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December 9th, 2022:

And now we have a judicial loser contesting the election

The Republicans did warn us they’d be sore losers.

Republican judicial candidate Erin Lunceford filed a petition Wednesday seeking a new election in Harris County’s 189th judicial district court race after losing by 2,743 votes out of more than 1 million ballots cast.

Lunceford’s opponent, Democrat Tamika Craft, won the election by 0.26 percent of the vote.

The petition, which names Lunceford as the contestant and Craft as contestee, claims numerous violations of the Texas Election Code, including a failure to provide a sufficient amount of ballot paper to 25 polling locations.

Harris County Republican Party Chair Cindy Siegel indicated there could be more election contests to come.

“During the last month, we’ve had a lot of our candidates that were in very close races that have been talking to us wanting to know the information that we’ve accumulated and have reported,” Siegel said. “Several of them are considering election contests.”

Andy Taylor, general counsel for the Harris County GOP, is representing Lunceford.

Taylor accused Harris County Elections Administrator Cliff Tatum, who took over the office starting in August, of intentionally causing ballot paper shortages in Republican-leaning neighborhoods.

“If it was just mismanagement, it was just gross incompetence, wouldn’t one think that the lack of paper would apply equally and uniformly across the map, so that there would be roughly an equivalent number of Democratic stronghold precinct neighborhoods as well as Republican precinct stronghold neighborhoods?” Taylor said. “And, yet, that’s not the way it’s breaking.”

Taylor alleged 80 percent of polling places with paper shortages on Nov. 8 were in areas considered Republican strongholds.

“I want to send a message to the Harris County elections administrator,” Taylor said. “Mr. Tatum, your day of reckoning has just started.”

In a statement, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said his office will keep a close eye on Lunceford’s election contest.

“I’m disappointed to see another losing candidate challenging the results of their election. Judge Lunceford previously served on the bench, so I trust she understands the seriousness of asking a court to disregard the votes of over a million residents across Harris County,” Menefee said. “This case will focus on the details of every aspect of the November 8 election in Harris County. My office will be involved in the case every step of the way to ensure people’s votes are protected.”

The petition is filed in Harris County, but the case will be heard by a judge from outside the county, according to Menefee’s office.

So many things to say, so I’ll bullet-point it:

– This is different from the ridiculous election contest filed in HD135 by a candidate that lost by 15 points and over 6,000 votes. That one would be heard in the House by a House committee, if Speaker Phelan for some reason doesn’t toss it as a frivolous waste of time. This one will be heard in a courtroom.

– As a reminder and a general principle, never believe a word Andy Taylor says.

– To put it another way, good luck proving intent. Also, reports from the field on Election Day about paper issues were very much coming from Democratic sites. The Texas Organizing Project didn’t file its lawsuit to extend voting hours because of problems in The Villages and Cy-Fair.

– Random fact: In 2020, Democrat Jane Robinson lost her race for Chief Justice of the 14th Court of Appeals by 1,191 votes out over over 2.3 million cast, a margin of 0.06 percent of the vote. You know what she did? She conceded gracefully and went on with her life.

– Another reminder: There were 782 voting locations on Election Day, and you could vote at any of them. There were a half-dozen voting locations within walking distance of my house on Election Day. Anyone who ran into a problem at one location could have gone to another. By all accounts, there were maybe 20-25 sites that have paper issues. That left a mere 750 or so alternatives, including ones that would have been very close by.

– In other words, please find me the people who showed up to vote at a location that was having paper problems, and did not wait for them to be fixed, did not go to another location, did not come back later, and as a result did not vote. You really gonna claim that there were over two thousand of them, and all of them were going to vote for Erin Lunceford?

– Did I mention that the Republicans opposed the extension of voting hours in Harris County (and not in red-voting Bell County, which also had voting location issues), and also opposed the counting of provisional ballots cast by people who voted after 7 PM? As I said before, the obvious way to deal with delays in opening a given voting location is to push back the closing time for it. But the Republicans opposed that at every turn.

– Can you imagine what the Republican response to this would be if it were a Democrat complaining about voting location problems? You could have voted elsewhere! You could have voted early! It’s your own damn fault you didn’t vote! Look at how zealously they opposed all of the efforts to expand voting access in the pandemic, including the third week of early voting that Greg Abbott ordered. You’re immunocompromised and you want to vote by mail or from your car because you’re afraid of a deadly disease? Too bad!

– The remedy, if they somehow win on these laughable claims, would be to redo the entire damn election. To say the least, that is a massive, massive upending of the regular democratic order. The amount of evidence they’d need to provide to come close to justifying such an ask, I can’t even begin to comprehend.

– But really, this is all about making noise and trying to cast doubt on the election administrator’s office and government in general in Harris County. It’s just the Big Lie in a slightly sanitized package.

League City to mess with its libraries

This is watered down from the original proposal, which was a true book ban situation, but it’s still bad and dumb and ominous.

At a packed League City council chambers Tuesday night, residents made their voices heard about a proposed resolution that would rewrite the criteria on which materials are allowed in the city library for children’s books.

Out of 63 speakers, only 10 supported the resolution during the citizens speaking portion of the meeting that lasted nearly two hours. The crowd overflowed into a separate city hall room watching on a monitor.

However, the council late Tuesday voted 4-3 to support the resolution.

Councilman Tommy Cones who backed the resolution, said: “We’re not trying to ban books by any means. I don’t want to take out books about the gay community, but I certainly don’t want minors to pick up a book and sit at a table and start looking at some of these pictures we were handed out tonight.”

John Bowen, another councilman, pointed out the lopsided nature of the speakers, adding: “I’m not saying that those who are for this are not here but they are not making their voice heard. To me if something is that important those people would come forward.”

One after the other, residents of various backgrounds and ages spoke against the proposal, which would prohibit the city from spending tax dollars to materials targeted to children under 18 that “contain obscenity”.

Former educators, school psychologists, current and former members of the library’s board of trustees told personal stories of how books enriched their lives, and in some cases, personal struggles, and spoke on the broader issues of censorship.

“I thought the days of book burning were over,” said one former teacher.

[…]

Many chided the resolution’s language which seemed to equate pedophilia with homosexuality, and others mocked the authors for its use of terms like “ideologue sexuality”.

“I looked it up and I got two hits,” said one, “and both were from the League City agenda”.

“No one has been able to tell me what ‘Ideologue sexuality” is,” said Saultczy Khobahlt Bleu before the meeting. Bleu, a League City resident, encouraged residents to attend Tuesday night’s meeting as a statement.

“I don’t think they knew what they were getting into and didn’t expect this kind of response (against the proposal).”

Kirsten Garcia, a former educator, spoke about how, as a young survivor of sexual assault, books helped her journey toward healing when she couldn’t tell her story to anyone.

“When you tell groups of people – whether they are survivors of rape, or pedophilia or whatever category they fall into – that literary (books) about them is not welcome we’re essentially telling them they are not welcome in the library,” Garcia said before the meeting. “When we start to exclude literature about certain groups of people, we are telling those people that their voices and experiences don’t matter.”

Councilmember Justin Hicks said the resolution is not a book ban.

The proposal, a third revision, is a watered down version of the original that would have prohibited the city from spending tax dollars on materials targeted to children under 18 that “contain obscenity.”

Authored by councilmembers Hicks and Andy Mann, the resolution would limit the use of tax dollars to purchase materials for the city library, specifically books aimed at children under age 18. Topics singled out for scrutiny in the resolution include gender ideology, pedophilia, rape and bondage, and “ideologue human sexuality.”

Opponents say the resolution, which has been revised three times since it was first made public, is an attempt to censor and leans heavily on materials that “contain obscenity,” a vague description some say is used to target LGBTQ-related and other perspectives.

From the earlier story, here’s what had been originally proposed:

Councilmembers Justin Hicks and Andy Mann added a proposed resolution to the agenda late last week that would prohibit the city from spending tax dollars on materials targeted to children younger than 18 that “contain obscenity,” specifically related to a list of five topics that include gender ideology, “idealogue human sexuality,” pedophilia, rape and bondage. It quickly made rounds on Facebook ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting.

[…]

After the initial agenda went out and before Tuesday’s meeting, Hicks and Mayor Nick Long told the Chronicle they planned to introduce a revised resolution that would only create a system for challenging books’ presence in the children’s section, Long said.

The original version of the resolution on the official council agenda as of midday Monday was not the final version, Hicks said. That version, which circulated on Facebook, proposed an auditor to review the books and send the report of “noncompliant materials” to city council, which could then vote for the city manager to restrict minors’ access to the books or “to remove the materials from circulation altogether.”

Hicks provided what he called an updated version of the resolution to the Chronicle that laid out a different process. People could bring challenges over books to a community standards review committee that would be created by the city council. The committee could then decide whether to restrict minors from accessing the book or remove it all together. A challenger would have the option to appeal the board’s decision.

Long said he will propose creating a 15-person committee, including seven members of the existing library board and eight members representing different sections of the community, including parents and educators, to review complaints. The council would then hear appeals of that committee’s decisions.

I too have no idea what “idealogue sexuality” is, but I do know that’s not how you spell “ideologue”. Maybe that’s why no one could find this alleged term on the internet. The people who showed up to this Council meeting to voice their opposition to this still-very-bad ordinance did a good job of saying what was bad about it, so I will just note that of the three Council members quoted in the story in support of it, two of them were just re-elected to League City city council, which has four-year terms. (Andy Mann was unopposed so he’s not listed there but you can find him in the Election Day report at harrisvotes.com. League City is in both Harris and Galveston counties, which is why the Harris vote totals are different than what you see in that tweet.) My advice is to make note of who supported this and who didn’t, and show up in equal force at their next election. Because (say it with me now) nothing changes until people like CMs Hicks, Mann, and Cones lose elections over the bad things they do.

Abbott bans TikTok on state-issued devices

Honestly, I’m fine with this.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday a ban of the popular app TikTok from all government-issued devices.

In a news release, the Republican said the Chinese government could use the app to access critical U.S. infrastructure and information.

“TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices — including when, where, and how they conduct internet activity — and offers this trove of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government,” Abbott told state agency heads in a letter Wednesday.

TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

On Wednesday, Abbott also sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan telling them “the Executive Branch will stand ready to assist in the codification and implementation of any cybersecurity reforms that may be deemed necessary.”

Abbott’s directive comes the same day as the state of Indiana filed a lawsuit against TikTok.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, also a Republican, claimed the app exposes minors to mature content and that it has deceived its “users about China’s access to their data,” The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Indiana’s lawsuit is the first against the app filed by a U.S. state. But a growing list of Republican governors have banned the app from government-issued devices. This week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued his directive and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster blocked the app from government electronics. Late last month, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem did the same.

From a cybersecurity perspective, there are valid reasons to assess TikTok as a higher-risk application. Indeed, as the story notes, the FBI raised national security concerns about it. It is also not unreasonable to declare that TikTok has limited value in the workplace and thus does not belong on workplace phones and computers. I’d make an exception for people whose jobs make use of social media – if the state of Texas doesn’t have any employees with that kind of job description, they really should – but banning it for others makes sense. One could also reasonably assess it differently – there’s always judgment in these matters. Speaking as someone whose workplace also blocks TikTok, I don’t see this as outside the mainstream.

Of greater interest to me is the note about implementing cybersecurity reforms. Given the recent ransomware attacks on state networks, as well as on various municipal governments, I’d say it’s long overdue. As with anything Greg Abbott says, the devil is in the details and I’ll believe it when I see it, but if this is a serious effort and it comes with the proper allocation of resources, it’s all to the good. The Trib and the Chron have more.