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August 20th, 2020:

What is the level of Latino support for Trump in Texas?

We have some contradictory evidence this week. First, from Texas Elects:

President Trump leads presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, 48%-41%, among “all voters” and by a slightly smaller 49.5%-44% margin among voters who indicated they were “extremely likely to vote,” according to a new YouGov poll (PDF) conducted for the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and Rice Univ.’s Baker Institute. Nearly 80% of each candidate’s voters said their choice was “very strong,” and less than 3% of either candidate’s voters said they might change their mind.

It is Trump’s largest lead in a reputable Texas poll since May.

Trump leads among Anglos (62%-27%) and men (56%-38%). Biden leads among Hispanics/Latinos (47%-38%), Black voters (82%-6%) and women (43%-41%). About one out of every seven women voters are unsure compared to about one out of every 20 men.

Trump’s favorability rating is 48/49 (35/42 “very” favorable/unfavorable), and Biden’s is 39/52 (22/43 “very”). Trump’s “handling of the coronavirus outbreak” led 22% of respondents to say they are more likely and 30% to say they are less likely to vote for him.

Interestingly, the poll asked respondents about their views of the state Republican Party. Since Trump’s election in 2016, “almost one in five Texans (19.2%) now has a more negative opinion of the Texas GOP than they had before his election, while only a mere 3.5% now have a more favorable opinion of the party.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R) leads Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar, 44%-37%, among “all voters” and 47%-41% among the likeliest voters. Cornyn’s favorability rating is 37/36, and Hegar’s is 34/21. About three out of every 10 voters “don’t know enough” about Hegar to have an opinion.

The survey of 892 respondents was conducted online. It was in the field August 3-14. A margin of error was not indicated.

You can see the poll report here. That’s actually the first statewide poll of Texas we’ve seen since August 3, and indeed it is easily the best result for Trump in months. For whatever the reason, there’s not been that much news about it – I saw a DMN story, but not much else. The Latino numbers are the headline here, and if your eyebrows went up at seeing 39% for Trump, I’m sure you have company. For what it’s worth, I went back through the earlier poll results we have, and pulled out the Biden-versus-Trump numbers for their Latino subsamples. Not all polls include this data, but for those that do, here’s what we have for the months of June through August:

Quinnipiac, July 22: Biden 53, Trump 29
CBS/YouGov, July 12: Biden 60, Trump 30
UT/Trib, July 3: Biden 46, Trump 39
Fox News, June 25: Biden 62, Trump 25
PPP/Progress Texas, June 23: Biden 64, Trump 27
PPP/TDP, June 5: Biden 66, Trump 23
Quinnipiac, June 2: Biden 53, Trump 32

The UT/Trib poll is done via online panel as well, and you can see it basically agrees with this result, though the CBS poll that was also a YouGov panel does not. None of these other polls show anything like this result, with the June Quinnipiac poll giving Biden a 21-point lead the closest to it. There are lots of possible reasons why this particular Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation is so different – it could be an outlier, it could be an effect of this type of poll versus a live-caller or robo-caller poll, it could be that weighting (this poll was weighted to the 2016 result) causes a weird distortion especially in the polls with smaller Latino subsamples, and it could be that this poll is picking up something that others have not. You know what I say, one poll can only tell us so much.

And indeed, on Wednesday we got this Somos/UnidosUS poll, done by Latino Decisions, which covered multiple states including Texas. They got a very different result:

Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic is hurting his standing with Latino voters ahead of the general election; they do not trust his advice and he has lost significant ground with this electorate since May.

• 70% of Latinos disapprove of Trump’s handling of coronavirus, up from 56% disapproval in May.
• Trump earns an average trust rating of 3.1 on a scale of 0-10, down from 3.3 in May.
• 73% of Latinos think Trump delayed early warning signs and because of his incomplete response thousands of Americans are dead – up from 67% in May.
• 77% of Latinos support a national mask mandate and continued quarantine to keep covid in check.
• Today, 69% of Latinos say they are certain to vote, up from 62% in May; a good indication that Latino enthusiasm is starting to increase.
• Today the national Latino vote is 66% Biden, 24% Trump, a 42-point margin. In May Biden had 61% support.
• Biden leads in double-digits with Latinos in key battleground states including Arizona: 63% Biden, 29% Trump; Florida: 55% Biden, 41% Trump; North Carolina 61% Biden, 24% Trump, and Pennsylvania 59% Biden, 28% Trump.

Candidates and campaigns are at a critical point to increase outreach to Latino voters, which is
something that is important to mobilizing the electorate in this challenging time.

• Asked if either party, or non-partisan civic groups had contacted them in 2020, fully 64% of Latino registered voters said no, they had not received any contact.
• Only 24% reported Democratic contact and just 14% had received Republican contact; less than 10% had been contacted by non-partisan group.

They did in fact poll Texas Latinos as well – I have no idea why they didn’t include that in their bullet point summary – but if you scroll down to Slide 23, you will see that the Texas numbers are 66 for Biden and 21 for Trump, with 13% undecided. That would be the best result for Biden, though it’s not far out of line with several earlier polls.

That last bullet point suggests another possible reason for the big variations we’ve seen across these polls, which is the level of engagement for Latino voters. One thing both of these polls makes clear is that Latino voters want to hear from candidates and campaigns, and their enthusiasm, which among other things could manifest in a willingness to take part in a poll, can also vary greatly. Past polling by Latino Decisions has shown that lower-propensity Latino voters are more strongly Democratic than higher-propensity Latino voters, which is to say that lower turnout among Latinos also tends to mean better Republican performance among Latino voters. There’s a way in which both of these results are true to some extent, and the variable is the way in which Democrats engage with these voters. Just something to keep in mind.

More challenges to Green Party candidates

From Patrick Svitek:

As we know, the Green Party candidate for Supreme Court Chief Justice withdrew following a challenge that alleged he had violated election law by voting in this year’s Democratic primary. The writ makes the following allegations:

1) The passage of HB2504, the same bill that lowered the statewide vote threshold from five percent to two percent for third parties to automatically qualify for the ballot also mandates a filing fee (or collection of petition signatures), with the same fees or petition requirements for third parties as for Dems and Republicans.

2) Candidates Wakely and Gruene did not pay the filing fees or collect the petition signatures, and the Green Party was aware of this. Indeed, the Green Party specifically stated in their April newsletter that some of their candidates did pay the filing fee while others (including Gruene, Wakely, the already-withdrawn Waterbury, and Senate candidate David Collins, who for whatever the reason was not named in this mandamus) did not.

3) Both the Greens and the Libertarians filed lawsuits alleging that the filing fee was illegal for them, since the idea of the fee was to help pay for the primary elections, which they don’t have. The Libertarians won a temporary injunction against the fee in December, but that was put on hold by the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, and as of today the filing fee is still in effect. (This had caused some confusion for the Ls and Gs, and I have no idea how many other candidates there may be in this particular boat.)

4) Because of all this, the Green Party was required to disqualify these candidates, and since they did not, the Dems are asking the Supreme Court to do so. They are asking via mandamus because Friday the 21st is the statutory deadline for candidates to be included or excluded from the November ballot.

So we’ll see what happens. In theory, I’ll have an update to this by the weekend. The Libertarians’ lawsuit over the legality of the filing fees is still ongoing, it just won’t be resolved in time for this election. Two side notes of interest that I discovered while writing this: One, Katija Gruene also tried to file for HD51, but was not allowed to file for two different offices by the SOS. Pretty sure it’s clear in state law that’s a no-no. Also, a candidate who had applied to run for HD45 was disqualified by the Greens at their convention because he had voted in the Dem primary. Just like Charles Waterbury, except I guess he was up front about it. So there you have it.

UPDATE: Apparently, there was more than one effort going on.

A Travis County judge issued an order Wednesday that temporarily blocked two Texas Green Party candidates for Congress from appearing on the November ballot.

The 14-day temporary restraining order was granted after Democratic Senate candidate MJ Hegar, joined by two national Democratic organizations, argued that her Green Party opponent, as well as a Green candidate opposing Democrat Wendy Davis, should not be placed on the ballot because they failed to pay a candidate filing fee as required by a new state law.

District Judge Jan Soifer’s order blocked the Texas secretary of state’s office from certifying David Collins, the Green candidate for U.S. Senate, and Tom Wakely, running for U.S. House District 21, to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot. Both candidates were “indisputably ineligible” to appear on the ballot, Soifer said.

Soifer, who was head of the Travis County Democratic Party before becoming a judge, also set an Aug. 26 hearing to determine if the Democrats’ request for an injunction should be granted.

[…]

Hegar’s challenge was one of two that Democrats had recently filed in state courts seeking to keep Green Party challengers off the ballot over failure to pay the fees.

Davis, running for the House seat held by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Hays County, and Chrysta Castañeda, running for the Railroad Commission, filed an emergency petition Monday asking the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals to issue an order blocking their Green Party opponents from the ballot.

Hegar, seeking to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also joined that effort Wednesday. The appeals court has not yet ruled on the request.

Green Party candidates are generally believed to take votes that would otherwise go to Democrats.

The Green Party acknowledges that its candidates – Collins, Wakely and Katija Gruene for railroad commissioner – did not pay the filing fee or collect the needed number of petition signatures to avoid the fee.

But the party believes the fee, as it applies to third parties, is unconstitutional and improper, said Laura Palmer, Green Party co-chair.

Wow. I had wondered about Collins, given that he wasn’t mentioned in the mandamus request. If all of these motions succeed, the Greens will end up with no statewide candidates, one Congressional candidate (in CD36), one State Senate candidate (SD26), and two State House candidates (HDs 92 and 119). That’s not a lot, but even if the Greens prevail they’d still only have seven total candidates on the ballot. Seems like maybe there’s a bigger issue than the filing fee here, but maybe that’s just me.

UPDATE: And here’s a Trib story by Patrick Svitek with further information.

On Wednesday, both a Travis County district judge and a state appeals court blocked the Green Party nominees for U.S. Senate and the 21st Congressional District from appearing on the ballot. The Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals additionally forced the Green Party nominee for railroad commissioner off the ballot.

Earlier this week, it surfaced that a Green Party contender for chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court had withdrawn after the Democratic nominee questioned his eligibility.

The Democrats are largely targeting Green Party candidates because they have not paid filing fees — a new requirement for third parties under a law passed by the Legislature last year. The filing fees were already required of Democratic and Republican candidates. The new law is being challenged by multiple lawsuits that remain pending, and the Green Party of Texas has been upfront that most of its candidates are not paying the fees while they await a resolution to the litigation.

[…]

The rulings Wednesday came in response to lawsuits in two different courts that involved some of the same candidates. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, MJ Hegar, had sued in Travis County district court to disqualify the Green Party nominees for U.S. Senate, David Collins, and for the 21st District, Tom Wakely. Meanwhile, Hegar had joined the Democratic nominees for the 21st District, Wendy Davis, and for railroad commissioner, Chrysta Castañeda, to seek an ineligibly ruling for their three respective Green Party candidates before the 3rd Court of Appeals.

In the appeals court’s opinion, Justice Thomas Baker ordered the Green Party of Texas to declare their three candidates ineligible and do all they can to make sure they do not appear on the ballot. Baker said the court would not accept motions for rehearing, citing the “time-sensitive nature of this matter.”

In the Travis County district court decision, Judge Jan Soifer said her order is in effect for the next two weeks. However, she scheduled a hearing for Aug. 26 — two days before the state’s ballot certification deadline — where she could reevaluate the decision.

Four things: One, as of these rulings we are now at the point I mentioned earlier, where there are no statewide Green candidates. Two, this may moot the mandamus request to the SCOTX. Three, apparently I was wrong earlier, because August 28 is the deadline for party nominees to be certified for the ballot. August 21 is the deadline to withdraw. And finally, that strategy of not paying the filing fees while the lawsuit over filing fees carries on, even though there is no injunction stopping the filing fees, sure does not appear to have worked out well for the Greens.

Lawsuit filed to restore original Census deadline

Good.

Citing the high stakes of a botched census, Harris County and two of its Democratic county commissioners have signed on to a federal lawsuit trying to block the Trump administration’s efforts to end counting for the 2020 census a month earlier than planned.

The constitutionally required count of everyone living in the country had been extended due to the coronavirus pandemic and was to run through Oct. 31. But the Census Bureau announced earlier this month it will end the count sooner, moving up the deadline for responding to Sept. 30.

A federal lawsuit filed Monday in California alleges that the shortened schedule is unconstitutional because it will not produce a fair and accurate count and that the Census Bureau’s move violates federal administrative law because the decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The lawsuit is led by the National Urban League and the League of Women Voters. Harris County, which is the state’s largest, joined in along with other local entities including the city of Los Angeles and King County in Washington. Harris County Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia are signed on as individual plaintiffs.

“Undercounted cities, counties, and municipalities will lose representation in Congress and tens of millions of dollars in funding,” the lawsuit reads. “And communities of color will lose core political power and vital services. In contrast to these dire stakes, the immediate solution to this problem is simple: set aside and enjoin implementation of the impossibly-shortened Rush Plan, which is based on an unexplained change of position, and allow the Census Bureau to implement the plan that it had designed to fulfill its constitutional duties during the pandemic.”

[…]

The October cutoff had offered organizers crucial overtime for the count after the coronavirus pandemic derailed canvassing and outreach efforts that in some regions of the state, like in Harris County, had been in the works for years.

But those efforts have been further disrupted by what Harris County and other plaintiffs in the lawsuit dubbed as the “rush plan.” Mailers ordered before the change had to be redone, with county workers forced to purchase stickers to cover the old deadline on those materials.

In announcing the new deadline, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said the bureau planned to hire more employees “to accelerate the completion of data collection” and avoid a delay in reporting counts for seats in Congress and the distribution of redistricting data.

“The Census Bureau’s new plan reflects our continued commitment to conduct a complete count, provide accurate apportionment data, and protect the health and safety of the public and our workforce,” Dillingham said in a statement.

But the earlier deadline has heightened the possibility that Texas will be undercounted and that low-income and Hispanic Texans in particular — who were already at the highest risk of being missed — will go uncounted at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is ravaging their communities.

here for some background, and here for a peek at the lawsuit. Combined with Donald Trump’s surely illegal order to keep undocumented immigrants from being counted for the purposes of apportionment, it’s like Trump and his enablers really don’t want Texas to get any additional Congressional districts next decade. I continue to marvel at Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton’s ability to shrug that kind of insult off. By the way, that “arbitrary and capricious” language is a sign that the plaintiffs are aiming for a ruling that Trump has once again violated the Administrative Procedures Act, the federal law that has killed multiple similar efforts by Trump in the past. Let’s hope we can add this one to that trash heap.

Texas blog roundup for the week of August 17

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with the postal workers of America as it brings you this week’s roundup.

(more…)

Some superintendents disagree about school opening delays

It takes all kinds.

Judge Lina Hidalgo

Superintendents leading 10 Houston-area school districts penned a letter this week opposing Harris County’s recommendations for reopening campuses, arguing that face-to-face instruction should resume earlier than health officials suggest.

In their two-page letter, the superintendents say guidance released last week by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Public Health Executive Director Umair Shah will keep campuses closed too long, denying valuable in-person class time to students. Superintendents are not required to follow the county recommendations, though the guidance serves as a key document in the debate over when to restart in-person classes.

“It is clear that we all have the same goal, which is to return students to in-person instruction as safely as possible, the superintendents wrote to Shah on Monday. “We thank you for the continued efforts of your departments on behalf of Harris County. With that said, we believe that the metrics outlined in the plan you have provided are not attainable to resume in-person instruction in the foreseeable future.”

The superintendents represent Clear Creek, Cy-Fair, Deer Park, Huffman, Humble, Katy, Klein, Pasadena, Spring Branch and Tomball ISDs. Combined, the districts serve about 457,000 students.

In response to the letter, Harris County Public Health officials said in a statement that the organization “has made it abundantly clear that current indicators are not safe to resume in-person activities in Harris County due to COVID-19.”

As the new school year approached and superintendents debated when to resume in-person classes, some education leaders called on county health officials to offer guidance on reopening campuses.

Hidalgo and Shah followed through by producing several public health benchmarks that should be met before in-person classes resume at the lesser of 25 percent capacity or 500 people in a campus. The metrics included cutting the 14-day rolling average of new daily cases to under 400, bringing the test positivity rate under 5 percent and ensuring less than 15 percent of patients in ICU and general hospital beds are positive for COVID-19.

Harris County likely remains at least several weeks away from meeting those metrics. For example, the county recently reported a rolling daily average of about 1,250 new cases and a test positivity rate of 16 percent.

In their letter, the superintendents only mentioned two specific health benchmarks with which they disagreed. The school leaders wrote that the recommendations would “essentially require indefinite closure of schools to in-person instruction while awaiting a widely available COVID-19 medical countermeasure or greater staffing capacity at Harris County Public Health for contact tracing.”

However, the guidance specifies that districts could start to reopen and ramp up to the lesser of 50 percent building capacity of 1,000 people on campus even without a “widely available COVID-19 medical countermeasure.” County officials did not detail what qualifies as a medical countermeasure in their written guidance, and they did not respond to written questions Tuesday.

See here for the background. As a reminder, Judge Hidalgo and Harris County have limited authority here – ultimately, if these districts decide to open, they can. It’s only when outbreaks occur that the county will have more power to step in. Humble ISD has already opened, the others have plans to have at least some students back by September 16. As the story notes, other districts including HISD, Aldine, Alief, and Spring did not sign this letter, but it was not clear if they had been invited to sign it or not.

I get the concern from these districts, and there’s room for honest disagreement. I don’t have any particular quarrel with their approach, though I personally prefer the more cautious path. As Chron reporter Jacob Carpenter notes in these two Twitter threads, the county now meets three out of seven criteria for reopening, and is trending in the right direction for the others. There’s no accepted national standard for what is “safe” to reopen – that’s a whole ‘nother conversation, of course – so one could argue that Harris County is being overly restrictive. Of course, we’ve also seen plenty of schools and universities that brought in students and then immediately suffered outbreaks that forced closures. Bad things are going to happen until this thing is truly under control, and it is not going to be under control any time soon while Donald Trump is President. That’s the reality, and all the choices we have are bad. Which ones are the least bad is still an open question.