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November 25th, 2015:

Precinct analysis: Age ranges

Let us one more time ask the question: Just how old were the voters in our 2015 election?


Range       All    Pct
======================
18-30    21,998   8.2%
31-40    32,359  12.1%
41-50    39,074  14.6%
51-60    58,610  21.9%
61+     115,755  43.2%

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The short answer is “not as old as we’ve seen in previous elections“. That’s a high-water mark for the 30-and-under crowd, by a considerable amount, as well as a high score for the 31-to-40 consort. The 61+ group is smaller than it was in the last few elections, though of course that is relative. It’s smaller as a proportion to this electorate, but this electorate was quite large, so the over-60 share is much bigger in absolute terms than before – there were nearly as many over-60s this year as there were total voters in 2011 – even if it’s a smaller piece of the pie.

I can’t easily tell you what the average age of a Houston voter in 2015 was. I’ve heard several people cite a figure of 69 years old, which I believe comes from the KUHF/KHOU poll in October. Based on the ranges I’ve shown above, I’d guess that 69 is a little high to be the average age, but it’s probably not too far off from that. The point I’m trying to make here is that this election wasn’t driven by a frenzied turnout of senior citizens. Turnout was up across the board, and while this electorate was hardly young – less than 35% were under 50 – there was more age diversity than we have seen in the past.

Where you will legitimately find a younger electorate is in the new voters than showed up this year. Here’s that table, with the accompanying one for the set of folks who voted in all elections since 2009 following it:


Range       New    Pct
======================
18-30    17,106  16.8%
31-40    19,522  19.2%
41-50    17,889  17.6%
51-60    20,528  20.2%
61+      26,557  26.1%


Range       Old    Pct
======================
18-30       351   0.6%
31-40     2,009   3.4%
41-50     5,279   8.9%
51-60    12,233  20.5%
61+      39,766  66.7%

A majority of the new voters this year were 50 and under, with 36% being 40 and under. That’s not too shabby. As for the old reliables, here “old” is an appropriate word. If you told me the average age of this group was 69, I’d believe it. I will say, if the revised term limits ordinance stands, it’s going to be more challenging to talk about new and experienced voters in our every-four-years elections, simply because there will be so much turnover in the voting population. Under the new system – again, if it stands – the last three elections would be 2011, 2007, and 2003. Three elections from now would be 2027. Of course, with incumbents limited to two terms, maybe there will be that much more emphasis on the last election, and less on others except for open seats. Who knows? One way or another, we are headed into uncharted waters.

I hope you enjoyed this trip through the data. I may take a look at recent runoff rosters to see if there’s anything there worth writing about. Happy Thanksgiving!

Reynolds receives jail sentence in barratry case

He got the max for the misdemeanor charge on which he was convicted.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds could spend up to a year in jail after he was sentenced Monday to the maximum penalty following his conviction on charges arising from what prosecutors called an “ambulance chasing for profit” scheme.

A Montgomery County jury sentenced Reynolds to up to 12 months in jail and a $20,000 fine following the attorney’s conviction last week on five counts of misdemeanor barratry, or illegally soliciting clients.

The Missouri City Democrat showed no emotion as County Court-at-Law Judge Mary Ann Turner read the sentence late Monday. He took off his suit jacket and tie and handed it to a friend, and gave his cellphone and watch to his wife. Then he was escorted from the courtroom by deputies and taken to county jail.

The sentence comes as Reynolds, the first African-American since Reconstruction elected to the Texas House from Fort Bend County, was starting to campaign for a fourth term. The misdemeanor convictions don’t require him to give up his seat, but deal a blow to his political and legal careers.

Reynolds’ attorney said he intends to appeal, and the court scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on his request to remain free pending that appeal.

See here for the background. You know how I feel about this, so let me just note that a lot of people have called for our indicted Attorney General to step down from his office. To be sure, the charges hanging over Ken Paxton have had an effect on his ability to do his job, but he’s a long way from seeing a courthouse, much less being convicted of something. If one believes Paxton is unfit to serve, it’s hard to see how one argues in favor of Rep. Reynolds staying in office, and that’s before taking into account the possibility that his jail sentence (if it stands) might overlap with a legislative session. Rep. Reynolds has been barred from practicing law while his appeal is ongoing, which I suspect will put a lot of pressure on him and his family. Again, it brings me no joy to say any of this, but the facts are the facts. The Press has more.

HCC versus Dave Wilson, the continuing story

It’s a fight over legal fees.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson has long been a thorn in the side of Houston Community College trustees. That hasn’t changed now that he’s one of them.

Wilson, a controversial figure long before he was elected to the HCC board in 2013, has done nothing to diminish his gadfly reputation in his first two years as a trustee. From a campaign criticized as deceptive and a dispute over whether he lives in the district he represents, to a complaint filed against the college and a legal tussle over his exclusion from an executive session, Wilson’s actions have rankled his fellow trustees since he took office in January 2014.

Now Wilson is preparing to sue HCC over roughly $50,000 in legal fees stemming from a lengthy and ongoing dispute over the election that put him on the board.

[…]

Wilson has won several rounds in the court dispute over his residency, which the county is continuing to appeal, saying that the case raises important issues of law.

“We believe that a person should not be able to claim the benefit of a residential homestead at one location while registering to vote at a different location,” Robert Soard, first assistant county attorney, said in an email. “More fundamentally, an elected representative should not be allowed to serve and set the tax rate for a district in which he does not personally reside.”

Wilson says HCC should cover his legal fees, but his fellow trustees disagreed. Wilson wasn’t able to garner the votes needed to put the item on an agenda after the state attorney general ruled last month that the college would have to prove paying the fees was for a public good.

“Based on the attorney general opinion we’ve received regarding this request, I don’t feel we have the authority to reimburse trustee Wilson from tax dollars,” board chairman Zeph Capo said in a text message. “Wilson’s legal dispute with the county began prior to beginning his term as a trustee. Given the AG ruling, I’m taking the advice he often gives us in similar circumstances … Let ’em sue.”

And that’s what Wilson plans to do.

“It’s going to be soon, it’s going to be real soon,” Wilson said Monday, after failing to get support from the trustees at last Thursday’s meeting.

Here’s the AG opinion in question. I Am Not A Lawyer, but my layman’s reading suggests the board is on reasonably firm ground here in exercising its discretion about whether or not to pony up. The concluding paragraph:

In sum, the College has discretion to reimburse a trustee for the expense of defending a quo warranto action only if it determines that the expenditure concerns a legitimate public interest of the College and not merely the trustee’s personal interest and that the quo warranto action involves acts that were undertaken by the trustee in good faith within the scope of an official duty. Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. GA-0104 (2003) at 4. Any determination by the College to reimburse a trustee’s expenses in the circumstances you describe would likely be subject to an abuse of discretion standard by a reviewing court. See Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. DM-450 (1997) at 9 (stating that a “decision by an institution of higher education will be set aside if it is arbitrary or umeasonable, or if it violates the law”). Thus, while it is for the College to make the initial determination, given the precedent involving election contests, a court is unlikely to conclude that the College has a public interest in paying the legal expenses associated with a challenge to a trustee’s qualifications for office.

There’s a footnote at the end that says they “cannot conclude that there could never be circumstances under which it is appropriate for a governmental entity to reimburse an official for costs he or she incurred in the defense of a quo warranto proceeding”, so Wilson could prevail in court. AG opinions are not legally binding, and clearly nothing is going to stop Wilson from having his day in court. We’ll see how it goes.

Texas blog roundup for the week of November 23

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving as it brings you this week’s roundup.

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