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August 9th, 2012:

We speak again of an elections administrator

As you know, I’ve been wondering when this might happen.

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posting of results in May and July, and a Democratic primary race for the Harris County Department of Education run on outdated boundaries.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.

“We all want a fair election, so why not have an independent auditor come in and be able to identify, ‘This is what’s going right, this is what’s going wrong’?” Lewis suggested. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

County Judge Ed Emmett – like Stanart, a Republican – 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.”

I’m glad to see the elections administrator idea has been brought up again, because it really does need to be fully debated. It’s hard to say from the story if it will go anywhere – Judge Emmett and Commissioner Lee were the only ones quoted. Stanart unsurprisingly hates the idea, and if he has cover from the other members of the Court then that’s pretty much that. As for Chairman Lewis’ request for an audit, all we know at this point is that the Secretary of State reported not having received such a request as of press time. I would hope that County Clerk Stanart follows up on that. If Stanart is correct in his assertion that the runoff screwup was just one of those things that could happen to anybody, then the audit ought to help restore a little confidence in him. If not – if there were systemic problems that can and likely will happen again – we need to know that now.

One more thing. Campos, who is on the elections admin bandwagon, asks a question:

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

Former HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg gives a reason for that in an email sent to Carl Whitmarsh’s list, which I’ve edited a bit:

Under Texas law, the Elections Administrator is appointed by a five person committee consisting of (1) the County Clerk, (2) the County Tax Assessor-Collector/Voter Registrar, (3) the County Judge, (4) the Chair of the Harris County Republican Party, and (5) the Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. […]

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).

The supermajority requirement to remove an elections administrator is one of the concerns I raised when the issue was first brought up. I understand the reason why it’s done this way – allowing for a simple majority to recommend the removal of an elections admin would make it too easy to play political games with the position – but doing it this way may make it too hard. I’d like to hear more about the experience other counties have had before I’m willing to sign off on the idea. Birnberg also notes that if an elections admin position were to be created and filled today, two of the people that are the root cause of why we need an elections admin – Stan Stanart and Don Sumners – would be on the board that selects and oversees said admin. That doesn’t sound like a brilliant idea to me, either. I suspect nothing will happen till after the election anyway, but then something was supposed to happen after the last election, and here we are now. So who knows? PDiddie has more.

A matter of priorities

Compare and contrast.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the outspoken voice of the far right in the Senate, said he will be pushing vouchers that parents of school-age children could use for charter schools, online offerings or additional alternatives to the public schools.

“To me, school choice is the photo ID bill of this session,” he said. “Our base has wanted us to pass photo voter ID for years, and we did it. They’ve been wanting us to pass school choice for years. This is the year to do it, in my view. That issue will do more to impact the future of Texas and the quality of education than anything else we could do.”

Patrick envisions a cornucopia of conservative legislation he’s sure will pass, including sanctuary cities restrictions and bills to allow guns on school campuses and outlaw “groping” by Transportation Security Administration personnel.

Conservatives also will push for a law that only allows spending increases if they are based on population and inflation, and Patrick will continue his crusade to change the Senate rule requiring a two-thirds vote to bring up legislation.

Everything they want to do if they have the numbers to do so is an ideological checklist item, which is a continuation of what they did in 2011. Compare that to what the One Texas PAC is talking about – water, electricity, transportation. You know, the things Texas needs to ensure its future. Which issues would you rather see get addressed?

By the way, if Sen. Patrick et al are going to be pushing vouchers – which, let’s be clear, means public money for private (read: “religious”) schools – I wonder if they’ve had a chat with their friends from Louisiana about unintended consequences. I also wonder if, like Louisiana, these private schools will be held to lower accountability standards than the public schools are, if they are held to any standards at all. Perhaps someone should ask Bill Hammond what he thinks about this little scheme. EoW and the Texas AFT Blog have more.

Let’s be clear about something: I disagree with Dan Patrick as much and as often as anyone can, but I truly lament the fact that he has nothing to offer on the real issues that Texas faces. I don’t pretend that my side has all the answers, but right now my side is the only one seeking them. Dan Patrick is a smart guy, and he could be very productive if he cared about something other than perpetuating his own power. I’m sure I wouldn’t like most of whatever solutions he’d have to offer, but I’m also sure there would be something there that could be a starting point for constructive debate. Instead, all we get is time-wasters, distractions, and assaults on those he disdains. I firmly believe it’s behavior like this that will hasten the downfall of his party, but in the meantime Texas’ problems get deeper and more intractable, and that does no one any good.

Oh, God, make it stop

Hell, no.

More music, less politics

[Kinky] Friedman, the singer-satirist and unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2006, says Perry is vulnerable to a challenge if he runs for re-election in two years.

And Kinky knows just the challenger to beat him — Kinky Friedman.

“I don’t think Perry is going to win, and if he thinks he is, he’s very mistaken,” declared Friedman, who says he’s seriously considering another run.

Friedman knows he has detractors. He knows that when some people hear he might run for governor again, they envision a rerun of a glitzy but ill-fated bid loaded with one-liners and light on position papers. But he also senses a gathering sentiment that people believe Perry has embarrassed the state and has rewarded wealthy interests at the expense of cash-strapped Texans worried about their health care and their children’s schools.

“Perry has created a state that’s first in business climate and 49th in education. What’s wrong with that picture?” Friedman said.

This time, Friedman said he would run as a Democrat, not an independent, and as a more serious and substantive candidate. These days, the cosmic cowboy is reading Churchill.

“The main thing is to defuse the idea of being a comedian or even being an independent. I’m an independent-thinking Democrat and I’ve been a Democrat way further than most of my detractors,” he said. “It would have to be what you show the Democrats during that primary, and if you can show them a different side of Kinky Friedman, and it’s definitely there. Most of us realize the real comedian is already in the Governor’s Mansion.”

Friedman has a habit of popping up between elections to torment us with the idea of running for office again. It’s like a case of the clap that keeps flaring up no matter how many penicillin shots you get. He swears he’s a real true Democrat in the tradition of JFK and Ann Richards, except of course when he’s not.

Yet, simply put, Rick Perry and I are incapable of resisting each other’s charm. He is not only a good sport, he is a good, kindhearted man, and he once sat in on drums with ZZ Top. A guy like that can’t be all bad. When I ran for governor of Texas as an independent in 2006, the Crips and the Bloods ganged up on me. When I lost, I drove off in a 1937 Snit, refusing to concede to Perry. Three days later Rick called to give me a gracious little pep talk, effectively talking me down from jumping off the bridge of my nose. Very few others were calling at that time, by the way. Such is the nature of winning and losing and politicians and life. You might call what Rick did an act of random kindness. Yet in my mind it made him more than a politician, more than a musician; it made him a mensch.

These days, of course, I would support Charlie Sheen over Obama. Obama has done for the economy what pantyhose did for foreplay. Obama has been perpetually behind the curve. If the issue of the day is jobs and the economy, Rick Perry is certainly the nuts-and-bolts kind of guy you want in there. Even though my pal and fellow Texan Paul Begala has pointed out that no self-respecting Mexican would sneak across the border for one of Rick Perry’s low-level jobs, the stats don’t entirely lie. Compared with the rest of the country, Texas is kicking major ass in terms of jobs and the economy, and Rick should get credit for that, just as Obama should get credit for saying “No comment” to the young people of the Iranian revolution.


So would I support Rick Perry for president? Hell, yes! As the last nail that hasn’t been hammered down in this country, I agree with Rick that there are already too damn many laws, taxes, regulations, panels, committees, and bureaucrats. While Obama is busy putting the hyphen between “anal” and “retentive” Rick will be rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.

Link via TM Daily Post. ‘Nuff said, and shame on you, Wayne Slater, for falling for it. For the love of God, Kinky, please stick with your cigars and Willie Nelson collaborations and whatnot and leave the politics to anyone else. Harold Cook and BOR have more.

Texas blog roundup for the week of August 6

The Texas Progressive Alliance salutes NASA for its awesome job with the “Curiosity” landing as it brings you this week’s roundup.