Thursday, November 06, 2008

Good, Bad, and Ugly: more of each

-- The Good: disappointing turnout on Election Day notwithstanding, Harris County voting proceeded with only the most minor of hiccups. Beverly Kaufman added extra polling locations, made technical improvements such as barcode and driver's license scanning that shortened wait times and reduced data-entry error during EV, secured the transfer cases (cardboard boxes) of e-Slates with an improved seal, added two extra seals on the e-Slates themselves that restricted election judges from setting up and activating the ballot boxes until the morning of Election Day, and took other precautions that John Behrman and others have urged, from parallel testing to quarantining of suspect machines. Berhman also was granted additional access to areas and information that were previously deemed ministerial and confidential.

I'm usually the critic, so when a compliment is due I don't want to run a deficit. Good job, Ms. Kaufman and the same to all of your staff, including elections supervisors John German and Randy Roberts and the platoons of assistant clerks.

-- The Bad: Hispanic precincts turned out their vote at 40-45% -- outstanding in any other election year, but lame compared to the countywide average of between 60-65%. No one seems to have a good answer beyond latent racism, lingering disillusionment at Hillary Clinton's primary loss, or lack of GOTV efforts in that community:

Local Democratic Chairman Gerald Birnberg said his party struggled to get former supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential primary candidacy to return to the polls and vote for Obama and the rest of the party's slate. Clinton was immensely popular among Hispanic voters in Texas.

"The head wind was the demoralization of many of the Hispanic Hillary Clinton supporters and that was a reality we faced throughout the election," Birnberg said.

As Democratic political consultant Marc Campos of Houston pointed out, Tuesday's election totals put turnout in mostly Hispanic state House districts at 40 to 45 percent, compared to 60 to 65 percent in mostly white, suburban districts as well as mostly black districts.

Campos, a Hispanic, said his party's efforts to motivate Hispanic voters was substandard. Birnberg disagreed, saying that among other things, Democrats aimed at Hispanic households with a recorded telephone message from Clinton urging voters to back every candidate.

Birnberg pointed out that all countywide Democratic Hispanic candidates won their contests except one, while district attorney candidate C.O. "Brad" Bradford and other black candidates lost.

Regardless, "clearly we must continue to do better year in and year out in the Hispanic community," Birnberg added.

Bob Stein offers another clue, which goes to Paul Bettencourt's strenuous efforts to clerically suppress the vote:

About 100,000 people who voted in the spring Democratic primary failed to vote in the county's general election, according to Rice University political scientist Bob Stein.

"I don't think they're disinterested in politics. I think it's the way we conduct our elections and how we make it very difficult for people who move around a lot to re-register," he said.

Republican Paul Bettencourt, the voter registrar re-elected as county tax assessor-collector, rejected Stein's theory.

About 100,000 other people easily updated their registrations for the general election, he said. Also, he theorized that turnout would have been much higher if Obama or John McCain or their running mates would have campaigned in Houston.

I'll be damned; Bettencourt is right. Obama not only never came back to Texas beyond a fundraiser, he sucked hundred of volunteers out of the state to work in New Mexico and other swingers, and many who couldn't leave spent their weekends calling battlegrounds on Obama's behalf.

I fault the Texas Democratic Party for allowing this to happen. This is where it gets ...

-- Ugly:

(T)he Obama campaign gobbled up the potential volunteer base for a statewide sweep campaign by exhorting Texans to campaign in other states, both physically and over phone banks. But I don't blame the Obama campaign. At least they had something for the vast Texas Democratic volunteer base to do. How can we blame the Obama campaign for making use of this huge volunteer base when the Texas Democratic party did not intend to make use of it?

Can anybody identify a single specific action or statement from the State Party demonstrating that it seriously wanted Obama to put Texas in play?

MoveOn wore me out asking me to work for Obama. Meanwhile I was busy working my precinct for all Democrats. And the TDP apparently sent a mailer to GOTV, which I'm told they spent hundreds of thousands on to send all over the state.

Ah, so the Democratic political advisors specializing in direct mail got remunerated handsomely.

So long as we Texas Democrats continue to listen to the self-inflated consultants and other "pundits" who insist on running targeted campaigns instead of sweep campaigns, we cannot expect a sweep-campaign outcome!

Hellllloooooooooo ...

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