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May 15th, 2023:

NEW Houston requests retraction of bad KHOU story about paper ballot issues

From the inbox:

Houston Leaders Call on Channel 11 To Retract Discredited Report On 2022 Election Paper Shortages

Two New Investigations Debunk Central Claims Presented to the Public by KHOU; Deeply Flawed and Misleading Report Used As Basis by Gov. Abbott and Election Deniers to Call for New Harris County Election, Continues to be Used as Justification for Anti-Democratic State Bills Targeting Harris County

Today, New Economy for Working Houston and Greater Houston LULAC Council called for Houston CBS affiliate KHOU to immediately retract an analysis it aired on Jan.30 implying that 121 voting locations in Harris County ran out of paper on election day last year. The request comes as two separate and independent investigations by the Houston Chronicle and Houston Public Media found that while there were technical glitches on election day, there is no evidence voters were systematically disenfranchised nor that any issues were significant enough to change the outcome of any contested race.

A day after KHOU’s report aired, Governor Abbott used the KHOU report to raise the possibility of calling a new election. Local State Sen. Paul Bettencourt has exploited the story to imply malfeasance. Making matters worse, the analysis has been exploited by partisan elected officials to justify dangerous bills, including SB 823, SB 1750, SB 1039, and SB 1993, which are now poised to pass the state legislature. These bills create a way for partisan state officials to strip Harris County residents of its authority to have local officials conduct elections and will criminalize the routine work of public servants in Houston, creating a culture of fear and making the process of running elections – already a complicated process in the state’s largest county – even harder.

The request for KHOU to retract its now discredited analysis is being made in a letter addressed to News Director Liz Roldan.

Key facts driving the request include the following:

  • It is not true that 121 locations ran out of paper in Harris County, as KHOU’s story implies. The Chronicle and Houston Public Media investigations both independently found only 20 polling places ran out of paper “some for only 15 minutes and others for up to three hours.”

  • KHOU’s report left out vital context about the differences between the 2018 and 2022 elections in its comparison of turnout at voting locations. Between those years, the County moved to countywide voting (a large percentage of voters do not vote at their home precinct), a key fact omitted in its analysis.

  • KHOU failed to prove in its reporting that election day glitches systematically hindered voting and affected the outcome of the elections. Despite a major marketing campaign to find disenfranchised voters by political operatives, to this day, there have not been any voters able to testify under oath that they could not cast their vote.

  • KHOU’s own political experts have distanced themselves from the analysis.  According to KHOU analyst and Rice University political science professor Bob Stein, “I know I work for Channel 11, so it’s going to be a hard thing to say…but they didn’t ask the obvious question: did it impede voting?”

About New Economy for Working Houston

New Economy for Working Houston (NEW Houston) is a non-profit organization that brings together the power of grassroots organizing and public policy innovation to win a just economy for Gulf Coast working families. We seek to build an inclusive regional economy where workers and neighborhoods thrive, and where people of color, immigrants, women, and low-income residents have an equal voice and share equally in regional prosperity.

See here for some background, and here for a copy of the letter, signed by Hany Khalil, Executive Director of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, and Chair of New Economy for Working Houston (NEW Houston), and by Dr. Sergio Lira, President, Greater Houston LULAC Council 4967. You can learn more about NEW Houston here; I’ve gotten a few emails from them, mostly about the bad election bills that have been moving through the Lege. There’s not much besides mission statements on the website now, but we’ll see where they go from here. I don’t expect much from this effort – news organizations usually need a pretty big shove to retract a story – but it’s worth the effort to try.

Dan Patrick reminds everyone who’s in charge

In case you forgot.

Online sports betting isn’t coming to Texas any time soon, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Saturday.

The state House narrowly advanced a bill this week that would allow Texans to vote on legalizing the practice, a milestone for the gambling industry’s push to expand in the Lone Star State. Supporters had already expected an uphill climb in the Senate, but Patrick put an end to any remaining speculation on Twitter.

“I’ve said repeatedly there is little to no support for expanding gaming from Senate GOP,” Patrick tweeted. “I polled members this week. Nothing changed. The Senate must focus on issues voters expect us to pass. We don’t waste time on bills without overwhelming GOP support. HB 1942 won’t be referred.”

Still, gambling advocates say the bill’s passage in the House — by a vote of 101 to 42 — shows the potential to advance the legislation in future sessions.

State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano and the author of the legislation, has argued that Texans already have easy access to illegal forms of online betting, where they spend millions of untaxed dollars every year. He said legalizing the practice would “allow these people to come out of the shadows” and put them under a “regulatory framework that will protect Texans who are already doing this now.”

This is the reason I have always been dismissive of all the breathless pre-session articles about how the gambling industry is gearing up and hiring millions of lobbyists and citing polls that show public support for gambling and economic studies that say it will literally rain honey on us all if we authorize casinos and sports books. There’s one person you have to convince in the state, and that’s Dan Patrick. Until he is no longer in charge, gambling isn’t going anywhere. Maybe – I know, this is crazy talk, but stay with me – the gambling interests should focus a bit more on that in the next election.

(Yes, I know, Patrick always cites the level of support in the Senate, and I’m sure he’s right about that. But then, the Republican Senate caucus is an army of his clones, so there’s a chicken-and-egg question there. If Patrick changed his mind, would his minions follow? It’s an interesting question, one we’ll almost certainly never get an answer to. That said, if Mike Collier were presiding over the Senate this session, it wouldn’t surprise me if there remained some entrenched opposition among the mini-Patricks. But at least then we’d have some clarity, and the lobbyists could turn their attention to those individual Senators.)

Who you calling “groomer”?

Bryan Slaton is the poster boy for that epithet.

Bryan Slaton

In public, former state Rep. Bryan Slaton was a conservative champion unafraid to ruffle feathers and pick fights, even with Republicans he deemed insufficiently conservative.

A self-described “bold and brave Christian-Conservative” who’d worked as a youth pastor, Slaton featured a picture of his wife and infant son on his campaign website. On social media, he railed against “groomers,” saying their efforts to sexualize minors needed to be stopped.

Away from the public eye, however, the Royse City Republican fell far short of the morally upright life he sold to voters — a guise ripped away by a scathing 16-page report that detailed his inappropriate sexual conduct with a 19-year-old legislative aide who worked in his Capitol office.

Slaton invited the woman to his Austin apartment late on a Friday night and poured her enough alcoholic drinks that she felt dizzy and had double vision, leading to unprotected sex, after which the woman reportedly purchased emergency contraceptives against a potential pregnancy, the report by a House investigative committee found.

Slaton resigned Monday and was expelled from the House by a unanimous vote Tuesday, but his hypocrisy has cast a harsher light on Republican-led efforts to crack down on supposedly grooming-related activities, including drag performances, gender-affirming care for transgender minors and classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity.

LGBTQ advocates are pointing to Slaton to redirect attacks back on the GOP, saying conservative Republicans were so busy policing drag artists and transgender Texans that they missed abuse — and so-called “grooming behavior” — by one of their own.

Rep. Jessica González, D-Dallas, said those who voted to expel Slaton should also oppose legislation he supported that would ban transgender adolescents from receiving puberty blockers and hormone therapy, on which the House is scheduled to vote on Friday.

“It’s no surprise that the man obsessed with children’s bodies — especially transgender kids — is a predator,” González said in a statement. “The courage to stop a predator has to extend to opposing his crusade to fixate the entire state on children’s genitals. He’s been calling my community ‘perverts’ and ‘groomers’ for years — when it turns out he should’ve invested in a good mirror.”

To this all I would add is “And Paul Pressler and his enabler Jared Woodfill, too”. The rest of the story is various Republicans mumbling excuses and dodging questions about Slaton. I don’t care about that. Remember the name Bryan Slaton, and remember why we remember the name. Shitty people in politics is a universal problem, just like shitty people in any other part of life is, but the Bryan Slaton type of shitty people is a Republican problem.