Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The stooges running elections in Harris County *update*

John has been on this since I've been busy offline, and this week HCDP chair Lane Lewis put out the call for a forensic audit of the Harris County elections process in the wake of the recent buffoonery.

Harris County and political leaders Tuesday called for an audit and reforms to improve public confidence in local elections in the wake of problems in last week's primary runoffs that included contests run on the wrong boundaries, delayed results and inaccurate tallies posted online.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said he will ask the Texas Secretary of State's Office to examine his office's election processes after a "human error" in his office caused erroneous primary runoff election results to be posted online for hours last Tuesday. The error made the Democratic runoff for Precinct 2 constable appear to be a blowout for one candidate when, in fact, the correct count had his opponent ahead.

Democratic Party chairman Lane Lewis also called for an audit of election procedures. Lewis referenced delays in the posting of results in May and July, and a Democratic primary race for the Harris County Department of Education run on outdated boundaries. County tax assessor-collector Don Sumners has accepted some blame for the error but says the Department of Education was required to notify him of the change; the department disagrees.

As Charles has documented, County Judge Ed Emmett is mumbling and shuffling his feet and not actually showing any management skills, as usual.

(Emmett) revived his proposal that an elections administrator, an appointed official outside the clerk's office and tax office, be considered. Emmett said 85 Texas counties, including most large ones, use the system.

"I'm not saying we need to go to what they do, but if there are improvements we can make, I think we ought to consider making those improvements," Emmett said. "If there is an error, then at least you have somebody who is a professional election administrator. Nobody reads into it that this is an elected person that's partisan one way or the other."

This is as lame as his leadership on the "rusting ship in the parking lot" that is the Houston Astrodome. If it weren't for so many other incompetents among the county's Republicans, Emmett's worthlessness might draw some scrutiny.

Fortunately for him, there are bigger fuckups of the elected variety spread around town. Thanks, TeaBaggers!

Regarding Stan Stanart, he simply does not need to be by himself anywhere near any more elections. There need to be multiple observers from both parties -- perhaps even Greens and Libertarians as well, maybe even the DOJ -- present in the county ballot cave on Election Night in November.

A non-partisan appointed elections administrator is officially and badly needed NOW in the nation's third-most populous county. At the very least, Commissioners Court should appoint someone without reproach to the position at once to observe Stanart as well as Sumner's activities during the voter registration process, and that person should assume the office and the control of all Harris County elections in January, 2013.

If the King Street Patriots were serious about vote "fraud", they would give up their vile suppression tactics and just concentrate on watching everything Stanart and his clown sidekick Sumners are doing for the next 90 days. But as a district court has ruled, they are ribald partisan flacks themselves.

Those are actually the three greatest threats to an honest election in this county in 2012: KSP, Sumners, and Stanart. Don't expect any Republican to take any serious ethical action against any of them. They all love their power more than they do honesty and transparency in government.

Update: Campos wants to know...

I wonder why local Dem Party leaders won’t come out and support an Election Administrator?

And via Carl W, former HCDP chair Gerry Birnberg tries to set us both -- mostly me -- straight.

The Elections Administrator idea falls into the "better watch out what you ask for, you just might get it" category.. Perry apparently doesn't realize who appoints an Elections Administrator: under Texas law, the Elections Administrator is appointed by a fiver person committee consisting of (1) the County Clerk (yep - Stan Stanart), (2) the County Tax Assessor-Collector/Voter Registrar (currently Tea Party crazy Don Sumner, but after Januayr [sic] 1, hopefuly Ann Bennett, and if not her, then Mike Sullivan), (3) the County Judge (Ed Emmett), (4) the Chair of the Harris County Republican Party (Jarrod [sic] Woodfill), and (5) the Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party (Lane Lewis). Even if you could somehow hop [sic] that Ed Emmett would vote for a reasonable, competent, not-partisan Elections Administrator, do you think Jarrod [sic] Woodfill, Stan Stanart, and Don Sumner would?

And once you appoint an Election Administrator, that person cannot be replaced -- even for cause, unless four of the members of that committee vote to remove him or her. So, as a practical matters, once appointed, it's essentially a lifetime appointment. (Commissioners Court can abolish the position by majority vote, but they cannot fire the Administrator and obtain a replacement).

So until Democrats win at least one of the countywide elected spots on the committee (voter registrar, count clerk, or county judge) and really, two of them, it could be electoral suicide to put the entire elections apparatus (voter registration and elections administration) in the hands of one un-elected, permanent, un-replaceable person selected by Don Sumner, Stan Stanart, and Jarrod Woodfill (to say nothing of Ed Emmett).

The best way to clean up the mess is to elect Ann Bennett voter registrar in November and some other Democrat as county clerk and/or county judge in 2014.

Gerry gets it a little right and a little wrong here.

He's right that I didn't know it was those five who appointed an elections administrator, and wrong that it wouldn't be an improvement. ANYTHING and anybody would be better than leaving things they way they are... until hopefully Harris County voters elect another Democrat in November AND in an off-presidential year two years hence, when Democrats traditionally avoid the polls.

A little too much hope meeting cold hard reality there for me, Gerr.

Way back when Beverly Kaufman retired, she also tried to hand-pick her successor, and I criticized that. Kevin Mauzy looks like a whiz-bang stinkin' genius at this point of course, and might be the perfect fit. Certainly seems competent; might even be from the moderately sane wing of the GOP (since Stanart whipped him in 2010's primary). This would be a fat slice of humble pie for Stanart to eat, that's for sure.

Today's little effort to appear moderate myself, not to mention bipartisan, hopefully won't go overlooked.

Did Gerry answer your question, Marc?

Update: Charles Kuffner has deeper background (but no secrets).

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