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July 25th, 2014:

Friday randon ten: I of the tiger

The letter I was the first one in this series that I was worried about. Turned out to be no big thing.

1. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – Iam Dury & The Blockheads
2. Vehicle – Ides of March
3. Honky Tonk Woman – Ike & Tina Turner
4. Sweet Georgia Brown – Illinois Jacquet
5. Closer to Fine – Indigo Girls
6. The Way I Am – Ingrid Michaelson
7. Devil Inside – INXS
8. Time Is On My Side – Irma Thomas
9. Buns O’Plenty – Isaac Hayes
10. Work To Do – Isley Brothers

I think we have a new record for most ampersands in a song title/artist name combination. Also, am I the only person that spent a non-trivial amount of time convinced that it was Blood, Sweat & Tears that did “Vehicle”? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

We will have exit polls this year

Good.

Two years ago, a consortium of news outlets that conducts nationwide exit polls during every November election announced it was scaling back efforts in Texas and 18 other states. The move left political researchers with little data to study shifts in the Texas electorate.

This year, with a high-profile gubernatorial race on the November ballot, the National Election Pool confirmed on Tuesday that it plans to conduct more robust exit polling in Texas this year, giving researchers and political analysts the means to better examine the outcome.

“The current plan is to do a full-state exit poll in Texas,” said Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Research, the New Jersey firm that conducts polling for the National Election Pool, a consortium that includes The Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News.

Every two years, Edison hires nearly 3,000 people to interview more than 15,000 voters around the country after they cast their ballots. The surveys ask not only about how participants voted but also about their opinions on major issues and about their backgrounds, including age, education, income, religion and ethnicity. In Texas, the NEP has traditionally conducted a mix of in-person exit polling and telephone interviews to account for early voters, who can cast more than half of the ballots in some races.

Lenski said that the decision to return resources to Texas this year could change until plans are finalized in September. The sponsoring media organizations decide how to divide polling resources among the 50 states. And over the last year, the gubernatorial race between Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis has drawn national interest.

“The states get more resources the more competitive and newsworthy the races are,” Lenski said. “That’s an editorial decision that the news organizations make.”

That National Election Pool link in the story is broken, so try this instead. You’ve seen my increasingly exasperated posts since Election Day 2012 about Latino voting for Republicans in Texas. That exasperation is based in part on the fact that the support level in question for Mitt Romney or Ted Cruz or Rick Perry or whoever is inevitably unsourced, and the fact that even a cursory check of the actual available evidence would put those numbers into question. With actual exit polling in place, at least we won’t be guessing about the numbers this year. As someone who could use a little less exasperation in his life, I appreciate it.

Dems prep for voter ID

It’s good to have a plan.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Texas Democrats are renewing their opposition to the state’s voter-identification law, rolling out a program to educate voters ahead of a decisive few months that could see the controversial statute become a top issue in the governor’s race.

The law is considered one of the toughest of its kind in the country, requiring voters to show one of a few types of identification cards at the polls. Those whose actual names do not match the names on their IDs must sign an affidavit attesting to their identities.

The gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. Wendy Davis, Battleground Texas and the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday announced a “voter protection” program to tackle the issue by dispatching more than 8,000 volunteers to help with voter registration and making sure voters know what the law requires. The project will also raise awareness for the early voting period, during which an “election protection” hotline will go live. On Election Day, the program will send thousands of volunteers to monitor polling locations across Texas, confirm the sites are overseen by both Democratic and Republican election judges, and open “command centers” in eight cities staffed with election law experts and lawyers “ready to go to court if necessary,” according to Democratic officials.

“We have certainly never accomplished anything in America with less democracy, and we aren’t going to start now,” Davis told volunteers on a conference call. “We want more Texans to participate in this election, not less.”

Mark P. Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, said the project is probably more aimed at highlighting Republican support for voter ID than “actually combatting it in the trenches.”

See here for the plan outline. I don’t know how much that fits into Mark Jones’ narrative, but it does fit in with the overall plan to increase base turnout. Remember, most voters statewide have had no experience with voter ID. The first step is making sure people understand what they will need, and what they do and don’t have to worry about. It would be best if this were to go away, but we can’t count on that and even if we could it likely wouldn’t happen before November. Hope for the best, plan for all the other contingencies. The Observer and Texas Public Media have more.

Three Uber stories

Uber

We’re still waiting for Council to take action on vehicles for hire, so here’s some more reading on the subject to keep you up to date on what’s happening elsewhere.

Wonkblog: Are Uber and Lyft responsible for reducing DUIs?

Wonkblog: Uber is tapping into the too-drunk-to-drive market, user data suggest

A question asked and then tentatively answered about a possibly beneficial side effect of having companies like Uber and Lyft and the added transportation options they would bring to one’s city. It’s hardly a ridiculous question to ponder – Grits was pondering the same thing over two months ago, after some high-profile DUI fatalities in Austin, including one particularly tragic on at South by Southwest. More transportation options was the subject of a Statesman story at the time, and Uber and Lyft were suggested as possible remedies. The data so far is extremely preliminary and comes from Uber itself, but again, the premise is sound. It’s worth considering and keeping an eye on.

Techblog: How Uber is disrupting the taxi business: It’s simply great.

Chron tech writer Dwight Silverman and his wife visited Atlanta, used Uber exclusively to get around, and generally had a great experience with it. Note that in Atlanta, as in Houston, Uber is currently operating without the authorization of city officials, and they are as fast and loose with the rules there (picking up people at the airport even though their not supposed to) as they are here. Make of that what you will.

WSJ: Seoul Moves to Ban Uber, Plans Own App

For those of you that think cab companies should just adapt to changing technology or suffer the market consequences, I give you this:

Uber Monday evening called Seoul city government’s earlier statement a sign that it lags behind in adopting what it called an innovation in transportation. “Comments like these show Seoul is in danger of remaining trapped in the past and getting left behind by the global ‘sharing economy’ movement,” the statement said. An Uber spokesman in Seoul denied that the service was illegal as Uber is “a technology company that connects drivers with passengers” and doesn’t directly run a taxi service with rented cars.

The Seoul city government said Monday it would seek a ban on a car-hailing smartphone app from Uber Technologies Inc., joining a global battle by municipalities and traditional taxi services against the service.

The local authority said in a statement that Uber is illegal under South Korean law, which forbids fee-paying transport services using private or rented motor vehicles unregistered with the authorities.

The city added that it will launch in December an app that will provide similar features to Uber for official taxis, such as geo-location data on cabs nearby, information about them and their drivers, as well as ratings.

A Seoul-based Uber spokesman said the company was preparing a response to Seoul’s move, which follows a string of other actions taken by the city against the service in recent months.

Be careful what you wish for, I suppose. Definitely worth keeping an eye on this as well.

HERO repeal petitions announcement today

Today’s the day we find out what happens.

The city’s controversial HERO ordinance prohibits discrimination based on federally recognized groups such as race and age, but also extends those rights to sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents of the ordinance led a petition drive to bring the issue to a public vote. It now appears the city attorney will announce whether that petition drive is valid this Friday.

Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein is a longtime city hall observer. He says there are a few possibilities at Friday’s announcement.

“One, of course, is they have enough signatures that have been validated, I think about 17,000. Second option is they don’t have enough and if that’s in contention you might see those who petitioned the city go to court and have them checked,” Stein said.

A third option, Stein says, is that the city attorney could rule the petition inappropriate or ill-timed under ballot initiative law. The city previously used that rationale on the petition to overturn red light cameras but lost that battle in court. Stein says the most likely outcome is that the opponents do have enough signatures to put the ordinance on the November ballot.

Actually, that was the opposite of what happened in the red light camera lawsuit. That referendum was presented as a charter amendment, with the petitions presented well after the 30 day window for repeal. Council voted to put it on the ballot at the urging of Mayor Parker and over the objections of CM Anne Clutterbuck, who argued that it really was a repeal effort and thus invalid. That’s exactly what Judge Lynn Hughes ruled. Here there’s no question this is a repeal effort, and the petitions were submitted within the required time frame. This is not to say that there couldn’t be an issue with timing, or other issues we don’t yet know about. I have no idea what Feldman might pull out of his hat. But we’ll find out soon enough.

Having said that, I do agree that the single most likely outcome is that the number of valid signatures is found to be sufficient, at which point it goes to the ballot. (I’m assuming there’s no Council vote for that.) From there it’s a matter of campaigning and turning out voters. You can see the petitions and their signatures for yourself here, by the way. Note that there are claims about how the signatures were collected that may lead to legal action of some kind, so whatever Feldman has to say, it likely won’t be the final word.