November 05, 2004
Vo-Heflin final count over the weekend

The expected recount final count (see update at bottom) in the extremely tight Vo-Heflin race will take place this weekend.


Democratic businessman Hubert Vo apparently defeated Heflin in Tuesday's election by just 52 votes a margin that narrowed to 38 with a preliminary count of mail-in votes.

Rather than count the remaining 193 absentee ballots and 189 provisional ballots, cast by voters who could not prove their eligibility when they went to the polls, Vo's operatives asked election officials to delay the count until the countywide ballot canvassing already scheduled for Sunday.

Larry Veselka, a former Harris County Democratic chair and one of Vo's representatives, said counting earlier would not comply with the state Election Code.

"We are convinced Mr. Vo's lead will stand up with the final count. We are not overly concerned," Veselka said.

Neither of the candidates appeared at a county election office in north Houston where the count had been scheduled Thursday.

[...]

A few thousand provisional and absentee ballots remain to be counted countywide. The count will take place Sunday afternoon and will go into Monday if it is not completed then.

The Harris County clerk's office is expected to announce the official results Monday.


I can't find any stories today regarding the Leibowitz/Mercer or White/Baxter races, so as far as I can tell, this is the only recount pending right now. Turns out there was another screwy race up in Wichita Falls.

Democratic incumbent David Farabee returns to the 69th District Texas House of Representative seat for a fourth term by a margin of 3,024 votes.

"I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to represent the fine people of Wichita and Archer counties," Farabee said.

It was three days of long, painful waiting for Farabee and his Republican challenger, Shirley Craft. Complications with ballot counting equipment stalled Wichita County's tally of the race from Tuesday evening to late Thursday afternoon.

Archer County residents also vote in the 69th District.

After the wait, Farabee said he has "confidence in our county officials and was proud of the job they did."


The delay was apparently caused by problems counting the votes.

Election night problems with the county's software that tabulates votes kept spitting out an unusually high number of "undervotes" - ballots without votes in some races.

County officials performed several tests on the machine using dummy ballots that came out perfect. But when the real ballots were processed the "undervotes" would appear again.

"It wasn't properly programmed to pick up straight party votes," County Clerk JW Martin said.

County Judge Woody Gossom said the dummy cards did not cover all the possible voting possibilities and that is why the tests were successful while the real vote count was not.

The county remedied the problem Wednesday night with the help of a computer programmer from Elections Systems and Software, the county's software provider.

Gossom said the programmer alleviated the counting problem by re-entering all the program information and increasing the test parameters to allow for the testing of more areas.

"ESS did a wonderful job. There are no problems with the results," Martin said about the fix.

Martin said he was told by two representatives from the office of Texas' Secretary of State who were present for the final result tallying that the problems were not a reflection on the actions of the county clerk's office.

"Throughout the whole event Martin and I worked to keep our local county chairs, poll watchers and Secretary of State's office as informed as we could," Gossom said.

Gossom said the county's problems with the punch card voting system are ironic in light of the federal mandate requiring Wichita County to switch to electronic voting machines by 2006. In defense, Gossom said, "there were problems with those machines, too."

Talk of a manual count of the Wichita County ballots by local Republican campaign leaders filled the air Wednesday afternoon. They felt the continuously failing voting equipment could not be trusted.

A manual recount was conducted Thursday night on the 69th District legislative race between Democratic incumbent David Farabee and Republican challenger Shirley Craft. Farabee took the race by 3,024 votes.

Gossom said he offered to allow a hand count of all the local elections after the final results. The results have no legal bearing and would not be reported to the Texas Secretary of State.

"It sounded acceptable to everybody," he said.

The 69th District count is being done in conjunction with a manual recount of three precincts as dictated by the Secretary of State. Martin said a recount of this type is done after every election to spot check the electronically counted ballots.


Note that the problem here was with vote-counting software, not with e-voting machines, as those machines were not in use.

Finally, Kristin Mack takes a look at Mustafa Tameez, the man behind Hubert Vo's so-far successful campaign as well as Mayor Bill White's city proposition elections.


Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Tameez, 35, moved to Queens, N.Y., when he was 8.

Tameez moved to Houston in 1994 and married a year later.

He's worked as a compensation analyst, started a small software company and worked at a sales/marketing company, selling coupons on backs of books and billboard space. He's good at sales jobs, and that skill is useful in politics, too.

His wife's uncle encouraged him to get politically involved in the community, and he started by recruiting South Asians to become delegates to the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

In 2001 he worked on get-out-the-vote efforts in the South Asian community for then-Mayor Lee Brown's re-election campaign. Eighty percent of Asians voted for Brown.

Then Tameez had to take almost a year off recovering from hip and shin surgery related to his avascular necrosis, which results in a loss of blood to the bones and leads them to deteriorate. He walks with a cane.

Last year, White tapped Tameez to get out Asian-American votes for White's mayoral campaign.

[...]

Like most political consultants, Tameez prefers to work behind the scenes. And most candidates like it that way.

His presence has been felt by Republicans, though, and they're not happy with his role in the campaigns against Heflin and against Proposition 2, which the local GOP formally supported.

That animosity already is leading to talk that Republican legislators will make it tough on White when he tries to push the city's agenda in Austin during next year's legislative session.

Tameez says he doesn't take these rough edges of politics personally even when an elected official suggested that Tameez might do better if he changed his name.

He's doing fine with it as it is.


With all those good results under his belt already, expect to hear that name a lot more in the future.

UPDATE: As Rob notes, this is not yet a recount, but a count of the votes which have not been counted yet, including absentees and provisionals. After that, the losing candidate is pretty darned sure to ask for a recount, which is completely logical and understandable in a race this close. As I recall from the recount in City Council District G last year, the electronic votes will be recounted by feeding the relevant eSlate memory cards into the readers. As with that instance, one would hope that the same answer will be reached, lest even bigger questions be raised. Once the not-yet-counted votes have been officially tallied, that result is likely to be what stands. As noted here, "No recount has ever changed the outcome on an election in Harris County".

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 05, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack
Comments

Nitpicking again, what's happening this weekend is not a recount, it's a count of votes that have not been counted yet.

After they get done with that, whichever candidate has the lower total will ask for a recount of all the votes. That's an election prediction that's pretty solid. Either side has a legitimate right to ask for a recount.

The only questions open are how many people with mail-in ballots voted straight-ticket or all the way down to that race, and how many provisional ballots will be counted as votes.

When asked to estimate the provisionals that'll count I balked, someone said 10% and I said, "Sure, maybe even 5%." In my precinct I think 0% of the provisional ballots will be counted (we had the highest number in the district). We worked to get people's votes counted whatever way we could, legally. I even had the county pull a couple of scans of the registration applications to get people moved into our precinct like they should have been. (In case any Dems/Vo staffers are wondering, both these folks were African American living in Section 8 housing, so odds are I probably wasn't doing the GOP any favors.)

Greg worked a poll, he might have a different perspective.

Posted by: Robert Booth on November 5, 2004 10:52 AM

What is underway in Harris County is a case of old-fashioned vote stealing with new-fashioned equipment.

County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, a parisan Republican with a history of questionable elections under her belt, hired David Beirne, anoither partisan Republican who was at the center of the South Florida debacle in 2000.

Together, these two have introduced so many irregularities into the Heflin-Vo race that it is already hopelessly tainted even BEFORE they resume the count tomorrow that they should have finished on Election Night.

Why are they doing this? Because Heflin is the most powerful member of the Texas House. He has been defeated, and the Republican establishment in Austin can;t stand it.

They have sent Tom DeLay's lawyer Andy Taylor in to overturn the results. Kaufman has admitted that she tried to rush through a recount "at the urging of Mr. Heflin" in a letter to the Secretary of State.

This is about Speaker's politics, not the will of the voters of House District 149.

If the Republicans steal this election, it will be especially ironic because Hubert Vo is an honorable man who came to this country 30 years ago to participate in what he thought was a free and open political process.

Turns out, it's no more honest that South Vietnam in the 1970s -- or South Florida in 2000.

Posted by: Embree Timlin on November 6, 2004 8:15 AM

Embree,

Mr. Vo did not win this race, so it can't be stolen from him. They haven't counted all the votes yet.

If you have any evidence of corruption or criminal activity by anyone in the County Clerk's office, you have an obligation as a citizen to bring that up with the county District Attorney, If you don't think they handle that correctly, you need to take it up with the Texas Rangers, I believe.

I live in District 149. We don't need people making wild accusations on web sites. We need a fair, legal count of the votes.

Posted by: Rob Booth (Slightly Rough) on November 6, 2004 9:30 AM

Mr. Booth:

The Texas Rangers have nothing to do with this, but the (Republican) District Attorney has already received the proper legal pleadings. and I assure you that the Heflin victory you predict (as have the Harris Co. elections officials, by the way, despite not having, as you note, counted all the votes yet) will be contested in the courts -- and, perhaps, in the streets.

The real GOP strategy here is to seat Heflin despite the elections contest by throwing it into the Texas House, where the GOP's 87-63 margin makes the outcome a foregone conclusion.

Far from "wild accusation," the above is the scenario as stated by Republican operatives in Austin and House Speaker Tom Craddick's staff.

Posted by: Embree Timlin on November 6, 2004 1:34 PM

Embree,

I have not predicted a Heflin victory. It's too close to call.

The Texas Rangers can step in when local officials refuse to enforce the law. That's why I suggested them.

http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/director_staff/texas_rangers/

[quote]
Under orders of the Director, suppress all criminal activity in any given area, when it is apparent that the local officials are unwilling or unable to maintain law and order;
[endquote]

I'm not a lawyer, but you could also contact the Justice Department if you have any evidence of corruption.

I want the person who got the most legal votes to win the race. That's all. I campaigned for Heflin, hard, but I don't want to win by cheating.

Posted by: Rob Booth (Slightly Rough) on November 6, 2004 4:56 PM