November 14, 2008
The counting is over

All of the ballots in Harris County have now been counted, and the results of all the races remain the same.

Before Thursday, for instance, Democratic challenger Josefina Muniz Rendon was ahead of Republican state District Judge Elizabeth Ray by only 135 of the 1.1 million votes cast in the race. The Democrat's winning margin is now 520.

In the other closest race, Republican state District Judge Joseph "Tad" Halbach's margin over Democrat Goodwille Pierre shrank to 230 votes from 595.

All other county races were decided by bigger vote gaps and were not affected by the new vote totals. Democratic challengers defeated 23 of the 27 Republican judges on the ballot.


The final tallies triggered former Houston Police Chief C.O. "Brad" Bradford's concession of defeat in his race for district attorney against Republican Pat Lykos. He had been waiting for the final totals in a contest he ended up losing by less than 5,000 votes.

"I want to congratulate Judge Lykos on her victory and wish her all the best as she moves forward in the District Attorney's Office," the Democrat said after talking to Lykos by phone. "We raised a number of important issues in this campaign, and I hope these issues will continue to be discussed and resolved -- issues such as jail overcrowding, getting alternative treatment for the mentally ill and substance abusers, a public defender's office and reform of the grand jury system."

Lykos said she hopes to meet with Bradford to reminisce about the campaign and discuss ways to develop policies they agreed on, including treatment options for mentally ill accused criminals.

Seems unlikely there will be recounts, so the remaining action is in SD17 for the runoff and HD105 for the recount there. There was, however, some drama with this tally:

During the counting process, the Texas Democratic Party accused voter registrar Paul Bettencourt, a Republican, of delaying the verifications. Jim Harding, the Republican chief of a bipartisan ballot board, which made final decisions on which ballots were valid, accused Bettencourt of supplying the board with faulty records.

Bettencourt denied the allegations. After the Chronicle published Harding's statements, Bettencourt firmly asserted his denials in phone messages to Harding, the men said.

In turn, Harding alleged Thursday that Bettencourt's calls were improper attempts to influence how the ballot board did business. He discussed the messages with County Attorney First Assistant John Barnhill, who was unavailable for comment.

Bettencourt said he had merely defended his staff's performance -- without questioning the board's decision to accept some provisional ballots that Bettencourt's workers had classified as incomplete.

Harding's statements were in yesterday's story.

Republican Jim Harding, a retired Houston business executive who chairs the ballot board of about 35 people, said the counting process was delayed by faulty work by Bettencourt's staff.

The problems included hundreds of voter forms whose information the registrar's staff masked with white correction fluid and then altered with new information, Harding said.

As ballot board members determined whether ballots should be counted, he said, they wanted to have confidence in the accuracy of the registrar's research.

But "that kind of confidence is not replicated here, and then when they see this 'white-out' all over the place they get nervous," he said.

Also, the board has accepted ballots cast by voters whose registrations had been classified by Bettencourt's staff as incomplete, Harding said. In many cases records showed voters had visited state Department of Public Safety offices where they claimed to have registered to vote, Harding explained, and the ballot board is giving those voters the benefit of the doubt.

Harding said there were more errors and related voting records problems than in five previous elections in which he served on the ballot board.

Some of that will come out when the remaining claims in the Texas Democratic Party's lawsuit against Bettencourt goes forward next year. I can certainly believe Bettencourt has been putting his thumb on the scale, but I'll be a little amazed if he was careless enough about it to get caught out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 14, 2008 to Election 2008
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