From the inbox:
Houston Leaders Call on Channel 11 To Retract Discredited Report On 2022 Election Paper Shortages
Two New Investigations Debunk Central Claims Presented to the Public by KHOU; Deeply Flawed and Misleading Report Used As Basis by Gov. Abbott and Election Deniers to Call for New Harris County Election, Continues to be Used as Justification for Anti-Democratic State Bills Targeting Harris County
Today, New Economy for Working Houston and Greater Houston LULAC Council called for Houston CBS affiliate KHOU to immediately retract an analysis it aired on Jan.30 implying that 121 voting locations in Harris County ran out of paper on election day last year. The request comes as two separate and independent investigations by the Houston Chronicle and Houston Public Media found that while there were technical glitches on election day, there is no evidence voters were systematically disenfranchised nor that any issues were significant enough to change the outcome of any contested race.
A day after KHOU’s report aired, Governor Abbott used the KHOU report to raise the possibility of calling a new election. Local State Sen. Paul Bettencourt has exploited the story to imply malfeasance. Making matters worse, the analysis has been exploited by partisan elected officials to justify dangerous bills, including SB 823, SB 1750, SB 1039, and SB 1993, which are now poised to pass the state legislature. These bills create a way for partisan state officials to strip Harris County residents of its authority to have local officials conduct elections and will criminalize the routine work of public servants in Houston, creating a culture of fear and making the process of running elections – already a complicated process in the state’s largest county – even harder.
The request for KHOU to retract its now discredited analysis is being made in a letter addressed to News Director Liz Roldan.
Key facts driving the request include the following:
It is not true that 121 locations ran out of paper in Harris County, as KHOU’s story implies. The Chronicle and Houston Public Media investigations both independently found only 20 polling places ran out of paper “some for only 15 minutes and others for up to three hours.”
KHOU’s report left out vital context about the differences between the 2018 and 2022 elections in its comparison of turnout at voting locations. Between those years, the County moved to countywide voting (a large percentage of voters do not vote at their home precinct), a key fact omitted in its analysis.
KHOU failed to prove in its reporting that election day glitches systematically hindered voting and affected the outcome of the elections. Despite a major marketing campaign to find disenfranchised voters by political operatives, to this day, there have not been any voters able to testify under oath that they could not cast their vote.
KHOU’s own political experts have distanced themselves from the analysis. According to KHOU analyst and Rice University political science professor Bob Stein, “I know I work for Channel 11, so it’s going to be a hard thing to say…but they didn’t ask the obvious question: did it impede voting?”
About New Economy for Working Houston
New Economy for Working Houston (NEW Houston) is a non-profit organization that brings together the power of grassroots organizing and public policy innovation to win a just economy for Gulf Coast working families. We seek to build an inclusive regional economy where workers and neighborhoods thrive, and where people of color, immigrants, women, and low-income residents have an equal voice and share equally in regional prosperity.
See here for some background, and here for a copy of the letter, signed by Hany Khalil, Executive Director of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, and Chair of New Economy for Working Houston (NEW Houston), and by Dr. Sergio Lira, President, Greater Houston LULAC Council 4967. You can learn more about NEW Houston here; I’ve gotten a few emails from them, mostly about the bad election bills that have been moving through the Lege. There’s not much besides mission statements on the website now, but we’ll see where they go from here. I don’t expect much from this effort – news organizations usually need a pretty big shove to retract a story – but it’s worth the effort to try.