Tag Archives: Texas election

Election volunteers step up in time of crisis

It’s time to acknowledge some folks who get damn little recognition during the good times, but they certainly deserve it these days while the nation is struggling in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

I refer to polling-place volunteers, the election judges and assorted volunteer staffers who herd voters to the proper places, making us all adhere to safety measures designed to keep us healthy, not to mention alive.

My wife and I voted today in the Texas runoff election. We went to First Baptist Church in Princeton. My wife, one of the most socially conscious people on Earth, brought our masks, our sanitizer and said she was ready to deploy some sanitary wipes if need be.

We donned the masks and entered the room where the voting booths are arrayed.

Everyone was masked. The floors were marked to show us where to stand. I took a step or two too many while waiting for my wife to process through to cast her vote and the lady behind the plastic screen politely asked me to step back; I did what I was told.

They were efficient in the extreme. We received our sheet of scanner paper we inserted into the machine and were given a cotton swab — aka a Q-Tip — to mark the spot on the screen next to the candidate of our choice. Is that sanitary … or what?

Everyone in the room complied with the rules. I didn’t hear a single word of complaint about the masks, about keeping our distance, about the extra precautions we were asked to take while we cast our ballots.

My wife took a moment to thank one of the volunteers for the time they are spending on this sweltering summer day in North Texas to make sure everyone stays healthy.

So I will offer a word of thanks as well to all the election volunteers all over the state. These are trying and difficult times. These good folks have stepped up and answered the call.

Texas remains a red state, just not as red

I was hoping the 2018 midterm election would turn Texas from blood red to purple; turning the state blue was out of the question.

The results are in and from my perch it appears the state is still red, as in Republican-leaning. Texas, though, is not as red as it was prior to the balloting this past week.

Yes, “red” means Republican, “blue” means Democrat and “purple” is a combination of the two primary colors, meaning that “purple” states are those “swing” territories, battlegrounds if you will.

Texas’s roster of statewide offices remains occupied by an all-GOP lineup. The state’s featured race, between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger, finished with Cruz being re-elected by less than 3 percentage points. The closeness of that contest gives Texas Democrats some hope they might break the GOP’s death grip on statewide offices as soon as the 2020 election.

The Texas Legislature saw Democrats gain 12 seats in the 150-member House; Democrats gained two seats in the 31-member Senate. The House GOP majority remains substantial, but the Republican hold on the Senate is bordering on tenuous, although it’s not there yet.

Democrats did manage to flip some U.S. House seats. The one that interested me was the seat held by GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, who got beat by Democratic upstart Colin Allred in North Texas.

What does all this portend for the state as we head into the 2020 presidential election year? It might be that Texas becomes more of a battleground than it has been since, oh, 1980. In every election year since the Ronald Reagan landslide the state has been cast aside by both parties: Democrats have given up on the state; Republicans take us for granted.

That has-been role might change come 2020.

I am highly reluctant, though, to suggest that Texas is anything other than Republican red. It’s just that the state’s reddish hue isn’t nearly as vivid as it has been for so very long.

The next election cycle, therefore, might be a lot more interesting than anything we’ve seen here in some time.

Turnout spikes dramatically; democracy wins!

The official totals have yet to be tabulated, but the turnout in this week’s midterm election suggests that democracy has emerged as the big winner.

I won’t discuss the Democrats’ net gain to grab control of the U.S. House of Representatives, or the Republicans’ maintaining their control of the U.S. Senate, or the results of the various governors’ races around the country.

More than 100 million Americans cast ballots for all 435 House races and for one-third of the 100-member Senate. The number is increasing as ballots continue to be counted in places like Arizona, Florida and Georgia.

This is a good deal, man! It’s so good that my faith in our representative democratic form of government is being restored a little at a time.

Texas, where I live, long has been considered an abysmal example of voter apathy. Our turnouts for presidential and off-year elections generally has been among the worst in the nation. This year we had more than 8 million votes cast for races up and down the political food chain. The number of ballots counted for the midterm rivaled the number cast in the 2016 presidential election.

I long have argued that our system of government works better when more of us — not fewer of us — get involved. The most basic, the simplest form of political involvement starts at the polling place.

Arguably the height of political frustration occurs when we let our neighbors make critical decisions for us. Our neighbors might agree with us, or they might disagree with us. That’s a gamble I am unwilling to take.

I am glad to presume that in this election cycle, more Americans have reached the same conclusion, that they aren’t willing to leave these decisions to someone else.

Early vote numbers look like a record-breaker

Texans appear to be answering the call.

Final unofficial early vote totals for this year’s midterm election tell a potentially amazing story that might portend a record year in Texas electoral history.

About 4.9 million Texans have voted early. That number exceeds the total number of ballots cast in the 2014 midterm election. We still have Election Day awaiting us Tuesday. There will be a chance, therefore, for Texans not only to smash the previous midterm vote record to smithereens, but also to approach presidential election year vote totals.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll break the 2016 turnout.

Conventional political wisdom suggests that big midterm election turnouts traditionally bode well for Democrats. I am hoping that’s the case, not just in Texas but around the country. The U.S. House is poised to flip from Republican to Democratic control next January. That gives the so-called “other party” a chance at controlling legislative flow in one congressional chamber. The Senate remains a high hurdle, a steep hill for Democrats to clear.

But … there’s a flicker of hope — based on those early vote totals in Texas — that Democrats might be able to flip a Republican seat. It remains a long shot, from all that I can gather. Beto O’Rourke is mounting a stiff and stern challenge against Ted Cruz. The young Democratic congressman from El Paso has trudged through all 254 Texas counties, telling voters they should support him rather than the Republican incumbent.

I am one of those Texans who will vote Tuesday for O’Rourke. My hope is that there will be enough other Texans who will join me. Cruz long has been seen — even by many of his Senate colleagues — as a self-centered egotist far more interested in his own ambition than in the people he was elected in 2012 to serve.

O’Rourke has pledged, from what I understand, to serve his entire six-year Senate term if elected; Cruz has declined to make that pledge if he is re-elected. What does that tell you? It tells me the Cruz Missile is considering whether to launch another presidential bid in 2020, even against his new BFF, Donald Trump, who he once called a “sniveling coward” and an “amoral” and “pathological liar.”

Are we going to break records Tuesday? I do hope so.

Here’s your dismal voter turnout

You want ridiculous voter turnouts? I’ve got it for you right here.

Potter County Republicans today had to decide three key judgeships in runoff contests. The runoff election attracted a “whopping” 6.8 percent of registered voters. Pam Sirmon was elected to the 320th State District Court bench, while Walt Weaver and Matt Hand were elected to the county’s two Court at Law benches.

Important? Yes! But not so much that it would attract more than a tiny sliver of the GOP voters who cast ballots this past March in the party primary.

Hey, it gets worse!

In neighboring Randall County, a grand total of 1 percent of the voters took part in the runoff election. Why only 1 percent? Well, there were no local runoffs.

But, hey, the county’s few Democrats got to vote for their party’s nominee for governor. Randall County Democrats “poured” out, with just 474 ballots cast. I addressed this issue already in an earlier blog post. I didn’t vote in the Randall County runoff because the one GOP race that interested me — the Texas Senate District 31 contest — was decided in the primary. I couldn’t vote in the Democratic runoff for governor because I didn’t vote in the Democratic primary in March.

So I understand why the turnout in Randall County was so pitiful.

Still, with just 474 votes cast in the entire county that has more than 85,000 registered voters, I am left to ask: Is this the best we can do?

Rep. O’Rourke proposes debate-a-thon with Sen. Cruz

Six debates? Really? Does Beto O’Rourke really think Ted Cruz is going to agree to that?

Well, the Democratic challenger has pitched a serious offer to the Republican incumbent as the race for Cruz’s U.S. Senate seat starts to heat up.

The most fascinating aspect of O’Rourke’s challenge is that he wants two of those debates to be in Spanish, a language in which O’Rourke is fluent, but which Cruz reportedly is not.

O’Rourke wants to succeed Cruz in the Senate. He wants to take his case across Texas. My hope would be that one of those six debates would occur in the Texas Panhandle. Hey, Amarillo has plenty of suitable venues for such an event: Amarillo Little Theater; Amarillo College; Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts; Civic Center Grand Plaza Ballroom.

The reality is that the Cruz Missile isn’t likely to agree to six debates, even though he is known as a master debater. He once served as Texas solicitor general, which enabled him to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court; I consider that a pretty impressive venue.

O’Rourke’s challenge seems to indicate the seriousness of his effort to unseat Cruz, who is ready for the fight that lies ahead, according to the Texas Tribune: “Sen. Cruz has said he’s looking forward to debates,” Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said in a statement. “We are considering all possibilities in front of us and will be working with potential hosts and the O’Rourke campaign to determine the best platforms available so that Texans from all corners of the state can hear from the candidates directly about their views for Texas’ future.”

The Tribune also reports that a Spanish-language debate is unlikely: Regardless of what the campaigns ultimately agree to, debates in Spanish between the candidates seem unlikely. While O’Rourke is fluent in the language, Cruz is not known as a proficient speaker. 

Recent political polling puts the race as being too close to call. O’Rourke has spent a great deal of time stumping in rural Texas, far from the state’s pockets of progressive voter blocs. Cruz no doubt is gathering up his own war chest of campaign cash and will take the challenger on, face to face.

That all said, I am pulling for O’Rourke to win. I want him to represent this state in the U.S. Senate. He appears at first blush to be far more interested in our needs than in his own ambition.

Six debates between O’Rourke and Cruz? I hope they all occur. I will not bet the mortgage that they will.

Let’s hope big early vote equals big overall vote


Texas elections officials are beside themselves.

Early voting is setting records throughout the state, they say. In the part of the state where I live — the Panhandle — Potter County elections officials also report record turnout for the early vote.

Now, the question: Does the big early vote translate to a larger overall vote? My concern is that record-setting early vote means only that more Texans are voting early … period!

We hear similar reports around the country, where state and local elections officials are crowing about all this early-vote interest.

What in the world is driving it?

Well, I suppose it might have something to do with the news of late this past week, with FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that he might have some more information to reveal about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton’s e-mail controversy. Legal experts across the spectrum do not anticipate any penalty will come Clinton’s way. The focus now appears to be on Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her estranged dirtbag husband — Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner and his hideous sexting scandal.

Democrats want voters to cast ballots early — perhaps before they change their mind. Republicans are seizing on it, too, before more stuff comes out about their nominee, Donald J. Trump.

As for the Texas turnout, the Lone Star State generally ranks among the poorest turnout states in the country.

I thought early on that because of the two major-party candidates’ low esteem among voters that this year’s presidential election turnout might set an all-time low.

I would be delighted to be wrong about that prediction, too.

Don't vote? Don't gripe

This item comes from Robert Reich, a former labor secretary in the (first?) Clinton administration.

He posted it on Facebook.

“I ran into someone this morning who said he wasn’t voting in the midterms because he was ‘disgusted’ with politics. I told him if he doesn’t vote he forfeits his right to complain. Election Day is a week from tomorrow, and in many places you can vote before then. Voting isn’t just a right. It’s a privilege. Yet the largest party in America isn’t the Republicans or the Democrats; it’s the party of non-voters.

“The biggest question on the midterm ballot isn’t whom you send to Washington or the state house. It’s who you are and what you stand for. The biggest problem for our democracy isn’t regressive Republicans or spendthrift Democrats; it’s apathetic citizens.

“Please vote.”

Back when I worked in daily journalism, I would craft the obligatory “get out and vote” editorials. I wrote so many of those editorials I began to bore myself, as I felt as though I was talking to my desk, or my chair … or the hat rack sitting in the corner of my office.

I tried every way I knew to try to get people to vote.

It was futile.

In Texas, the turnout — even during presidential election years — is among the lowest in the nation. It’s right down there with Mississippi and Alabama.

Media like to measure the turnout as a percentage of “registered voters.” To my way of thinking that’s a distorted view. The real turnout should be measured against the percentage of “eligible voters,” which includes all citizens who are eligible to register to vote, but who haven’t even bothered to do that.

The “eligible voter” barometer sends the percentage of turnout straight into the crapper.

The mid-term election will produce the usual abysmal vote-turnout total. The winners will declare victory and announce that “the people have spoken.” Well, what we’re going to be “celebrating” the next day will be that a majority of a minority of Americans will have voted.

In Texas, that number will represent a significant minority of citizens who even bothered to vote. Those are the folks whose gripes deserve to be heard.

The rest of y’all? Shut the hell up.


Voter ID laws miss real culprit

Texas’s voter identification law is in place to guard against voter fraud.

Is it working? Does it seek out the most common culprit? Frontline, the acclaimed PBS news documentary series, suggests it doesn’t.


The most common abusers are absentee voters, according to Frontline. The Texas law, which has been upheld by the courts, targets those who show up at the polls without proper identification or who have false ID and seek to pass themselves off as someone else.

Yes, those incidences do occur — rarely.

The more common element of fraud occurs away from the polling place.

Frontline notes that most absentee votes are white and older than the rest of the voting population. Accordingly, voter ID laws draw their aim on those who are least able to afford to pay for the kinds of identification that many states now require. As Frontline reports:

“Laws that require photo ID at the polls vary, but the strictest laws limit the forms of acceptable documentation to only a handful of cards. For example, in Texas, voters must show one of seven forms of state or federal-issue photo ID, with a valid expiration date: a driver’s license, a personal ID card issued by the state, a concealed handgun license, a military ID, citizenship certificate or a passport. The name on the ID must exactly match the one on the voter rolls.

“African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to lack one of these qualifying IDs, according to several estimates. Even when the state offers a free photo ID, these voters, who are disproportionately low-income, may not be able to procure the underlying documents, such as a birth certificate, to obtain one.”

Therein lies the problem that some see in these voter ID laws. They make it harder for some Americans to vote and those Americans happen to be among the more disadvantaged among us.

Didn’t we pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit such a thing?

Turn out the lights

Paul Burka is right.

The Texas governor’s race is over. Done. Finis. History. Pfft.


Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis had a chance to make a fight of it. She’s choked.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is the heavy favorite anyway. Davis, as Burka noted, had a chance to knock the AG off track over secrecy of dangerous chemicals. Then she failed to capitalize.

I’ve noted already that the Democrats’ greatest chance to make inroads is in the race for lieutenant governor. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is a potentially much stronger candidate than Davis is for governor. What’s more, state Sen. Dan Patrick, the bombastic and fiery GOP nominee for light gov, is much more prone to self-destruction than the cautious and circumspect Abbott.

I was hoping Davis could make a race of it. With just three months to go before the November election, it now appears that Davis is going to get mugged by her Republican opponent.

For those of us who wish for a more competitive field at the top of the state election ballot, well … that’s too bad.