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November 3rd, 2016:

Wait, who supports paper ballots now?

I have three things to say about this.

Following repeated allegations by Republican Donald Trump that the election may be rigged to ensure a win for Democrat Hillary Clinton, Texas lawmakers are actively considering ways to boost confidence in the state’s elections during next year’s legislative session.

Among the ideas drawing interest: adding paper trail backups to thousands of electronic voting machines.

The idea was brought up in a tweet Saturday by Gov. Greg Abbott.

“That’s a great idea & we are considering it as an election reform measure. Election integrity is essential,” Abbott tweeted in response to a voter who tweeted that he wanted printed proof of how he cast his ballot.

Over the last decade, several Texas lawmakers have filed bills to require paper trails on electronic voting machine. The proposals often include adding a printer in a sealed case to the state’s electronic voting machines so voters could check their votes against the receipt. The paper trail could be consulted in the event of a recount.

During the 2007 legislative session, interest in the idea stalled following estimates that adding the printers to all of the state’s voting machines could cost $40 to 50 million, according to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article from the time.

One of the 2007 bills was authored by then-state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. Now a state senator, she said she may re-introduce her previous legislation.

“I agree with Governor Abbott’s call for election reform,” Kolkhorst said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “I have personally spoken with his office about re-introducing my legislation from 2007 to strengthen ballot integrity by requiring a paper record be printed of a person’s vote on an electronic voting machine. Texans have the right to inspect and verify that their vote was accurately recorded.”


The move toward election reform comes amid an election season in which Texans have expressed concerns about election rigging and voter fraud. Last week, Trump highlighted reports of voting machines in Texas changing votes for president from voters casting straight-ticket ballots. Those reports, however, have been largely debunked by election officials, who have stated that alleged instances of “vote flipping” were the result of user error.

1. I’m old enough to remember when suspicion of electronic voting machines and faith that only paper ballots could ensure the integrity of our electoral system was a shibboleth on the left, largely having to do with dire conspiracy theories about the Diebold corporation and vote counting in Ohio in 2004. Here’s a little blast from the past for those of you who have blocked this out or weren’t there for it the first time. Who knew that a sociopathic sore-losing narcissist could spark such an interest in voting machine integrity among Republicans? For that matter, who knew that so many Republican voters could be that suspicious of the electoral process in a state whose elections they have been dominating for over 20 years? Clearly, all these Republican County Clerks and Republican-appointed elections administrators can’t be trusted.

2. Travis County has already done a lot of the heavy lifting on building a better mousetrap. Maybe we should just emulate their work and save us all a bunch of time and effort.

3. Putting aside the question of paper ballots for a moment, perhaps we should take a moment and contemplate the fact that the electronic voting machines we use now are all a decade or more old, and are generally past their recommended lifespan. If we do nothing else, spending a few bucks to upgrade and replace our current hardware would be an excellent investment.

Off to trial for Paxton

No more appeals, so a trial is in the works.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are no longer asking to have a state securities fraud case against him dismissed, moving him closer to a trial on the criminal charges.

Paxton’s legal team confirmed Tuesday that it was getting ready for a trial, five days after a deadline passed for it to try one more time to persuade the state’s highest criminal court to look at the case. They apparently passed on that opportunity.

“We are preparing for trial in the state matter and have confidence in the strength of our case,” Paxton lawyer Philip Hilder said in a statement.


In the state case, Paxton’s lawyers had until Thursday to appeal the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision last month not to examine the charges. The deadline came and went without Paxton’s team taking action, despite initially saying it planned to.

The Court of Criminal Appeals had already declined to hear Paxton’s appeal of the lower court rulings that allowed his indictments to stand. He had the opportunity to ask the CCA to reconsider their ruling, but his defense team apparently decided that wasn’t worth the effort. So here we are. I seem to recall a past news blurb that suggested his trial would be in the spring. That might be a bit of a distraction for the legislative session, in which case perhaps late spring/early summer will be a more likely time for this. Whenever it happens, it will be the biggest story in the state. Trail Blazers has more.

Early voting, Day Ten: Who are these people?

Are we seeing new voters in the early voting so far, or is it all the same old same old?


More than a quarter of Harris County’s 2.2 million registered voters cast a ballot in-person or by mail last week, a 36 percent increase from 2012 and part of a statewide surge in early voting.

Roughly 36 percent of those voters participated in at least one of the last three Democratic presidential primaries, a Houston Chronicle analysis of voter history shows, while 32 percent voted in at least one of the last three Republican presidential primaries. Another 19 percent only had general election voting history, and 14 percent had no Harris County voting history in recent presidential election years.

Political scientists said that split indicates last week’s uptick in early voting was attributable more to partisan urgency than it was to a flood of new voters.

“We’re seeing many of the most active partisans come out earlier than normal,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said. “There are some new voters, as we would expect based on overall population growth. But we’re not seeing a dramatic groundswell of turnout from people who either were registered and didn’t vote in the past or (registered recently).”

University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus agreed.

“It seems to me that this election is more about current voters turning out at higher rates than it is about newer voters joining the system,” he said.

True enough, but let’s keep a couple of things in mind. For one, turnout appears to be headed into the 1.4 million range, possibly higher, which means at least 200,000 more voters than there were in 2012. I had done a study awhile back on the Harris County electorates in 2010 and 2014 based on the voter rosters for each year, and I found that over a third of the voters in 2014 had not voted in 2010, despite 2010 having higher turnout. If the same is true for 2016 and 2012, we’re talking upward of a half million people who will not have participated in 2012, at least here in Harris County. That’s a lot, you know? Also, too, it’s hard to know what these numbers about who has or has not participated in primaries before mean without a point of comparison. What were the comparable figures from 2012, or 2008? The story doesn’t say.

Here’s information about the previous voting history for voters elsewhere, from that same Republican consultant who has been producing those reports after each day of early voting. This Observer story has some comments from said consultant, and it gently suggests some optimism for the Dems.

As of Tuesday, some 713,083 votes had been cast in Harris County, 626,627 in person and 86,456. That’s 20,146 more mail ballots that were cast by the end of early voting in 2012, with over 123,000 total ballots sent out to voters. We will pass the early voting total from 2008 today (730,814) and should pass the total from 2012 as well (766,526). Over 900,000 early votes seems likely, with over a million not out of the question. And yes, Tuesday was another win for the Democrats. I’m watching Game 7 as I type this, so look for the daily EV report and an update to the spreadsheet later.

UPDATE: Here’s the Day 10 EV report. We are at 700,697 in person early vote and 89,271 mail ballots, for a new record total of 789,968. And we have two days to go.

Texas blog roundup for the week of October 31

The Texas Progressive Alliance asks if you have voted yet as it brings you this week’s roundup.