Stepping away for a moment from the more significant drama of the State’s recalcitrant commitment to widespread, damaging racial discrimination, I’ve been momentarily distracted by some election gossip.
1. The Failed Attempt By A Notorious Houston-Area Street Gang to End What Few Statutory Restrictions on Political Contributions Still Remain
(I wasn’t able to find a contemporary photo of the King Street Patriots, but this picture of a turn-of-the century street gang is a more-than-adequate substitute and visual representation of the actual organization. Hine, Lewis Wickes, “Street gang, corner Margaret and Water streets, Springfield Massachusetts — June 27, 1916, 4:30 p.m.” From the collection of photos included in the National Child Labor Commission’s records at the Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/nclc/, reposted at http://www.shorpy.com/node/9105).
The thuggish street gang formerly known as the King Street Patriots has recently suffered a setback in the Austin Court of Appeals – the group had been sued by the Texas Democratic Party for having illegally funneled money to specific right-wing candidates in violation of the Texas Election Code. The King Street Patriots counter-sued, and argued that all regulations of campaign fundraising are unconstitutional prior restraints on free speech.
That argument went nowhere, in part because the state appellate court found that even in this debased era, there can be some regulation of the flow of money in politics.
Sadly, I won’t have the King Street Patriots to kick around anymore. The gang, beset on all sides by increasingly negative publicity, will continue as True the Vote, but is rumored to have abandoned its reliance on distinctive gang colors and hand signs to identify its members and territory.
2. The Other Voter I.D. Lawsuit
Judge Larry Myers of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has filed a civil lawsuit against the State because he is of the opinion that the Texas picture I.D. requirements for voters violates the state constitution, for a very odd, sophistic reason – because the state constitution lacks a specific authorization for “preventing” voting fraud, any such attempt on the part of the Legislature is (in the judge’s eyes), ultra vires (in non-legalese, “outside legally delegated authority or power”). This is the kind of lawsuit that qualifies as quixotic, although the more the merrier, I say. Especially given that a Federal judge has already found that the voter I.D. law violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
3. Effect of Minority Turnout On Elections
I got an email from an organization called “Live Free Fair,” which appears to be a branded public-interest website run by an Oregon internet marketer named Gary Mitchell Gingrich (who is, as far as I know, not related to Newt Gingrich, and who certainly appears not to share Newt’s political views).
Anyway, with all due disclaimers about not knowing who these people are, the organization asked me to promote a link to a graphic indicating the increasing strength of minority voting, and how that increasing strength has prompted Republican efforts to discriminate against minority voters.
As interesting as the graphic is, I would caution reading too much into its statistical assertions. Because the presidential election isn’t a direct election, and because the organization of the electoral college overweighs the relative strength of votes cast in smaller states, one should be careful about using national demographics to predict regional election outcomes.
4. Galveston County Misprints Its Ballots
When Galveston County was printing its ballots, Bill Sargent (the county elections supervisor) called the Secretary of State’s office to ask if he was supposed to put any designation next to the name of the independent candidate for county judge. Whichever Elections Division staff attorney he talked to made a mistake and said that independent candidates didn’t have to be designated as such.
This turned out to be an expensive mistake – prompting a reprogramming of all the election equipment, and the reprinting of 5,000 ballots. As any elections official who programmed the 2006 gubernatorial ballot knows, independent candidates on a county election ballot are listed separately from the party candidates, and are designated as explicitly independent.
Mistakes happen. And this mistake got fixed promptly – and the 600 or so mail ballots that went out can be corrected and re-sent. Nobody likes having to reprint ballots – the formal destruction and reprogramming are a hassle, but the alternative (conducting an election with wrongly-printed ballots) would have been so much worse. Kudos to whoever caught the error and promptly fixed it.
5. Steve Munisteri Blows His Top
I heard a rumor that the current chair of the Texas GOP had a theatrical meltdown on October 6th, and burst into a Travis County voter registration site raving that the county was illegally registering voters after 5:00 p.m on the last day to register for the November election. I wasn’t there, and I’m getting this third-hand, so take all this for what it’s worth, but the story was too embarrassingly revealing not to repeat.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a 5:00 p.m. deadline for voter registration – as long as the application is postmarked or received before midnight on the first business day 30 days or less before the Election Day, the application is good for that election.
Mr. Munisteri knows that, of course. But (if he did actually have a public fit, as he is rumored to have done), bursting into a public place and yelling about illegality would at least demonstrate the Texas GOP’s commitment to the cause of scaring voters and disrupting voter registration activities generally.