. Whether that was the result of a better ground game on her part or an electorate that was more favorable to her turning out late rather than early is a question I can’t answer.

A good ground game is likely to be key to this and all the other runoffs we’re discussing today. The total number of voters is sure to be relatively tiny – point of reference, the 2008 runoff for JP Precint 8, Place 1 had 1,082 votes after 15,196 votes out of 23,911 ballots cast in March – so the candidate who does a better job dragging friends and neighbors back to the polls has an advantage. Both candidates received group endorsements in March – Carter got nods from the AFL-CIO and GLBT Political Caucus, while Makany-Rivera collected recommendations from the Tejano Dems and Stonewall Dems. This one looks like a tossup to me.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 7, Place 1 – Democratic

Incumbent JP Hilary Green had the pleasure of facing seven challengers in March, finishing ahead of them all but with only 29.53% of the vote; Cheryl Elliot Thornton, who was a candidate for County Court at Law #2 in 2010, came in second, ten points behind. It’s been a rough term for Judge Green, between a nasty divorce and allegations of biased rulings, both of which I suspect contributed to the crowded field against her, and possibly the less-than-stellar result. Usually, an incumbent wh can’t break 30% is in deep trouble, but she does start out with a ten-point lead, and there’s no guarantee that the supporters of the other candidates will bother to come out in May. I think she’s still a slight favorite, but I wouldn’t bet any of my own money on either outcome.

Constable, Precinct 2 – Democratic

Incumbent Constable Chris Diaz led a field of four candidates with 45%; runnerup close races, but I see no reason why he’d need to sweat this one. The only curiosity to me is that several groups that endorsed in Constable races apparently declined to do so in this one, even with an incumbent on the ballot; specifically, the GLBT Political Caucus, H-BAD, and Stonewall all skipped this one, while the AFL-CIO and the Tejanos plus Area 5 supported Diaz. Anyone know what if anything is up with that? Regardless, I see this as Diaz’s race to lose.

Constable, Precinct 3 – Democratic

Another huge field (nine candidates), another office vacated by a longtime incumbent (Constable Ken Jones), and another really close finish. The top three candidates:

Sherman Eagleton – 3,687 votes, 19.87%
Michel Pappillion – 2,862 votes, 15.43%
Jasen Rabalais – 2,825 votes, 15.23%

Yep, a 37-vote difference between going on and going home. I’ve discussed this one before, as third-place finisher Rabalais has filed a lawsuit challenging the result; he has alleged that a nefarious campaign worker committed absentee ballot fraud on behalf of Pappillion. I don’t really expect anything to change in this race, but one never knows. Assuming nothing changes, Eagleton, who is a sergeant in Precinct 3, was endorsed by the Chron, while Pappillion, a retired police officer with HPD and in his native Louisiana, got the HGLBT nod; other groups either skipped this one or went with candidates who finished out of the running. I call this one a tossup because I don’t know any better.

And that’s all there is – there are no runoffs at this level on the Republican side, as only one such race (JP in Precinct 1, Place 1) drew more than two candidates. I’ve got two more of these entries to go, to look at the Democratic Sheriff race and a couple of stray GOP races. I hope this has been useful.

Simpson prevails in SD01 primary

All elections are now officially resolved, at least at the state level.

Rep. David Simpson

Two state representatives are set to face off for an open seat in the Texas senate after the third place candidate said Monday he will not request a recount.

After days of uncertainty with a razor thin margin separating the two candidates, a finalized canvass of the vote in the Senate District 1 Republican primary confirmed that state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, had secured the second-place runoff spot over James “Red” Brown, a former army general.

“We are ready to move forward and excited about debating the issues,” Simpson said on Tyler’s CBS 19 on Monday night.

Brown’s campaign remained optimistic after election night due to outstanding provisional and military ballots. But after all were counted, each candidate gained 107 votes, putting Simpson at 28,395 to Brown’s 28,382 and leaving the margin of 13 votes unchanged.

Simpson will face state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, in the runoff to replace retiring state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, on May 24. Hughes drew more than 60,000 votes in the primary, falling just short of the majority he needed to avoid a runoff.

See here and here for the background. Red Brown was endorsed by Texas ParentPAC, so he was my preferred candidate in this race. I probably have a slight preference for Simpson over Hughes at this point – neither are any great shakes, but at least Simpson marches to his own drummer. Hughes came close to winning outright, though, so he would seem to be the favorite.

One recount settled

One down, one to go.

Challenger Hugh Shine secured victory Thursday in the Republican primary for Texas House District 55, defeating incumbent state Rep. Molly White by 104 votes after a recount, according to Bell County GOP chairwoman Nancy Boston.

“I am humbled by the faith and trust the voters of House District 55 have placed in me and I will work every day to be worthy of that trust,” Shine said in a statement. “I would like to personally thank Ms. White for her public service. I am hopeful we can have an orderly transition.”

White announced last week that she would request the recount after trailing Shine by 118 votes on election night.

[…]

Meanwhile, results in the other contest that remained uncertain after the March 1 primary — the second runoff spot in Senate District 1 — were still unsettled Thursday evening. Red Brown and state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, traded places intermittently throughout the week as results from provisional ballots across the district’s 16 counties came in.

At various points on Thursday, each candidate appeared to have won by a handful of votes as they contended for a chance to face state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, in a runoff to replace retiring state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler. Once official canvassed results are finalized, the third-place candidate will have the opportunity to request a recount.

See here for the background. As Juanita put it, this was a contest between an ineffective bozo, and a regular Republican who can probably get stuff done. Which in this context may be a mixed blessing, though in the grand scheme of things it’s surely better. Congratulations to Rep.-elect Shine.

That Senate race is a doozy. The Kilgore Herald News gives a fuller picture of its status.

All the counties in Texas Senate District 1 have released revised vote tallies from the 2016 GOP Primary election. Canvassing is underway, but there’s still no clear verdict on who will face frontrunner Bryan Hughes in the May 24 run-off.

It will definitely be either James “Red” Brown or David Simpson. It will definitely be by an extraordinarily narrow margin. It will almost-definitely take a recount to determine whose name is also on the ballot two months from now.

[…]

With 298 precincts across 16 counties, there are (relatively) hard numbers from most of the district. However, multiple reports show a significant discrepancy in the numbers coming out of the area’s largest division, Smith County. It’s difficult right now to draw a firm conclusion absent a recount.

From the best numbers available at press time, there were 133,413 votes cast in the race between early polling, Super Tuesday, provisional ballots and absentee decisions (including those from members of the military serving overseas).

Incorporating the updated-but-uncertain figures, Hughes maintains his early lead. Giving up his Texas House District 5 seat to run for the senate post, the frontrunner still didn’t secure the 50 percent-plus-one he needed to win the race outright but kept his initial 47.99 percent share of the overall tally. Adding 179 additional votes after Monday’s late-deadline, he leaves primary polling with 64,023 ballots.

Likewise, the outlook didn’t change for fourth place: Queen City candidate Mike Lee collected 12,630 votes by the time the polls closed on Super Tuesday and picked up an additional 23 this week. As of Thursday afternoon, his final count rests at 12,653, a little less than 9.5 percent of the total. Lee has since endorsed Simpson.

As for the run-off, right now it looks to come down to one vote, according to the latest reports, and the new numbers have flipped the lead.

From initial Super Tuesday returns, Simpson (two-term representative for House District 7) had a 13-vote lead over Brown, a Tyler-area businessman and major general in the Army National Guard. It was a miniscule margin, 0.01 percent among 133,037 early and election day votes reported online at the Texas Secretary of States election results portal.

Updated data from 16 counties’ election officials trimmed and ultimately inverted the race for the number two spot in the run-off.

By Thursday, there were no changes to the tallies from Upshur, Morris, Franklin, Rusk and Panola counties. Gregg County reported 15 provisional ballots in Simpson’s favor to 11 for Brown. Between Marion, Wood, Red River, Bowie, Camp, Harrison, Titus, Lamar and Cass counties, Simpson picked up another 22 votes to Brown’s 14.

According to Smith County’s latest numbers online, each of the four candidates added a substantial number of ballots compared to other parts of the district.

Notably, the smith-county.com total for the race shows a difference of 228 votes from the total reported to the state March 1. This, despite a March 8 press release noting the county’s ballot board accepted and counted 136 of 447 possible provisional ballots.

“What we have on our website is the complete, unofficial final until this evening when we canvass,” Smith County Elections Administrator Karen Nelson said Thursday afternoon, noting an adjusted total of 48,202 votes there. Of those, 35,962 were cast in the senate race.

From the 228 votes added to Super Tuesday’s total, Hughes picked up 111, Brown drew 66, Simpson collected 39 and Lee saw an additional 12.

Those numbers put Brown at 28,369 votes to 28,368 for Simpson.

In the past week, Simpson first cautiously and then more confidently laid claim to the run-off spot. As of Thursday, Brown is pushing the figures that give him a one-vote lead, crediting his campaign staffers’ research reflecting the same.

“They’ve gone through it in meticulous detail. With all counties reporting, we’re up by one,” he said, acknowledging Simpson’s camp has different figures. “I think my folks have talked to Simpson’s folks, and they’ve reconciled that spreadsheet.”

Yowza. One stinking vote may be the difference between making the runoff or not making it. Every vote matters, y’all. For sure this one will go to a recount, and possibly to court after that. Thanks to Ed Sills for the link. The Current has more.

Two recounts may be in the works

There are always going to be some close ones.

After losing her reelection bid to Hugh Shine by 118 votes, state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, announced she is requesting a recount.

In an email to supporters soliciting input Wednesday afternoon, White said that she is “still reeling in disbelief over the outcome of this election,” but she believes that an expected $1,800 price tag for a recount would be worth the cost. Later that day she posted to Facebook to announce that she would be moving forward with the recount request.

“We are at peace regardless of the results,” White wrote. “Ensuring fairness and accuracy with this election is essential for our community.”

In the Senate District 1 race to replace retiring state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, fell short of the 50 percent threshold required to avoid a runoff. His current runoff opponent is expected to be fellow state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, who led a third candidate, James “Red” Brown, by a mere 13 votes.

Brown and Simpson spoke on Wednesday about a potential recount, according to officials on both campaigns. Both agreed that if they go down that path, they will do it together with Brown footing the bill. But the Brown campaign thinks Simpson’s 13-vote lead may not stand ahead of next week’s canvassing of the vote, a process in which the race’s results are made official.

Brown’s consultant Todd Olsen said there are more than 630 provisional or military ballots across the district which have not yet been counted. The campaign has heard from several voters since election day asking about how they complete the process to have their provisional ballot counted, according to Olsen.

See here for the totals in the Senate race, and here for the House race. Shine had a 624 vote lead in early voting and hung on for the win, while Bryan Hughes was over 50% in early voting, with Red Brown in what would have been a meaningless second place. The only successful recount I can think of in recent years was in CD28 when a bunch of late votes were found for Henry Cuellar against Ciro Rodriguez. But you never know, and it only costs some money to try. Trail Blazers has more.

Initial day-after-election thoughts

– We now have two cycles’ worth of data to suggest that having more good candidates in a Council race does not necessarily lead to better outcomes. Following in the footsteps of At Large #3 in 2013, a handful of Democratic candidates in At Large #1 split the vote with sufficient closeness to keep them all out of the runoff. The votes were there, they just went too many places. Lane Lewis + Tom McCasland = candidate in the runoff, pretty close to Mike Knox in total. Lane Lewis + Tom McCasland + Jenifer Pool = leading candidate going into the runoff. I have no idea what, if anything, there is to be done about this. There is no secret cabal that meets in a back room to decide who does and doesn’t get to file for a race, and we wouldn’t want there to be one if there were. I’ll just put this out there for candidates who are already looking at 2019, when the terms will be double and the stakes will be concurrently higher: If there’s already a candidate in a race – especially an open seat race – that would would be happy to vote for in a runoff scenario, then maybe supporting them in November rather than throwing your own hat in the ring is the better choice. I realize that framing the choice this way turns this decision-making process into a multi-level Prisoner’s Dilemma, but one can’t help but wonder What Might Have Been.

– On the plus side, the runoffs have given us some clarity:

Mayor – Turner
Controller – Brown

At Large 2 – Robinson
At Large 4 – Edwards

In AL 4, Amanda Edwards faces Roy Morales, who caught and passed Laurie Robinson by less than 900 votes by the end of the evening. As for ALs 1 and 5, I’m still deciding. I said “some” clarity, not complete clarity.

– Speaking of CM Christie, if he loses then there will be no open citywide offices in the next election, which is now 2019. That won’t stop challengers from running in some or all of the other AL races, but it would change the dynamics.

– In District Council runoffs, it’s Cisneros versus Cisneroz in District H, which is going to make that race hard to talk about. Roland Chavez finished 202 votes behind Jason Cisneroz, who got a boost from late-reporting precincts; he had been leading Chavez by less than 40 votes much of the evening. Jim Bigham finished all of 28 votes ahead of Manny Barrera for the right to face CM Mike Laster in December, while CM Richard Nguyen trailed challenger Steve Le but will get another shot in five weeks. I’m concerned about Laster and Nguyen, but at least their opponents pass my minimum standards test for a Council member. That would not have been the case if either third-place finisher (Barrera and Kendall Baker) had made the cut.

– Moving to HISD, if I had a vote it would go to Rhonda Skillern-Jones in II. I would not vote for Manuel Rodriguez in III, but I’d need to get to know Jose Leal better before I could recommend a vote for him.

– Your “Every Vote Matters” reminder for this cycle:


Aldine I.S.D., Trustee, Position 1
=======================================
Tony Diaz                  5,813 49.98%
Patricia "Pat" Bourgeois   5,818 50.02%

Yep, five votes. There were 3,742 undervotes in this race. I have since been forwarded a press release from the Diaz campaign noting that provisional and overseas ballots have not yet been counted, and hinting at a request for a recount down the line. I’d certainly be preparing to ask for one.

– Speaking of undervoting, one prediction I made came true. Here are the undervote rates in At Large Council elections:

AL1 = 28.56%
AL2 = 31.02%
AL3 = 33.09%
AL4 = 28.35%
AL5 = 32.34%

That’s a lot of no-voting. Contrast with the contested district Council races, where the (still high) undervote rates ranged from 15.97% to 22.49%. See here for a comparison to past years.

– Meanwhile, over in San Antonio:

In a stunning outcome, Republican John Lujan and Democrat Tomás Uresti were leading a six-candidate field for Texas House District 118 in nearly complete results late Tuesday.

In his second run for the office, Lujan, 53, showed strength in a district long held by Democrats, narrowly outpolling members of two prominent political families.

“I’m still on pins and needles. It’s not a done deal,” Lujan said with many votes still uncounted.

In his low-key campaign, the retired firefighter, who works in sales for a tech company, emphasized tech training to prepare students for the workforce. His backers included some firefighters and Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC.

Uresti, 55, a legal assistant, is vice chairman of the Harlandale Independent School District. With 35 years of community involvement as a coach, mentor and tutor, Uresti capitalized on his network of friends and family name — his brothers are state Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio and Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti.

“Democrats are going to pull together again to win this one,” Tomás Uresti said of the impending runoff.

A runoff between Lujan and Uresti would be Jan. 19.

Gabe Farias, son of outgoing Rep. Joe Farias, came in third, less than 300 votes behind Uresti. Three Democratic candidates combined for 53.3% of the vote, so I see no reason to panic. Even if Lujan winds up winning the runoff, he’d only have the seat through the end of next year – the real election, which may produce an entirely different set of candidates, is next year, and Democrats should have a clear advantage. Nonetheless, one should never take anything for granted.

– Waller County goes wet:

Waller County voters overwhelmingly passed a proposition Tuesday to legalize the sale of all alcoholic beverages, including mixed drinks.

Though Waller County is not dry everywhere to all types of alcohol, various parts of it have operated under distinct alcohol policies passed in the decades following Prohibition. The change will apply to unincorporated areas of the county.

“I’m ecstatic with the numbers,” said Waller County Judge Carbett “Trey” Duhon III, who had publicly supported the proposition. “… It’s a good result for the county and for all the citizens here.”

Supporters like Duhon have said the measure was needed to smooth over confusing, overlapping rules and to help attract restaurants to a county poised to benefit from Houston’s sprawling growth.

See here for more details. And drink ’em if you got ’em.

– I’m still processing the HERO referendum, and will be sure to dive into precinct data when I get it. (I have a very early subset of precinct data for just the Mayor’s race and the two propositions. I may do some preliminaries with it, but this data is incomplete so I may wait till the official canvass comes out.) One clear lesson to take from this campaign is that lying is a very effective tactic. It also helps when lies are reported uncritically, as if it was just another he said/she said situation. Blaming the media is the world’s oldest trick, and I’m not going to claim that lazy reporting was a deciding factor, but for a group of people that considers itself to be objective truth-seekers, they sure can be trusting and unprepared for for being lied to. As with item 1 above, I don’t know what if anything can be done about this.

– Bond elections and miscellaneous other things are noted elsewhere. Have I missed anything you wanted to see me discuss?

Ousted HCC Trustee Bruce Austin seeks recount

No surprise, but don’t hold out much hope.

BruceAustin

Longtime Houston Community College Board Trustee Bruce Austin on Wednesday said he will request a recount after narrowly losing his District 2 seat to his challenger in Tuesday’s election.

Small business owner Dave Wilson was ahead of Austin by 26 votes, based on complete, but unofficial results. A candidate needs to garner a majority of the vote to win. Wilson had 50.1 percent, while Austin got 49.9 percent.

HCC officials must canvass the votes and declare them official before Austin can request a recount. The canvassing process usually takes four to five days.

The history of recounts, in HCC and other area races is not one that offers much hope to Bruce Austin. There are likely a few provisional and overseas ballots to add in, but it’s improbable there are enough of them to affect the outcome even if they all go for Austin. Barring anything unprecedented, this result will stand.

Austin, who was first elected in 1989, said Wilson won the predominantly black district, which covers parts of north and northeast Houston, by deceiving voters. Wilson, who is white, deliberately did not have pictures of himself on his campaign website and his campaign materials, said Austin, who is black.

“He never put out to voters that he was white,” Austin said. “The problem is his picture was not in the League of Voters (pamphlet) or anywhere. This is one of the few times a white guy has pretended to be black guy and fooled black people.”

Wilson called Austin’s remarks racist. Running a campaign without photos shouldn’t matter, he said, noting that his picture was posted on one of Austin’s campaign mailers.

Disguising one’s identity like that is dishonest, but hardly unprecedented, and fairly mild as campaign misbehavior goes. It’s also way, way down on the list of bad things about Dave Wilson, and reasons why no decent person should ever cast a ballot for Dave Wilson. Despite Wilson’s protests, I’m sure plenty of people were fooled. But if they were, a large share of the blame for that must fall on Bruce Austin’s shoulders. I don’t know what kind of campaign Austin ran, but if Austin didn’t make it clear to the voters that Dave Wilson is a terrible, hateful person that has no business being elected to anything, that isn’t Dave Wilson’s fault. And maybe the next time Dave Wilson runs for something, the Chronicle can write about it before the election, and mention at least in passing his long history of hatred and homophobia. Just a suggestion.

No time for trial in Guinn election lawsuit

I think this really is the end of the line for any actions that could affect the November 2012 ballot.

Zerick Guinn

The question of whether Chris Diaz’s 17-vote run-off victory for the Democratic Precinct 2 Constable nomination was legitimate will fade into Harris County history unresolved after a state district judge Tuesday ruled insufficient time remains before the November election to settle the issue at trial.

Precinct 2 Constable Sgt. Zerick Guinn had sought a trial in 269th state District Court to prove irregularities in a runoff that handed the primary victory to his opponent. A recount of election results still showed Diaz had won.

After hearing testimony from Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart and other election officials, visiting state District Judge Suzanne Stovall ruled that not enough time for a trial and possible appeals remained. “I hate it,” she said of her ruling, “but that’s what the law requires.”

“I feel that we could have proved the case,” Guinn’s attorney, J.W. Beverly, said after the judge’s ruling. Beverly conceded that preparation for filing the law suit had “taken longer than we had hoped.”

The suit was filed four weeks after the recount was completed. Obviously, the abnormally deferred primary and runoff schedule had an effect as well. I still don’t think anything would have come of this, but it’s a shame to have the clock run out before all the questions could be answered.

Response from County Clerk to Wallach testimony about recounts

The following was sent to me in email by Hector DeLeon, the Director of Communications and Voter Outreach for Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart:

I read Dan Wallach’s report of the recount in your blog titled Diaz Still Leads After Recount. In his report he states:

There was no attempt to audit the original electronic systems, perhaps looking for unusual behavior in the original tallying systems’ logs, or perhaps comparing the in-person poll books or absentee envelopes against the number of cast votes.

What Wallach does not mention is that a reconcilation process is conducted between Election Day and the day the results are canvassed to ensure that the number of access codes printed from the JBCs at each poll match the number of signatures on a pollbook.

He also states: “So far as I could tell, the boxes that hold the JBCs have no security seals, which could have at least provided some evidence of chain-of-custody maintenance.”

Here he also fails to explain that there is a chain of custody in place from the moment that the equipment leaves the County Clerk’s possession. Additionally, he fails to say that security seals are placed on the JBC boxes when they are picked up by the presiding election judges. For Election Day equipment set up purposes, the security seals on the JBC boxes are broken in the presence of the Republican and Democratic presiding and alternate election judges at the poll. There is a form which has to be completed and signed by the presiding and alernate election judges attesting that this occurred.
 
On Election Day, after all votes are cast, in the process of closing the poll, a security seal is placed on JBC boxes before leaving the poll. Again, there is a form that needs to be completed and signed by both the presiding and atlternate election judges attesting that this ocurred.

Additionally, the slot where the mobile ballot box (MBB) is located on the JBC has a security seal. the JBCs’ MBB security seals are only broken to extract the MBB after the presiding election judges return the JBCs at the end of Election Day. At the time of delivery, each JBC is inspected to make sure the security seals are in place. Once the equipment is returned the MBB must be removed from the JBC to enable the reading of the votes. All these procedures are documented on forms which most be completed by the PJ and AJ in the conduct of adminsitering the election at each poll.

All security seals have an ID number. Those numbers are reviewed to ensure the number match on all approriate chain of custody forms.

In short, there are procedures in place to ensure the integrity of the equipment and the veracity of the number of ballots cast at each poll.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found this to be quite educational. My thanks to Hector DeLeon for the feedback.

Diaz still leads after recount

No surprise.

Former Jacinto City Mayor Chris Diaz still appears to be the Democratic nominee for Harris County Precinct 2 constable following a Monday recount in his razor-thin runoff with Precinct 2 Sgt. Zerick Guinn.

Diaz’s 17-vote margin is unofficial, county Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis said, adding the party plans to finalize the results Saturday.

Diaz actually gained a vote after the recount. Unless Guinn wants to pursue this in the courts, the matter is basically settled. Stace has more.

That’s the basic news about this. Do you know how the county handles a recount like this? I had no idea, until Dan Wallach, who wrote that guest post on Tuesday, sent me the following eyewitness account:

Dan Wallach

I was invited by the Harris County Democratic Party to be an observer of the Guinn-Diaz recount, which ran all day on Monday. This race, in the Democratic primary election, was to select the Democratic candidate for Constable, Precinct 2. There were some procedural errors during the initial tally. At one point, the two candidates were separated by all of 3 votes out of just over 11 thousand cast. By the time they included the absentee ballots, roughly 28% of all the votes in the race, the margin of victory was 16 votes.

I showed up at the recount with my camera, hoping to take lots of great pictures. Several people promptly came running at me saying that it was illegal to take pictures during a recount. (Dear lawyers who are reading this: really?) Instead, I’ll just have to do my best to describe what I did and what I saw.

For starters, Harris County uses the Hart InterCivic eSlate, a paperless electronic voting system, which stands out from other DRE-type systems by having a local network in the polling place. For each group of eSlate terminals, there’s a single controller (a “Judge Booth Controller” or JBC) that connects to the eSlates. Three copies of each vote are recorded: one in the eSlate where it was cast, one in the JBC’s internal memory, and one on a PCMCIA flash card (a “mobile ballot box” or MBB) that’s removable from the JBC. If you want to learn a lot more about the eSlate architecture and its security vulnerabilities, you might enjoy the California “Top to Bottom” report, which I co-authored in 2007.

On election night, the process is that they remove the MBBs from the JBCs and use computers to read them and tabulate the data centrally. Part of this process is for the centrally-tabulated data to then be reported on the Election Day Results webpage, or in this case, misreported. It wasn’t the tabulated results that were wrong, just the reported results. That’s another story, although it would be nice to have a detailed explanation of what went wrong.

If the initial counts were done from the MBBs, how about the recount? For this, they used the JBCs: 115 of them were sequestered for the recount, each connected individually to a single computer that copied their contents. (This computer runs Windows 2000, the only “certified” configuration available; at least there was no network connection.) All of this occurred before the recount itself began. No party or candidate representatives witnessed this part of the process. Johnnie German, the county’s administrator of elections, told me that the process took five hours and needed to be done in advance so the recount could complete on time. More on this below.

The recount was an involved process. There were three and later four tables of counters. Each table had five people. Each table gets a stack of every paper ballot for a given precinct which they then tabulate. In the case of absentee ballots, these were original, hand-marked papers. In the case of eSlate-cast ballots, these were printed on site by a laser printer from the aforementioned computer that collected JBC data. The tabulation process has one person, in the center, who picks up a ballot from the stack and reads out who got the vote. On this person’s side are two people (representing the candidates) who double check this. Across the table are two separate people who keep count. With this many eyeballs on the task, the inevitable errors are caught. When a stack of ballots was completed, everybody at the table would agree on a summary sheet, they signed it, and it came over to where I was sitting.

Our table had four people: myself, the election administrator, and one observer for each candidate. I picked up each stack of ballots and called out the precinct number and totals. The election administrator typed those numbers into an Excel spreadsheet. The observers made sure we got the numbers right.

The results? Unsurprisingly, for all the eSlate-cast votes, the hand tabulation exactly equaled the original machine tabulation. For the absentee ballots, we had one precinct with single absentee ballot that somehow didn’t show up for the recount. The election administrator made a phone call to the downtown site, where absentee ballots are kept in a vault, and arranged for somebody to go dig out that ballot and bring it back to us. (That particular ballot was an undervote, so it didn’t impact the result.) We also discovered a precinct that had an extra absentee ballot that somehow wasn’t tabulated at all in the initial machine-scanned tally. Where did it come from? Why wasn’t it counted beforehand? We don’t know. (This ballot favored Diaz, increasing his lead from 16 to 17 votes.) Otherwise, there were no discrepancies or changes to the election outcome. The process started at 8am and ended at 4pm with a one-hour lunch break.

What’s interesting is what we didn’t do in the recount. There was no attempt to audit the original electronic systems, perhaps looking for unusual behavior in the original tallying systems’ logs, or perhaps comparing the in-person poll books or absentee envelopes against the number of cast votes. We didn’t have access to the scanned ballot images, so there was no opportunity to do any sort of risk limiting audit (comparing the scanned ballot images to the physical ones to make sure they’re the same). Also, the only way to get electronic data out of a Hart InterCivic tallying system is in PDF format (example results). There is no way to get all the raw data in a format that’s convenient to bring back into a computer for subsequent analysis.

As I mentioned above, the JBCs’ data was downloaded in advance, giving us no opportunity to observe this process. So far as I could tell, the boxes that hold the JBCs have no security seals, which could have at least provided some evidence of chain-of-custody maintenance. Absentee ballots, for contrast, are transported in plastic tubs with numbered plastic security seals, and there’s a process for documenting those numbers when the seals are broken. A corresponding process for JBCs would be a good idea to adopt.

I’m also a bit sad that we didn’t have a counting scale that we could use in the recount. In addition to enabling clever audits, we could have used them to simply double check the number of papers in each stack of ballots. Apparently the election warehouse does have one, but we weren’t allowed to use it, even to double check our manual tallies. (Dearest election lawyers: really?)

One lesson from this is that political candidates understand the concept of a recount, and there’s plenty of election code that talks about what a recount entails. What’s less clear is how well the election code can bend to support the idea of audits. Printing sheets of paper corresponding to electronically cast ballot records, then counting them by hand, is both wasteful of resources and unlikely to discover anything valuable. Instead, I’d like to see counties offer a menu of options (at different prices, of course) to the candidate requesting a recount. A candidate might then choose to pay for a full tally of absentee ballots and for various audits to reconcile the totals. If a candidate wanted to double-check a sample of the eSlates, to make sure they had the same votes as in the election night tallies, that should be easy and cheap to do.

Another important lesson is that future voting systems (electronic or otherwise) need to be explicitly engineered with recounts and other sorts of audits at the core of their functionality. Of course, we also want the sorts of voter verifiability security properties that DRE systems like the eSlate lack, but this experience made it clear to me that we have a lot of room to improve basic recounting and auditing procedures. At the end of the day, the goal is to convince the losing candidate that he or she genuinely lost. I don’t know whether this particular candidate was convinced.

So now we know, and I thank Dan for the detailed information. I like the suggestions about enabling audits and giving candidates different choices for how to conduct recounts. What do you think?

Guinn seeks recount

Can’t say I blame him.

Zerick Guinn

Democratic Precinct 2 constable candidate Zerick Guinn has requested a recount in his primary runoff against Chris Diaz, who won by 16 votes after incorrect election results posted online showed Guinn with a commanding lead late on election night.

[…]

“This is not an example of a candidate with sour grapes. This is a candidate who was involved in an election where the individual in charge of counting the ballots made numerous mistakes,” said [HCDP Chair Lane] Lewis, referring to County Clerk Stan Stanart. “This is an example of a candidate who wants to make sure everything was done correctly.”

Lewis said he was not sure what Guinn’s campaign would need to pay for the recount, but estimated it at about $2,000.

I’d have done the same in Guinn’s shoes. I doubt a recount will make a difference because they very seldom do, but I’d still want to go through the motions after what happened on the night of the 31st. We’ll see how it goes.

Now you see those votes, now you don’t

Tuesday was not a good day for the County Clerk.

Zerick Guinn went to bed late Tuesday, believing he had won the Democratic nomination for Precinct 2 constable by a comfortable margin. By morning, he had lost the race by three votes.

An incorrect vote tally in that race, posted for more than two and a half hours on the Harris County Clerk’s website, was one of several problems that plagued Tuesday’s runoff elections.

[…]

Stanart acknowledged he and his staff did not catch that the posted tallies were wrong. He spoke with Guinn Wednesday morning and the two have scheduled a meeting Thursday. The problem arose, Stanart said, in merging two databases of data from the machines that tally the votes to the machine that produces a report of the results.

In Guinn’s race, the clerk’s website showed him leading Chris Diaz 2,695 votes to 1,908 votes shortly after 10 p.m. When final results were posted at 12:43 a.m., however, Guinn’s reported vote total dropped by 634 votes, placing him three votes behind Diaz, at 2,064 to 2,061.

Stanart said he saw problems in a not-yet-published report of GOP results shortly before midnight, and began running both parties’ results from scratch. Stanart said he initially thought the problem was isolated to the report he had just run on the computer he was using, and, thus, did not pull the faulty numbers off the county website and did not inform Democrats because their numbers were being generated by a different computer.

By late Wednesday, Stanart said, he had learned both parties’ results online from 10:12 p.m. until at least 12: 43 a.m., were wrong, though he stressed only the outcome of Guinn’s race had changed.

The early version of this story is on Houston Politics. The Chron reported the wrong result based on that 10:12 PM update, as did I. You can see the erroneous 10:12 PM update here, and the 12:43 AM update here. While only the Guinn-Diaz race outcome was affected, it wasn’t the only one to show funny numbers. This is what you would have seen on the Democratic results page Tuesday night and Wednesday morning:

A new version of the results as of 4:01 PM fixed that error. I called the Clerk’s office prior to that to ask about this, and they assured me that they were aware of it and that it was the result of the same problem that was in the Constable race. They also told me that the error occurred not in the counting of the votes but in the reporting. That agrees with what Stanart says in the Chron story, so there you have it.

Regardless, these are still unofficial results until the HCDP canvasses them. In the meantime, there are still provisional ballots and some overseas ballots to be counted, so given the extreme closeness of the race, the outcome is still in doubt. A recount and more litigation are possible as well. Campos and Stace have more.

UPDATE: PDiddie adds on.

Howard still wins after recount in HD48

Her margin is margin is a bit smaller, but still greater than zero, and that’s what counts.

With the votes counted again, the Austin Democrat beat Republican challenger Dan Neil by just 12 votes, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said Thursday night.

Neil had called for the recount after Howard had been declared the winner of the Nov. 2 election by just 16 votes of more than 51,000 cast in northwestern Travis County’s District 48.

In the end, only a few mistakes were found — all of which were on paper ballots — and there were not enough discrepancies to change the outcome of the election, officials said.

Howard said she wasn’t surprised by the outcome but nevertheless was happy to put the recount behind her.

“I’m glad to have a final outcome that is actually final,” she said. “The work of the district continues.”

Before the results were announced Thursday, Neil sent out a news release complaining that the clerk’s office didn’t properly count several overseas ballots.

But DeBeauvoir said Neil’s concerns were unfounded.

That’s likely to be the end of it, though Neil may file for an election contest. There’s been at least one of those filed for the past few elections, with only the Heflin-Vo contest actually making it to the point of being investigated. My guess is if one is filed it will go nowhere, too.

Recount sought in HD48

Given how close this one was, a recount was to be expected.

Republican Dan Neil is seeking a recount in his challenge to state Rep. Donna Howard in the District 48 seat that represents part of Travis County.

Neil has filed the paperwork with the Texas secretary of state to request another look at the votes. Unofficial returns showed Howard winning by 16 votes out of more than 51,000 ballots cast.

“Our ultimate goal is to make sure every legal vote is counted,” Neil said. “I want to be an advocate for the voters.”

That’s obviously a much smaller margin than was in CD27, but I expect the same outcome, mostly because there are fewer votes in play due to electronic balloting. We’ll see how it goes.

Greg notes that an election contest would not be a surprise, and speculates about what a 100th member would mean for Constitutional amendment purposes. I will say that the one thing I’m not terribly worried about for this term is the specter of awful amendments getting pushed through, because it still takes a 2/3 vote in the Senate for that just as it does in the House, and I feel confident that will be insurmountable for anything truly egregious. There are plenty of other things to be concerned about, but that one isn’t high on my list.

Ortiz concedes

No surprise.

U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz on Monday conceded the loss of his 27th District seat that he held for nearly three decades.
A recount netted him more than 100 votes in Cameron County but left him still hundreds of votes behind Republican Blake Farenthold.

Ortiz called Farenthold at 8:04 p.m. to congratulate him and offer assistance on the transition.

“Although I gained votes during the manual recount, I did not surpass my opponent’s lead,” Ortiz said in a statement. “Therefore, with great respect and admiration in the democratic process, I congratulate my opponent, Mr. R. Blake Farenthold, in his election to the 27th Congressional District of Texas.”

The exact margin remained unclear. Ortiz spokesman Jose Borjon said Ortiz picked up about 200 votes overall, and Farenthold, about 50. He said the margin was “somewhere in the 600s.”

About what I expected. It was just too many votes to reasonably hope to overcome.

The interesting question is what comes after redistricting. As Greg notes, CD27 will be much more Democratic in a Presidential year like 2012, so it will require some surgery to protect its new Congressman from electoral peril, and even then that may not be possible. It may wind up that CD27, or whatever it is ultimately called, will be like Baron Hill‘s once and former district in Indiana, prone to flipping every cycle, with Dems having the advantage in Presidential years and Republicans coming back in the off years. Whatever the case, expect Rep-elect Farenthold to be a top target. Is there a Juan Garcia bandwagon for me to climb on board yet?

Rep. Donna Howard wins re-election

The closest election of this cycle has been decided, for now.

State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, has defeated Republican challenger Dan Neil for state representative in District 48 by 16 votes.

The count came after Travis County officials tallied all provisional and overseas ballots, which were due to the county clerk’s office [Monday] evening.

On Nov. 2, Howard outpaced Neil by 15 votes. The Travis County Clerk’s Office said tonight that 58 additional votes were counted since election day.

Howard won with 25,026 votes, or 48.54 percent, to Neil’s 25,010, or 48.51 percent. Libertarian Ben Easton received 1,518 votes, 2.94 percent. A total of 51,554 ballots were counted.

There are still some formalities to be observed, and Neil will have until the end of them to request a recount. As noted before, that is unlikely to amount to anything. An election contest is also possible, but as I have not heard any complaints so far about irregularities, that seems a bit more remote. But I wouldn’t be too surprised by that, either. We won’t have truly final results for some time yet.

Ortiz asks for a recount

Rep. Solomon Ortiz, one of three Texas Congressional Democrats to be defeated on Tuesday, has asked for a recount.

U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, trailing Republican challenger Blake Farenthold by 792 votes in the race for Texas’ 27th District, officially announced in a written statement late Friday afternoon that he would seek a manual recount, citing what he called “numerous voting irregularities.”

The call for a recount came after provisional ballot totals and outstanding military-vote estimates showed that even if all of those votes went for Ortiz, the congressman was still unlikely to pull ahead.

“It is my utmost desire to ensure that the votes of the people of South Texas be cast and counted and that no vote be left out. Therefore, we’ve begun putting together the documents necessary to request a recount,” Ortiz wrote in a statement.

792 votes is a small margin – Ortiz lost by 0.75 percentage points – and as such it’s perfectly normal to ask for a recount. I just would not expect anything to come of it. I’ve seen a bunch of these requests over the past eight years, some for margins much smaller than this – see Holm/Daily in 2003, Vo/Heflin in 2004, and Harper-Brown/Romano in 2008 for three examples – and only one time has it made a difference for the person that was originally trailing. That was the Ciro Rodriguez/Henry Cueller primary race of 2004, and it came with a set of bizarre and unique circumstances. I wish Rep. Ortiz the best, but I wouldn’t hold out much hope.

Two side notes of interest: One, the Libertarian candidate in this race got over 5% of the vote. If you believe, as some do, that Libertarians take votes from Republicans, then Ortiz’s margin might have been larger had this been a two-person race. If you believe, as I do, that Libertarians take votes from incumbents as much as they do from Republicans, then one can make a case that Ortiz might have won a two-person race. Two, Ortiz’s son Solomon, Jr, a State Rep in Nueces County, also lost. Tough week for the Ortiz family, that’s for sure.

Edwards drops lawsuit to challenge election result in HD146

Former State Rep. Al Edwards, who had filed a lawsuit challenging his electoral loss in the HD146 primary to Rep.-elect Borris Miles, has now dropped the suit, which should clear Miles’ path to Austin.

Miles’ lawyer, Randall “Buck” Wood, of Austin, said he received notice Thursday afternoon that Edwards had dropped his suit, but he was not completely sure that was the end of the matter.

“I’m sitting here mystified,” Wood said. “I filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss, but I don’t know if they’ve actually dropped the lawsuit or they’re just trying to buy time. The thing is, they’re beyond the statute of limitations, so they can’t re-file it. I sure would like to know if something is going on.”

Edwards’ attorney Jay Beverly confirmed that Edwards had withdrawn his challenge.

“The Edwards lawsuit has been dismissed,” he said. “We believe there are good legal grounds for going forward, but Rep. Edwards has decided not to go forward for his own reasons.”

If that’s the case, then I wish him well. I was thinking that an election contest in the House might still be possible, but according to Texas law:

Sec. 241.003. PETITION. (a) The contestant must state the grounds for the contest in a petition in the same manner as a petition in an election contest in the district court.

(b) The contestant must file the petition with the secretary of state not later than the seventh day after the date the official result of the contested election is determined. The contestant must deliver a copy of the petition to the contestee by the same deadline.

That would suggest that the end of the lawsuit is the end of any remaining challenge Edwards may make. Congratulations to Rep.-elect Miles on his now-official victory.

Being the cynical type, I have to wonder what other reasons Edwards may have had for giving up his pursuit. One is money, though the word I’d heard was that funds would be available from interested parties – read: “Tom Craddick supporters” – for this challenge. The other possible reason I can think of is that pursuing this lawsuit meant digging up evidence to support allegations of electoral fraud. Given that meant accusing fellow Democrats of criminal behavior, it’s possible Edwards ran into some resistance. It’s probably a better strategy just to wait two more years and try again in what should be a higher-turnout race, which worked well for him last time, as Edwards was the familiar name for a lot of casual voters even though Miles was the incumbent. Miles is better known now, and one presumes he won’t have anything like the troubles he encountered during that one prior term in office, so maybe that won’t be so successful this time. It’s still probably the better shot, and it won’t alienate any potential voters. Besides, the upcoming session is going to be rough, what with budget and redistricting issues to deal with. If you’re going to pick one to miss, this would be the one.

Miles wins recount, Edwards sues

Mary Benton has the release from the Borris Miles campaign:

Borris Miles’ victory in the March 2010 Democratic Primary for State House District 146 has been confirmed by an official recount. The recount, conducted today by the Harris County Democratic Party with assistance from the Harris County Clerk’s Office, upheld Miles’ victory by 8 votes out of 10,788 ballots cast.

“I am grateful that due process was followed, and that the election result has been finalized,” Miles said. “I thank those from the Harris County Democratic Party and County Clerk’s Office for their hard work and dedication during this recount. Most of all, I thank the people of District 146 for the opportunity to serve them in Austin. I look forward to getting to work on their behalf.”

From eleven to ten to eight. Have I mentioned lately that every vote matters? Congratulations to Rep. Borris Miles.

Well, congratulations for now, anyway. Al Edwards still isn’t going away. He’s now claiming there was fraud in the election.

Edwards boils down whose votes were wrongfully counted into five categories:

One, voters who live outside of his district; two, voters who were improperly registered or whose registration had been canceled; three, voters who were ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction, four, voters who did not properly fill out early mail voting applications, and lastly, that ballots were cast for Miles that were procured by fraud or without the knowledge of the actual voter.

In the petition, Edwards also claims that he believes that votes cast for him by legal voters were not counted because of fraud and that illegal conduct prevented legal voters from casting their ballots.

Way to parrot a whole bunch of GOP talking points there, Al. I wonder who’s bankrolling this effort, because between it and the recount, it’s going to cost him a fair bit of money. Will it be followed by an election contest in the House if he loses again? We’ll just have to see how it goes.

Edwards asks for recount

No surprise.

State Rep. Al Edwards has asked for a recount of the primary election votes in the race he lost to Borris Miles by 10 votes.

Edwards filed the paperwork and submitted a $4,400 deposit this morning at the state Democratic Party headquarters in Austin, a spokeswoman confirmed.

[…]

Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Gerry Birnberg called a recount “a waste of money.”

“With electronic balloting, there’s nothing to recount,” Birnberg said.

Well, it’s his money, unless he wins. And there are a few absentee ballots – 1,381 of them in total, according to the County Clerk, and Edwards did win them by a decent amount, so who knows? This was to be expected, so let’s get it done. A statement from Rep. Edwards is beneath the fold.

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Miles wins by 10

Just call him Landslide Borris.

State Rep. Al Edwards, who lost his rematch with challenger Borris Miles by 11 votes in last week’s Democratic primary, saw that margin narrow by one vote Tuesday, after an early-voting ballot board canvassed provisional and mail ballots. After 39 votes were added to the total, the tally was 5,050 for Miles and 5,040 for Edwards.

[…]

I asked the veteran lawmaker just a few minutes ago what he plans to do. “I haven’t revealed that yet,” he said. “We’re looking at all different angles.”

Keir Murray, a Miles campaign consultant, said he wouldn’t expect a recount to change anything, since most of the votes were cast electronically. “We’d rather be in our position than Edwards’,” he said. “I guess anything can happen, but historically it’s been very difficult for results like these to be changed.”

I was unable to make it to the precinct chairs’ meeting tonight, so I can’t personally confirm that the result was accepted by the HCDP, but I haven’t heard anything to suggest it wasn’t, so I daresay it was. I’ve also heard that Edwards will formally request a recount on Monday. As Murray suggests, it probably won’t change anything, but you never know. We’ll see how it goes.

Recount coming in HD146?

It’s not official yet, but I can’t imagine there not being a recount in a race decided by 11 votes.

[Borris] Miles, a former police officer who owns an insurance business, said he had not yet received a concession call from [Rep. Al] Edwards, but looked forward to working with him “and getting him alongside me to work with me to address some of the issues in our community.”

Edwards did not return repeated calls seeking comment Wednesday, but in public remarks made shortly after the election, he indicated an interest in seeking a recount.

KTRK and KPRC also mention Edwards talking about a recount. I fully expect that to happen, though I presume it will wait until this election has been certified by the County Clerk.

Thirty-three Democratic voters cast provisional ballots in the race, said Hector DeLeon, a spokesman for the Harris County Clerk, which conducted the primary. A provisional ballot is used when a person tries to vote on election day when his or her name is not on a list of registered voters in that precinct. The clerk’s office, by law, also must wait five days after election day for ballots that could be mailed from overseas, DeLeon said.

A ballot board made up of Democrats appointed by the party is expected to meet Tuesday and decide which provisional and overseas ballots will be counted, said John German, the administrator of elections for the clerk’s office.

The official results are expected to be certified two days later, officials said, and either candidate can request a recount by March 13. That request would have to be made to Harris County Democratic Party Chair Gerald Birnberg.

Figure that overseas ballots are unlikely to make any difference. It’s hard to say with provisional ballots, but given how few of them there are, even if all of them were accepted, Edwards would have to receive two thirds of them to affect the outcome. I think his main hope will be that a recount of the absentee ballots will yield some changes, and if that’s not enough he may try an election contest. We’ve seen a few of those in recent years, though only the 2004 challenge by Talmadge Heflin against Hubert Vo actually proceeded to completion, and the result still stood. Anything can happen, but my money is on Miles. The Trib and Nancy Sims have more.

Federal court rules for TDP in voting machine case

I’m a little surprised by this.

A three-judge panel has ruled that Dallas County election officials violated federal law when they did not inform the Department of Justice about changes in the way straight-party votes are counted on electronic voting machines.

The judges determined that the county did not get proper approval from the Department of Justice to use the county’s current machines. They granted an injunction requested by the Texas Democratic Party to halt use of the machines in Dallas until they get Justice Department clearance.

The ruling stems from a federal lawsuit filed by the party last year after a close recount favored the Republican candidate in a crucial statehouse race. Democrat Bob Romano lost the District 105 race in Dallas to incumbent Linda Harper-Brown by 19 votes.

The Texas Democratic Party sued Dallas County, claiming that election officials here failed to notify Justice Department officials about “emphasis” votes that don’t get counted when people vote straight-party on electronic machines.

I’m surprised because I’d forgotten that there was still a suit pending. The last word I had recall on this was of a TDP-filed lawsuit that had been tossed, with no further appeals pending. But that suit dealt only with the HD105 recount; there was a second suit filed that was about the larger issue of the machines in general. I still say that the matter isn’t that confusing, at least based on my own eSlate experience last year, but it’s certainly plausible to me that a change in the interface could have been made in Dallas without all the proper legal hoops being jumped through. And there is room to make it more clear to a voter what is happening when they act this way, to really avoid any confusion. I’m not sure how this might affect Harris County next year, but it’s something to watch out for. A statement from the TDP regarding the ruling is beneath the fold.

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Recount in HCC 3

No surprise at all.

Mary Ann Perez appeared to pull off a tight victory in the Houston Community College’s District III trustee race Tuesday night. But her opponent was in no mood for a concession.

“I’m requesting a recount,” said incumbent Diane Olmos Guzman, who added that “there will be a bright future for me.”

The unofficial final result is Perez 2881, Guzman 2837. That may change a bit as provisional votes are reviewed and any outstanding overseas votes come in. In the end, I doubt it will matter. Pam Holm defeated Jeff Daily in the 2003 runoff for District G by only 27 votes in an election with 37,000 total ballots cast, but that result stood up after further review. The only election I can recall offhand that changed after a recount was the 2004 primary in which Henry Cuellar unseated Ciro Rodriguez; Rodriguez led initially, then fell behind after some 200 uncounted ballots were found that heavily favored Cuellar. Anything can happen, of course, but I don’t expect that.