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November 1st, 2015:

Weekend link dump for November 1

Laverne Cox is your new Dr. Frank N. Furter.

Minor league baseball players suing MLB over allegations that they were paid less than minimum wage have won their request to include a much larger class of players in the lawsuit.

Still in mourning for the end of Mythbusters.

“Other than blowing up an entire planet to torture a prisoner/deter other planets, the Empire was pretty moderate.”

“All of which calls the question: Why on earth have right-wingers always been so unhinged in their hatred for the Clintons?”

Christina Kahrl > Daniel Murphy >> Lance Berkman.

RIP, Flip Saunders, coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.


Meet Roberta Kaplan, the attorney who took down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

“Why do we lock up so many people—disrupting so many families and so many communities—to achieve the same crime results we did nearly a half century ago?”

“Justice Ginsburg has been depicted as an avenging angel smiting her enemies, with two middle fingers up in the air, and as a warrior Athena inked on the arm of more than one feminist. (The justice, generally amused by all this, has told me that she thinks the tattoos go too far.) Spend enough time looking at this fan art and you can get the impression that she is a sort of judicial Carrie Nation, hacking at injustice with a hatchet.”

RIP, Andrew Longman, brother of Martin Longman.

Congrats to Judy MacLeod, first female Commissioner of an FBS conference.

“The only actual interesting thing about Carson is that he raises a question we rarely get the chance to contemplate: how can a man who is so obviously distinguished and brilliant in one field be such an across-the-board nincompoop in another?”

“Because Lincoln and King achieved what we now see as their critical achievements prior to their deaths, the passage of time has allowed us to weave their tragic murders into a complete and comprehensible story. This is what humans do. We take things as brutally simple as two gunshot murders and wrap them into something more profound, even satisfying and complete. But what Rabin was meant to do, could have done, maybe simply had the chance to do just never happened. It never gets better.”

Have you ever really read the Prodigal Son parable?

Only a good dog with a gun can stop a bad dog with a gun. Or something like that.

Now that is how capitalism is supposed to work.

“I do believe that, even in its editorial pages, that the New York Times, like all publications, has a duty to the represent the truth to the best of its ability. More than many other figures who misrepresent or oversimplify Catholic theology in the mainstream media, Mr. Douthat has tended to portray himself as one who recites Catholic teaching rather than one who interprets it, especially over the course of the past few weeks. This alone I take issue with.”

“Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert admits for this first time in his plea deal that he agreed to pay $3.5 million to an unnamed person to conceal his past misconduct against that person.”

The case for year-round Daylight Savings Time.

What makes some of us binge-watch frightening TV shows like Penny Dreadful and mainline Stephen King while others of us can’t walk the Halloween aisle at Target?”

Boy, SxSW really screwed the pooch on this.

RIP, Grantland. And just as basketball season was starting, too.

RIP, Al Molinaro, actor best known for roles on The Odd Couple and Happy Days.

Day 12 EV 2015 totals: Final turnout projections

The last day was another big one:

Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
2015  164,104  29,859  193,963   43,280
2013   87,944  21,426  109,370   30,572

The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. Before I go on, let me note that the numbers noted in the Chron story I blogged about on Friday were completely bogus. I have no idea where Mike Morris came up with them. Here’s a more accurate rendition, which please note reflects Harris County only:

Year     Early    E-Day    Total   Early%
2003    83,225  214,885  298,110    27.9%
2005    49,889  139,157  189,046    26.4%
2007    36,707   86,703  123,410    29.7%
2009    62,428  116,349  178,777    34.9%
2011    46,446   75,022  121,468    38.2%
2013    80,437   94,183  174,620    46.1%

2010   215,884  173,194  329,428    55.4%
2012   364,272  212,277  576,549    63.2%

I threw in 2005 and 2007 so we could see the trend. Morris’ overall totals were correct, but the way he apportioned mail, early in person, and Election Day subtotals was off the rails for some reason. I also included the two even years, both of which featured city of Houston ballot propositions, as a further point of comparison and to emphasize that there really is a lot of room for behavior shifting. My guess is that about 60% of all ballots have been cast as of now. Assuming about 140,000 of the early votes from Harris and elsewhere are Houston voters, that suggests a final city turnout of about 233,000. That’s in line with what the paid professionals are saying.


Political scientists projected between 220,000 and 250,000 city voters will head to the polls by election night’s close, up from more than 178,000 in 2009, the last time there was an open-seat mayor’s race.

Friday marked the close of two weeks of early voting in Harris County.

Early turnout was particularly strong in African American and conservative areas, political scientists said, a boon to Houston mayoral candidates Sylvester Turner and Bill King.

“I think Sylvester could get close to 30 percent of the vote,” Rice University political scientist Bob Stein said, noting that turnout by district so far “clearly advantages somebody like Bill King” for the second spot in a likely December runoff.

If those voting patterns continue through Election Day, the city’s equal rights ordinance, dubbed HERO, also is expected to face a tough road to passage.

“This may spell doom or defeat for the HERO ordinance,” TSU political scientist Michael Adams said, noting that turnout has been comparatively low among traditionally progressive inner-loop Anglo voters.

Citing a TSU analysis, Adams said about 53 percent of early city voters through Thursday were white, 28.5 percent were African American, 11.5 percent were Hispanic and 4 percent were Asian.

He also estimated that approximately 56 percent were Democrats, while 44 percent were Republicans.

As of September, more than two million Harris County residents were eligible to vote on Nov. 3, with more than 978,000 of them residing in Houston, according to the Harris County Clerk’s office.

The share of votes cast early or by mail in recent mayoral races has increased steadily, from 28 percent in 2003, to 46 percent in 2013.

These figures do not include the handful of city precincts outside of Harris County.

Though some have speculated that this year’s spike in early voting could portend low turnout on Election Day, Stein said he expects about half of those who cast a ballot will head to the polls on Tuesday.

I think it’s going to be a bit less than half, but we’ll see. I’ll spare you another discussion of the prospects for HERO, I’ll just note that the world is watching, so it would be nice for us to not look bad. I’ll also note again the overwhelming support for HERO from the business community, which 1) suggests that perhaps Republican voter support for HERO is being underestimated, and 2) suggests again that business leaders who have been supporting politicians like Dan Patrick and others who oppose so many of their interests really ought to rethink that. As for the effect on the Mayor’s race, put me donw for being slightly skeptical that robust Republican turnout necessarily benefits Bill King. Republicans are far from unanimous in their preference, and I’m not convinced that King has that much name recognition, especially with the less-frequent city voters. I’m not saying he won’t do well, just that it’s hardly a guarantee. Along these same lines, the effect of higher than usual turnout on the other citywide races, for Controller and At Large Council seats, is very much an open question. What do voters do when they don’t know the candidates, as will often be the case in these races, since it costs a lot of money to really get your name out there? I suspect that more than the usual number will skip these races – undervotes in the 30% range or higher, perhaps – and some will pick a name that sounds familiar to them. What effect that will have is anyone’s guess, but if there’s a goofy result or two, don’t be shocked.

Hall sues his former consultant

It’s not really an election season if there isn’t at least one WTF story to make us all shake our heads.

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

Houston mayoral candidate Ben Hall sued his former consultant for defamation Tuesday in connection to a radio advertisement that accuses Hall of lying to Houston voters.

The lawsuit links political strategist Justin Jordan and his company, Patriot Group Strategies, Inc., to an ad Hall’s campaign said aired on a local Radio One station, Magic 102.1.

The one-minute segment begins, “Ben Hall, this message is for you. You can no longer lie to the voters of Houston. You can no longer make up stories about owning a radio station that just aren’t true.”

According to Hall’s petition, the ad was purchased under the name Anthony Starks and a group called Historians for Truth, though the listed address and phone number were fake.

“Jordan caused a false FCC-required form to be fraudulently filled out on behalf of a non-entity called Historians for Truth,” the lawsuit says. “In addition to trying to fraudulently hide his identity, Jordan submitted for publication a radio broadcast that was intended to damage the reputation of plaintiff.”

There’s a longer version of this story in the print edition, which for some reason does not appear to be available online. Jordan, through his attorney, of course denied the allegations. I don’t have anything useful to say about this. I’m just amused. The Press, which adds a few details and is as amused by this as I am, has more.

When low turnout is the goal

You really have to admire the sheer brazenness of this.

Montgomery County Municipal Utility District No. 142 is yet another special-purpose district this election cycle using what appears to be a service that hires voters to pass MUD elections in areas without existing voters.

MUD No. 142 will be the site of The Woods of Conroe, a 92-acre subdivision west of Conroe that will include about 400 residential lots, according to previous Courier articles.

According to voter registration records, two voters list their residence at 5283 Old Highway 105 W. in Conroe, which happens to also be the site of early voting for MUD 142. The MUD 142 election is being held separate from the Montgomery County joint elections and therefore is not on the sample ballot provided by Montgomery County Elections Central.

The two voters in MUD 142 also happen to list their mailing addresses at 20615 Marilyn Lane in Spring, which is the home site of Stingray Services. According to the Stingray Services website, the company specializes in providing turn-key voter trailer installation services, and election services,” their website “About Us” says. “We have completed over 70 trailer installations in Texas over the last 10 years, and have supported nearly 100 elections. We locate residents, perform landlord services, support residents in changing their license and voter registration, and assist with the district election. We have worked with a host of major developers and engineers including Lennar, Toll Brothers, Friendswood, Land Tejas, Taylor Morrison, Pate Engineers, Brown & Gay … to name just a few.”

Emphasis mine. Read the whole thing, and see here for more on one of the other MUDs mentioned in the story. I know that all the “concern” about “voter fraud” and “election integrity” in the Legislature is so much partisan grandstanding and security theater, but you’d still think that something as egregious as this might attract a little bit of attention. Instead, the only people to get in trouble are the ones who tried to expose the sham. But hey, at least these MUD voters have to show photo ID when they vote, right? KTRK has more.