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January 19, 2015 feature, Politics-2015 No Comments

Belatedly, it’s worth noting that I’m back in Austin for the legislative session. Theoretically, that would mean a slowdown in blogging. But given the pace over the past several months, who knows.

For the sake of making myself feel better, the work product over this span of time seems to be about 568 pages of notes from legislative and budget board hearings between the end of the last legislature and the beginning of this one. I’m sure it’ll eventually be some fascinating reading for an archaeologist many years from now.

To make matters even more fascinating, the reading list has turned to matters more along the lines of a thrilling class on Public Administration. I’ve caved into the textbook pricing scheme and picked up some long-lost reading that includes some updates since my time in college. The Washington Monthly obliges with more recent spins on the subject. As fascinating as I find the subject matter, it’s not exactly the most “blog-friendly” material.

With that, I expect a bit of a slowdown, but also some time to refocus on what it is that I’d like to spend more time blogging about (or updating the Almanac with). Until then, I’ll be sure to update sparingly between now and the end of the legislative session.

2009-13 ACS Update

December 11, 2014 Census Stuff, feature No Comments

The end of the year means new Census data being released. I’m saving most of my work until the Citizen Voting Age data is out, but here are the top lines for total population in Harris County, with previous ACS updates included to show the gradual change over time:

          Tot. Pop. '10 (%) | Tot. Pop. '11 (%) | Tot. Pop. '12 (%) | Tot. Pop. '13 (%) 
TOTAL     4,092,459         | 4,025,409         | 4,101,752         | 4,182,285
Anglo     1,349,646 (33.0%) | 1,353,868 (33.6%) | 1,354,869 (33.0%) | 1,361,568 (32.6%)
Hispanic  1,671,540 (40.8%) | 1,621,065 (40.3%) | 1,671,262 (40.7%) | 1,717,940 (41.1%)
Afr.-Am.    754,258 (18.4%) |   747,398 (18.6%) |   775,085 (18.9%) |   774,120 (18.5%)
Asian       249,853  (6.1%) |   246,924  (6.1%) |   257,467  (6.3%) |   262,251  (6.3%)
Other        67,162  (1.6%) |    56,154  (1.4%) |    43,069  (1.1%) |    66,406  (1.6%)

On a technical note, this is all based on the 5-yr dataset, which is the only dataset that provides CVAP details at the block group level. The one-year data at the county level, however, shows a more current snapshot of the county:

         5-yr ACS             1-yr ACS
        4,182,285            4,336,853   
Anglo   1,361,568 (32.6%)    1,376,670 (31.7%)
Hisp    1,717,940 (41.1%)    1,803,547 (41.6%)
AfrAm     774,120 (18.5%)      798,658 (18.4%)
Asian     262,251 ( 6.3%)      276,803 ( 6.4%)
Other      66,406 ( 1.6%)      81,175  ( 1.9%)

I asked some people smarter than me about how the five year set was calculated. I figured they may weight more recent years or do something fancy. Turns out, there’s no magic to it at all. Everything is weighted the same. What this means is that the “Pulaski Effect” leads to the 2012 and 2013 5-yr data sets closely tracking with the full 2010 Census data. That’s due to the aggregate of yearly data in, say, the 2008-2012 data set averaging somewhere toward the middle of that range – which is precisely 2010. I trust that everyone in the world was as curious as I was about that.

Again, CVAP data and mapping to happen as soon as the Census puts numbers online.

Harris County Election Results, by House District

November 11, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

Mapping and other analysis is slowly underway during my free time. But here are the results for statewide offices broken out by House District in Harris County.

As Kuff notes, about the only real standout is that Leticia Van de Putte carried HD134. Dan Patrick lagged behind lower-ballot GOP candidates in most districts. But in most cases, it was a minor amount. In HD134, it was just more substantial. Previous research has shown that the inner-loop “Anglo Dem” corridor has been home to the lowest amount of straight ticket voting, so it makes sense that the district would have the biggest variation in performance.

Canvass Results Are In!

November 6, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

I’m still recuperating from a final week of more manual labor than I should be doing at my age. But I’ve also got the unofficial canvass of Harris County returns on my hand. Of immediate interest, I’m proud to see the efforts of Team Wu pay off to the tune of 57.9%. That’s on par with the results Scott Hochberg got in the old HD137 (and the current one is drawn to perform very similarly to that one). Even better, we outperformed all other Dems on the ballot in our district – in terms of total votes and percentage. Last time around, I believe Garcia and Ryan did better in each of those columns than we did.

District 137       D     D%        R     R%       TV
Gov              6,899 (55.3%)   5,306 (42.5%)  12,472 
Lt. Gov          6,815 (54.9%)   5,161 (41.6%)  12,410 
Comptroller      6,626 (53.8%)   5,203 (42.3%)  12,311 
Attorney General 6,683 (54.0%)   5,251 (42.4%)  12,386
Land Commish     6,243 (50.6%)   5,565 (45.1%)  12,342 
Ag Commish       6,300 (51.4%)   5,362 (43.8%)  12,250 
RR Commish       6,340 (51.6%)   5,343 (43.5%)  12,278 
SCOTX-CJ         6,451 (52.5%)   5,466 (44.5%)  12,278 
14th COA - CJ    6,593 (54.5%)   5,505 (45.5%)  12,098 
1st COA - CJ     6,622 (54.7%)   5,480 (45.3%)  12,102 
State Rep        7,147 (57.9%)   5,203 (42.1%)  12,350 
Dist. Attorney   6,779 (55.6%)   5,420 (44.4%)  12,199 
Dist. Clerk      6,449 (53.5%)   5,597 (46.5%)  12,046 
County Clerk     6,576 (54.4%)   5,503 (45.6%)  12,079 
County Treasurer 6,502 (53.6%)   5,628 (46.4%)  12,130 
BOE - Kerner     6,707 (55.7%)   5,325 (44.3%)  12,032 
BOE - Noriega    6,721 (55.7%)   5,343 (44.3%)  12,064 

Eventually, I’ll check a few other curiosities in other districts. And the neighborhood analysis and maps will follow at some point.

4-wk sprint: DPI Comparison

November 2, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

Upon running a quick comparison using another method for seeing how the county is doing, I’m getting 46.98% for the county. This method assumes that Obama’s 2012 percentage holds the same per precinct and plugs in the new precinct turnout for EV and VBM. Another way to think about it is that the county running, basically, at “Obama, minus one.” This, of course, starts from the notion that Obama clocked in at 48% when the EV and VBM totals showed up back in November 2012. Compared to the Clarity method, that presents a fairly tight range of performance. We’ll see what we see when the real numbers start rolling in. But I don’t see much reason to expect anything wildly off from a 46-47% opening score for Dems.

4-wk sprint: The Closing Bell for Early Voting

November 2, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

The scoring for Early Voting, based on Clarity scores, is as follows:

Mail ballots – 49.1% Dem
In-Person Early Voting – 46.2% Dem
Combined 46.7% Dem

And the combined scores by House district …

 HD      Votes   DEM Support
County  373,940     46.7%
 126     18,563     31.2% 
 127     24,942     28.3% 
 128     16,926     28.9% 
 129     20,478     32.9% 
 130     24,070     22.6% 
 131     13,812     82.1% 
 132     18,310     35.2% 
 133     25,706     26.4% 
 134     25,963     40.6% 
 135     16,013     36.5% 
 137      6,886     55.2% 
 138     15,358     34.9% 
 139     15,688     75.5% 
 140      5,584     74.8% 
 141     11,342     83.6% 
 142     12,754     76.4% 
 143      8,247     71.5% 
 144      6,286     53.6% 
 145      7,960     61.0% 
 146     16,183     76.2% 
 147     16,608     78.2% 
 148     11,586     58.9% 
 149     13,695     51.5% 
 150     20,980     28.7% 

Comparing this to 2012 for the county, here are a variety of metrics I had back then:

v2 ……… 45.45% Dem
Clarity …. 54.16% Dem
DPI-Obama .. 49.98% Dem
DPI-Avg …. 50.34% Dem

As I recall, I think I was placing most of my faith in adjusting the Clarity v2 score up by about 2.5 points. Obama ended up opening with a combined EV and VBM deficit of 48.0%-51.1%. So the baseline Dem estimate ended up fairly close to the money. I still need to crunch data on a DPI estimate for the county. But I don’t expect it to be wildly off from Clarity scoring. This time around, I’ve only had time to do a very simple comparison of the current score to previous elections and I didn’t see much reason to add or subtract anything. We’ll see from the first numbers on Tuesday night how they stack up, though.

Kuff breaks out the napkin to do some math and suggests that a 54.2% showing on E-Day would be what it would take to win. No quarrels with the math. But I’m not overly optimistic about the probability. In part, that’s because I think there’s too much behavior shifting to get more Dems into the Mail Ballot column.

The fact that more of our base voters are available for E-day than there are for Republicans is a key counterpoint to that skepticism and that’s why I take a pass on making any grand prediction on whether we win on E-Day or outperform the opening numbers. Obviously, I’d love to see us beating the opening spread by 7 points, as was the case in 2010. But I’m not overnighting a check to Vegas on that one. Short of an across-the-board win, a few key wins by some folks with a D next to their name would be a significant positive. And if the end result is nothing more than a better showing than 2006 or 2010, we’ll be spending several months afterward spinning the results.

4-wk sprint: With One Day Left

October 31, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

This should be pretty close to what expectations are for the opening bell numbers that roll out Tuesday after 7pm. On the plus side, Steve Hotze doesn’t believe any of this.

Thursday was effectively a draw for Dems, which replicates the 2012 pattern. Today should be more of the same. I think there’s ample reason to believe Dems will win E-Day. But I guess I’m the chicken little of the group and doubt that it will be enough. Either way, here’s hoping that this election cycle is the last one where we see people prognosticate on who’s winning or losing based on countywide turnout levels or even EV polling place counts.

At some point after all the EV results are in, I’ll run counts on what the voter makeup of each polling place looks like and maybe even map out where voters come from to vote at some of the more heavily-trafficked locations.

 HD      Votes   DEM Support
County 319,229     46.1%
 126    16,020     30.4%
 127    21,591     27.7%
 128    14,564     28.3%
 129    17,800     32.4%
 130    20,345     22.2%
 131    11,534     81.6%
 132    15,770     34.6%
 133    22,364     25.9%
 134    22,225     40.5%
 135    13,324     35.9%
 137     5,800     54.2%
 138    13,216     34.3%
 139    13,209     75.3%
 140     4,712     74.7%
 141     9,538     83.3%
 142    10,667     76.1%
 143     7,027     70.5%
 144     5,549     53.1%
 145     6,785     60.2%
 146    13,817     75.9%
 147    13,969     78.3%
 148     9,853     59.0%
 149    11,750     50.6%
 150    17,800     27.9%

4-wk sprint: Reality Check

October 28, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

Kuff alludes to the state of the county. Here’s the math behind that:

HD     Votes   DEM Support
Total 220,082    45.5% 
126   10,992    29.9% 
127   14,874    26.6% 
128   10,209    27.9% 
129   12,498    32.0% 
130   13,804    21.7% 
131    7,749    80.6% 
132   10,995    33.7% 
133   15,848    25.5% 
134   15,351    40.8% 
135    8,737    35.7% 
137    3,989    52.7% 
138    9,059    33.3% 
139    8,829    74.5% 
140    3,278    73.4% 
141    6,434    82.8% 
142    7,057    76.6% 
143    4,832    69.8% 
144    4,178    53.3% 
145    4,713    59.4% 
146    9,657    75.7% 
147    9,656    78.5% 
148    6,862    59.7% 
149    8,286    49.4% 
150   12,195    26.9% 

Some oddities since I’ve been otherwise occupied from updating:

- Dems did not seem to win on Saturday. Given how awful 2010 was, that may track with that experience. But the one comparison I have from 2012 was that it was the only day that Dems had a clear win on (three others were a draw).

- Saturday is usually the first big day of Early Voting. This time around, Saturday’s total in-person vote failed to top Friday’s. It’s possible that this is one of the signs that the mail ballot program this year took votes out of the In-Person pool of voters.

- Dems did extremely well on Sunday and that made the weekend a small win. Important because the entire second week really has to be a win for Dems to have a good shot on Election Day. But …

- Monday reverted back to form, with Dems getting about 46% of the in-person vote that day.

In short, it doesn’t look great for the county.

The races that appear competitive on here (HD137, HD144, and HD149) all behave in strange ways. In particular, much of the Dem vote in these boxes comes in late. In 2012, Gene Wu (137) got 69% of E-Day vote, Mary Ann Perez (144) got 58% and Hubert Vo (149) got 65%. I’m not terribly concerned about any of them even though they look as if they should be competitive.

Perez’ showing is most impressive to me – she obviously starts off with the most competitively drawn district and has benefited greatly from the mail ballot program run by the party, and plenty of money raised to defend her seat. When we saw her partisan scores during 2012 Early Vote, there wasn’t much positive to see there. She came in better than the numbers suggested, but was still behind on the opening numbers. That she’s showing a lead of any kind at this point is encouraging. In the case of Wu and Vo, the in-person numbers for the second week are much better now that Democrats who can’t vote from 8am to 4:30pm now have a few extra hours after work to go vote.

For the county as a whole, things are starting to solidify. Dems should win E-Day, but just winning isn’t enough. We’re going to need to see an E-Day better than 53% for Dems to win. 2012 is a very different cycle to compare against. But be that as it may, the relevant range to look at from that election was that while Obama won E-Day with only 51.9% and no other statewide did better than 52%, many of the downballot judicial candidates did break that threshold, with several winning around 54% on E-Day. That still creates some possibility for a mixed result in the county. We’ll have a better sense of what the likelihood is for that once Early Vote closes up, though. The final two days are still expected to be the biggest.

4-wk sprint: Early Voting Counts Begin

October 22, 2014 Politics-2014 2 Comments

A quick update on Harris County numbers. The chart below includes two days of in-person Early Voting and the mail ballots through Yesterday. The first two days of in-person voting amounted to National Republicans #&*@^!$ Vote Day, with the daily scores for each day being around 41% Dem. The Mail Ballot lead is propping the countywide numbers up for now. From 2012, I recall that we only experienced a clear win on Saturday of Early Voting and much of the second week being a draw. Still, I don’t think we were climbing out of a 46% hole back then. So this is the time when we see what the floor looks like for Dems in the County. Once we see what Saturday brings, we’ll have a decidedly clearer picture.

The chart below also shows how many votes are cast (Mail and EV combined) in each House District. At some point by the second week, I’ll work on a better way to show the numbers. For now, “time constraint” is the operative term.

HD      Votes  DEM Support
County 82,056    45.99% 
126     4,232    27.7% 
127     4,890    26.0% 
128     3,961    28.9% 
129     4,867    32.1% 
130     4,573    21.8% 
131     2,879    79.6% 
132     3,574    32.1% 
133     6,314    24.6% 
134     5,749    39.6% 
135     2,726    34.2% 
137     1,454    50.9% 
138     3,227    31.8% 
139     3,358    74.0% 
140     1,450    73.3% 
141     2,669    84.1% 
142     2,761    80.1% 
143     2,076    70.1% 
144     2,097    53.7% 
145     1,871    58.4% 
146     3,875    75.8% 
147     3,766    80.3% 
148     2,587    60.6% 
149     2,700    48.0% 
150     4,400    25.1% 

4-wk sprint: Early Voting Starts (Plus,Mail Ballot Voters through 10/16)

October 20, 2014 Politics-2014 4 Comments

Today is the first day of Early Voting. Starting tomorrow, the metrics get a bit more interesting since we’ll have the Early Voters added to the mix. As for Mail Ballots, here is the lay of the (Harris County) land, so far. I’ve included the count of ballots returned as of the date in each column.

                DEM Support
District | 10/13/2014 |  10/16/2014
 COUNTY  |   54.65%   |    52.97% 
  HD126  |   29.11%   |    28.86% 
  HD127  |   31.40%   |    31.19% 
  HD128  |   38.04%   |    36.47% 
  HD129  |   38.64%   |    37.64% 
  HD130  |   29.66%   |    28.70% 
  HD131  |   82.35%   |    80.79% 
  HD132  |   34.09%   |    34.97% 
  HD133  |   27.66%   |    26.50% 
  HD134  |   44.92%   |    43.21% 
  HD135  |   40.41%   |    39.41% 
  HD137  |   53.76%   |    52.12% 
  HD138  |   36.82%   |    34.96% 
  HD139  |   80.24%   |    77.84% 
  HD140  |   78.04%   |    76.30% 
  HD141  |   86.96%   |    86.79% 
  HD142  |   86.90%   |    86.55% 
  HD143  |   76.72%   |    76.43% 
  HD144  |   62.14%   |    59.63% 
  HD145  |   66.75%   |    65.18% 
  HD146  |   79.75%   |    78.33% 
  HD147  |   85.73%   |    84.86% 
  HD148  |   69.01%   |    67.68% 
  HD149  |   55.05%   |    53.16% 
  HD150  |   26.55%   |    26.14% 
 Ballots |  26,111    |   32,128

For the sake of context, there were 55,460 Mail Ballots cast in 2010. And Campos notes that 40,566 were returned as cast ballots on the first day of Early Voting in 2012. I’m hoping someone saves me the effort of having to go dig up old PDF files to see how all prior elections look compared to this one.

Theoretically, if the 2014 count of mail ballots is the same as that of 2010, then what we’re seeing is a significant shift in who is voting by mail. Ultimately, though, you’d expect to see an increase in the number of mail ballots over 2010. That we may see more than 2012 is pretty big news. And it’s not like Dems even need to win this category. Winning just 45% among Mail Ballots would represent improvement.

The update for tomorrow should also include the first batch of Early Voters. Regardless of how many voters have shifted from voting Early or on Election Day to casting a ballot by mail in this election, I think there still has to be some factoring in for where the GOP votes are, so far. The first week of Early Voting should be a place to see the GOP catch up.

I don’t have good metrics on this from 2010, but the 2012 experience basically saw the following: GOP wins the first week of EV; Dems win the weekend; and the second week was a draw. And since the number of votes is heavily weighted toward the Saturday and final two days of Early Voting, the net result was a showing close to 50-50. Overall, it may seem like an awful lot of number-crunching to end up with a shoulder shrug that passes for a guesstimate on how the election turns out. But if that’s where we end up in 2014 in Harris County, that would be an improvement over 2010.

Anyways, the level of reporting gets a lot more complicated with Early Voting. So feel free to occupy a small sliver of my free time by going to cast your vote.

4-wk sprint: How Accurate Are Clarity Scores This Year?

October 15, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

A quick update on what the November 4 electorate is looking like so far: there were less than 1,000 new ballots returned in today’s update. Not surprisingly, the Dem support numbers didn’t move much: just a hair downward to 54.3%. And the ongoing point of comparison is that, among this group of voters, Bill White earned only 41.9% of votes in 2010 while President Obama earned a comparable 41.8% in 2012.

I also take some time to run a quick check on how accurate the individual scores provided by Clarity seem to be this year. Comparing it against 2010 voters, the difference was substantial. Clarity scores overstated the actual end result by a typical point or two. But when looking at only the Mail Ballot subset, it was more dramatic: over 4 percentage points. Of course, Clarity scores weren’t in use at the state level in 2010. I’d expect them to be clunkier as newer and more data found their way into the scoring system.

Looking at how well the 2012 electorate matched up against the predicted Clarity scores, the results were much tighter, with Clarity overstating actual Dem support (in this case, for Obama) by less than half a point among Mail Ballot voters. There was still enough variation among House Districts to give some cause for concern. But nothing wildly out of whack and nothing that doesn’t look un-explainable once you see the small sample size in many of the voter subsets.

All in all, the result is a good deal better than I expected to see. My assumption during 2012 Early Vote was that Clarity overstated Dem support by about 1-2 points. Here’s hoping that it’s as accurate as it would appear for this election.

Obviously, among the first things I’ll be looking for on Election Night is a comparison of how well the Clarity scores track with the actual results showing up online. In hte meantime, ProPublica’s post-2012 election story on Clarity’s scoring system is worthwhile reading.

4-wk sprint: What the Mail Ballots Show (… so far)

October 14, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

With 25,885 Mail Ballots returned as of Friday, here is a glimpse into what the results look like so far:

District - Dem Support
County  -  54.65% 
 HD126  -  29.11% 
 HD127  -  31.40% 
 HD128  -  38.04% 
 HD129  -  38.64% 
 HD130  -  29.66% 
 HD131  -  82.35% 
 HD132  -  34.09% 
 HD133  -  27.66% 
 HD134  -  44.92% 
 HD135  -  40.41% 
 HD137  -  53.76% 
 HD138  -  36.82% 
 HD139  -  80.24% 
 HD140  -  78.04% 
 HD141  -  86.96% 
 HD142  -  86.90% 
 HD143  -  76.72% 
 HD144  -  62.14% 
 HD145  -  66.75% 
 HD146  -  79.75% 
 HD147  -  85.73% 
 HD148  -  69.01% 
 HD149  -  55.05% 
 HD150  -  26.55% 

A note on the methodology: The scores are based on Clarity’s partisanship measure, assigned to individual voters. So the results are as good as that scoring is accurate. I haven’t had time to test the new numbers. But in 2012, they appeared to inflate Dem support by a point or two. Apply as many or as few grains of salt as you see fit.

What the method doesn’t show is swing votes for individual candidates. So, in theory, a GOP candidate could peel off 10% points from their Dem opponent. That’s not terribly likely. But it

On the whole, it represents improvement over previous years. Some quick checks over the weekend do show some vote shifting, but I’d rather spend more time buried in a spreadsheet to declare how much or even if it matters much. For now, its a baseline. There are still plenty of days to go.

4-wk sprint: Early Celebration for Mail Ballot Requests

October 10, 2014 Politics-2015 No Comments

Kuff and Campos (and Campos again) post some good news about mail ballot applications. Namely, the hubbub is on the fact that applications received so far this year outpace the Mail Ballot votes cast in 2012. Emphasis mine, of course.

The effort to catch up to the Hotze/GOP mail ballot program certain ain’t nothing. But it’s still a game of catchup and it’s a game that won’t necessarily show clear results once the Early Vote totals are in on Election Night. As I see it, the markers for this are as follows:

» Does the return rate change (presumably, drop) as a result of a bigger pool of voters sending in applications?

» Is the growth in Mail Ballot voters just cannibalizing from voters who would otherwise vote early or on Election Day?

» Is the dollar amount expended to play catchup among a small pool of voters really worth the effort given the opportunity cost of working the other 93% of the electorate?

While it would no doubt be more entertaining on Election Night to see results that didn’t have Dems in a big hole at the county level, we obviously won’t see the real impact of this program until much later. One of the first rules of campaigning is you do the work you have the money to do the work with. And in this case, raising money to run a Mail Ballot program is easier than some of the things I wish we were doing instead. And, as Kuff notes, there’s no single silver bullet – there needs to be a mail ballot program of some type and there needs to be about a dozen other things done. Battleground Texas and Texas Organizing Project are complements to what the Harris County Democratic Party are doing and several campaigns around the county (including the one for my boss) add to the mix as well.

All that to say: congrats to all on some great work for this component. I’m glad that the work is being done … but I’d just as soon not assume that the game has been forever changed in our favor because of this.

Campos dutifully points out that about 75% of 2012 Mail Ballot Applications were returned as a cast vote. So that’s the marker for what we should see at the end of Early Voting. We’ll know the number of applications sent in and the number of mail ballots returned as votes. Of all the markers, I would assume that this should be reasonably likely to clock in somewhere close to the same 75% based on the assumption that if someone goes through the trouble of sending in an application, there’s a decent chance that they do so with the intention of voting. From my work as an Early Vote clerk in 2013, I saw the flip side of this: people who didn’t want to vote by mail, but were pestered into sending in an application and complaining to high heaven about the “chaser” phone calls that they really wish would end. So that reaction is a reality, but it doesn’t seem to be a majority reaction. Here’s hoping that remains true.

The cannibalization factor is one that I know the Party has a ready answer for. And it involves some portion of those applications being among voters who vote in Presidential years, but not in Gov-year elections. It’s not that I think the share of Pres-only voters that we’re hitting is complete bunk, but I’m a little skeptical of the scale that we’re talking about. One the countywide level, Dems need to make up between 30-50,000 votes to elect a straight slate of judges to the bench. I think the wildly optimistic high end for what a mail ballot program will generate at around 15,000. Which would be fine if that ended up being the case. But there is always a pool of Pres-only voters who end up showing up in Gov-years, just as there is always a pool of nontraditional city-year voters who show up for city elections. My experience is in an apartment-heavy, highly-mobile electorate, but I’m used to seeing 25% new voters in elections where we expect only “the usual voters” showing up. That may be on the high end, but I don’t think it’s beyond the pale to suggest that about 15% of the electorate is going to be new voters. Ultimately, though, we won’t know this until the full voter roster comes back. So whatever celebratory numbers we see about Mail Ballot voters should be kept in check until we know all the facts.

The question of opportunity cost is a longer-term issue. Ideally, I would think that we would hope to see the share of the electorate from Mail Ballots remain roughly the same while improving our showing among those Mail Ballot votes. That would suggest minimal cannibalization and suggest that the “new voter” pool is legitimately separate from what normally drives new voters to the polls on any given election. Those are tough metrics to hit. And I would love to see them be hit. But if all you’ve done is move some Early, In-Person Voters over to the Mail Voter column, the issue of where those dollars could have been better spent ought to be a question seriously addressed.

It’s not like we haven’t been here before. Early Vote 2008 returns were celebrated on a daily basis until candidates and poll workers realized that Election Day was a barren wasteland of activity since so many votes had been banked. Efforts to bank votes earlier in the process aren’t worth zero dollars. But if you’re challenge is to make a non-Pres electorate look like a Pres-year electorate, I would argue that two of the worst places to start would be knocking on single-family home doors and focusing efforts on Over-65 voters. Targeting voters is all fine and well, but it still leaves significant swathes of geography untouched by so-called modern campaign techniques. Whatever the results ultimately show, here’s the math for what we’ve seen before:

        STRAIGHT PARTY  |      GOV       |    US SEN     | Cast Votes  | of Electorate
2012    40.5% - 59.2%   |      ---       | 41.6% - 57.0% |   76,025    |     6.3%
2010    32.0% - 67.6%   | 41.9% - 56.9%  |      ---      |   55,510    |     6.9%
2008    33.8% - 65.8%   |      ---       | 35.6% - 62.8% |   67,556    |     5.7% 
2006    38.4% - 61.2%   | 29.7% - 47.7%  | 34.9% - 63.9% |   23,314    |     3.8%
2004    32.5% - 67.3%   |      ---       |      ---      |   47,163    |     4.3%
2002    36.1% - 63.6%   | 33.5% - 65.6%  | 36.3% - 63.1% |   34,993    |     5.3%

Democrats can win in Harris County by two methods: either what Battleground, HCDP, TOP and others are doing make the difference, or we were going to win anyway with a nice, helping hand from demographics. Ultimately, I’m fine with either. We can haggle the details after the election if we’re successful.

4-wk sprint: 30-Day Out Finance Reports for Harris County Legislative Candidates

October 9, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

Totals from 30-Day out reports are shown below for all Harris County legislative seats. I’m not sure what the rules are candidates who may not have opposition in November, or why Huberty, Smith, and Fletcher filed reports while nine Dems don’t. Frankly, the thought of investigating Green and Lib candidates to see how that impacts this doesn’t appeal to me very much.

The only race that the very smart people in Austin will see as competitive in the county is going to be HD149. I think the earlier report totals will help shed some light on how the overall spending looks in that district. But just looking at how much is left in the bank for both sides, I don’t know that I’d expect to see TV ads running anytime soon. I’d also suspect that a low-budget affair combined with the redistricted HD149 favors Hubert Vo for re-election.

HD144, however, is substantially more competitive. It’s just stunning that Republicans can’t field a credible candidate willing to work the phones a little to raise money. Mary Ann Perez, by all accounts I see, is running hard for re-election and taking nothing as a given. Her money totals demonstrate that.

                 RAISED         SPENT        ON HAND    
SD17 - Huffman $182,425.00   $150,113.14    $962,333.95 

127 - Huberty   $14,431.72    $12,380.42     $17,499.70
128 - Smith     $18,500.00    $17,152.75    $224,657.31 
129 - Paul      $46,027.72    $32,375.17     $17,933.17 
130 - Fletcher  $12,481.72    $10,714.20     $21,672.03
132 - Schofield $46,386.72    $16,537.84     $48,437.64 
133 - Murphy    $38,831.72    $24,457.91    $195,692.84 
134 - Davis     $77,581.59    $35,106.87    $107,170.28 
135 - Elkins    $13,731.73     $4,825.56    $326,905.00 
137 - Fiki       $2,315.00     $3,836.49      $3,846.47 
138 - Bohac     $14,086.73    $24,259.71     $23,590.26 
144 - Pena       $2,633.16      $395.91       $2,068.00 
148 - Carmona   $5,821.72     $5,144.78       $9,235.88 
149 - Hoang    $21,956.72    $25,922.10      $20,692.61 
150 - Riddle   $10,100.00     $4,361.33      $56,358.17 

                 RAISED         SPENT        ON HAND
SD17 - Lucido    $63,017.00    $61,611.09     $97,144.68

129 - Gay        $1,050.00    $10,078.15      $3,309.38
131 - Allen      $1,250.00     $8,569.39     $31,428.21
132 - Lopez      $4,951.60     $3,420.41      $1,081.19
133 - Nicol        $711.57       $778.22      $1,599.97
134 - Ruff           $0.00         $0.00          $0.00 
135 - Abbas      $1,241.00     $3,640.25      $1,241.00
137 - Wu        $28,150.00    $34,531.83     $31,662.43
138 - Vernon         NA            NA             NA
139 - Turner         NA            NA             NA
140 - Walle          NA            NA             NA
141 - Thompson       NA            NA             NA                        
142 - Dutton         NA            NA             NA
143 - Hernandez      NA            NA             NA
144 - Perez     $95,538.55    $48,324.96    $105,724.57
145 - Alvarado       NA            NA             NA
146 - Miles          NA            NA             NA
147 - Coleman        NA            NA             NA
148 - Farrar    $18,587.12     $9,327.03     $94,448.93
149 - Vo        $64,150.00    $30,110.31     $59,712.79
150 - Perez        $325.00         $0.00        $918.91

4-week sprint: The Un-hiatus-ing

October 7, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

Far be it from me to let a good old fashioned election go by without posting a few comments, observations, or other trifling thoughts. I’ve had some offline conversation on the state of the campaign and I think it’s worth putting some of those thoughts down as a marker to see how they measure up after the results are counted. So, while the real world (ie – Elsie, the basset hound) and day job still intrude into the available time for blogging, the next four weeks are important enough to find some spare time hidden in my sofa cushions.

For the first week or so, I’ll likely expend a few pixels unpacking some of the interim Legislative work I’ve been following. That basically provides a preview of what’s in store for the next session. And it should highlight some of what’s at stake for ballots cast on November 4th. Ultimately, we’ll get around to the job that the statewides are doing, and more to the point, what Battleground Texas does or doesn’t add to the mix. Kuff is already two takes ahead of me on this point. I’m optimistic that we’ll be at a draw soon enough.

On the “data-driven” side of the ledger, the 30-day out campaign finance reports have been turned in and we now have a fairly reliable image of the few competitive races that exist in the county. And after the election, there will be the obligatory maps along with some tale of where Democrats are gaining/losing ground.

Most importantly, I’m hoping to post some daily updates during Early Voting along the lines of what I’ve worked on in 2010 and 2012. This should give some good insight into how Harris County is performing going into Election Day. Of course, the 2012 effort on my part usually had me giving a daily update along the lines of “It’s about 50/50. Welcome to parity-ville.” I think if we see something comparable in a non-Presidential year, that should be a good thing.

Anyways, my newfound commitment to blogging coincides with a trip to Austin tomorrow to listen to a presentation on the budget. I’m fairly certain that I can find a few excuses to relate some of that to November and beyond.

Florida Redistricting Set to Kick Off

August 7, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

» Miami Herald: Florida Legislature to convene for special session on redistricting

Florida is set to initiate what should be a limited round of redistricting today …

Florida legislators will convene a rare summer special session, beginning Thursday, with the goal of making quick work of a court-ordered fix to the congressional redistricting map.

Legislators will convene at noon, meet briefly and then adjourn to let the House and Senate redistricting committees hold a joint meeting to hear legislative lawyers explain their options for fixing the congressional boundaries that last month were ruled unconstitutional by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis.

Lewis gave lawmakers an Aug. 15 deadline to repair two congressional districts — held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden. Although lawmakers have called the session to last a week, they expect to be finished by late Monday or early Tuesday.

This seems like it should be somewhat comparable to the 2006-era redistricting in Texas that led to CD23 being repaired and that ultimately led to Ciro Rodriguez offing Henry Bonilla.

The main district affected in this instance, however, is that of Corrine Brown – an African-American who represents the Fifth District which snakes from Jacksonville to Orlando. For those who oppose districts drawn in funny shapes, it’s worth noting that at least part of the rationale behind the court decision striking this down has to do with Florida constitutional provisions covering redistricting that were passed in 2010.

At issue in Brown’s District Five is that the baseline district started off with a Black Voting Age Population (BVAP) that was 47-48% Afr-Am and the 2012 version of the district was drawn to be a solid majority BVAP. On one level, that solves any challenges to retrogression. On the other hand, it compresses more black voters into a district, enabling more opportunity for GOP districts elsewhere. Here’s how the Florida circuit court saw the casec:

Congressional District 5 does not adhere to the tier-two standards in Article III Section 20. It is visually not compact, bizarrely shaped, and does not follow traditional political boundaries as it winds from Jacksonville to Orlando. At one point, District 5 narrows to the width of Highway 17. The district has a Reock score of only 0.09. Enacted District 5 has majority black voting age population (BVAP), but the benchmark districting was only a plurality BVAP district. The Defendants’ argument that the vote dilution provision of Article III Section 20 and Section 2 ofthe Voting Rights Act required a majority BVAP district and that this configuration was necessary to achieve that end, is not supported by the evidence.

Plaintiffs have shown that a more tier-two compliant district could have been drawn that would not have been retrogressive. The plans proposed by the House of Representatives prior to conference committee plan 9047 being adopted were all more compact and split fewer counties. While not model tier-two compliant districts, these iterations did avoid the narrow appendage jutting from the body of the district into Seminole County. Such appendages are particularly suspect of prohibited intent to benefit a political party or incumbent. Furthermore, the House’s various iterations achieved a BVAP of between 47 and 48 percent. The House’s chief map drawer, Alex Kelly, testified that he perfonned a functional analysis on these iterations, and that this level of minority population would not have been retrogressive. Indeed, this is higher than the BVAP ofbenclunark district when it was enacted.

The vote dilution provisions in Article III, Section 20 and in the Voting Rights Act do not require the creation of a majority-minority district wherever possible, but only where certain conditions–conditions first announced in Thornburg v. Gingles, 418 U.S. 30, 50-51 (1986)-are satisfied. First, three preconditions must be present: (i) the minority population is sufficiently large and geographically compact to be a majority of the voting-age population; (ii) the minority population is politically cohesive; and (iii) the majority population votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it usually to defeat the candidates preferred by minorities. Apportionment/, 83 So. 3d at 622 (citing Gingles, 478 U.S. at 50-51).

The Legislature made no effort during the redistricting process to determine if the Gingles preconditions existed for this district, nor does the evidence introduced at trial demonstrate that they exist now. The minority population is not sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority of the voting age population. To achieve a BVAP over 50%, the district connects two far flung urban populations in a winding district which picks up rural black population centers along the way. The Gingles compactness inquiry certainly is focused on more than just district lines. See League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Perry, 548 U.S. 399, 433 (2006). But it also doesn’t ignore such lines. See ld District 5 is simply not compact for the purpose of the Gingles analysis.

Nor does the evidence prove the third precondition. There is no dispute that there is racially polarized voting in Northeast Florida. However, Defendants have not shown that this polarization is legally significant. Because “the extent of bloc voting necessary to demonstrate that a minority’s ability to elect its preferred representatives is impaired varies according to several factual circumstances, the degree of bloc voting which constitutes the threshold of legal significance will vary from district to district.” Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. at 50. The evidence is undisputed that the benchmark district, which was never majority-minority, elected an African-American to Congress during its entire existence. Additionally, analysis by Dr. Brunell, an expert retained by the House, suggested that there would be a 50/50 ability to elect a minority candidate of choice with a BVAP as low as 43.6 %. Thus, the evidence does not establish that the majority population votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it usually to defeat the candidates preferred by minorities.

I also fimd that the decision to increase the district to majority BVAP, which was accomplished in large part by creating the finger-like appendage jutting into District 7 and Seminole County, was done with the intent of benefiting the Republican Party. I reach this conclusion based in part on the inference that the Florida Supreme Court suggested could be drawn from oddly shaped appendages that had no legal justification.

On the surface, this seems like a throwback to redistricting during the 1990s. Then, you had a large number of Anglo Dems who benefited greatly by diluting African-American voters enough to bolster weakening support among Anglo voters. Republicans at that time saw the value of the Voting Rights Act provisions that led to strengthening districts in a way that led to more districts where African-American voters were allowed to elect candidates of their choosing. It also led to some of the complex political relationships seen in the 2000s with the Ron Wilsons and Sylvester Turners here in Texas.

Fast forward to the Texas version of 2011 redistricting, and we see some similarities to the Florida situation – Afr-Am electeds preferring majority BVAP shares, seeing districts that contained more Hispanic population, and expressing concern about their political future – despite the fact that citizenship erases those advantages for Hispanics in the district.

The Florida case re-awakens some of these issues by exposing differences between the Congressional Black Caucus and the DCCC.

The Florida lege kicks off today and is hoping to wrap things up by the 15th. That’s encouraging that the result may be limited in scope. I wouldn’t expect the Fifth District to be negatively impacted – it clocked in at 71% support for Obama in 2012. Shaving the BVAP population below majority without retrogression shouldn’t have much impact in theory. But since the tradeoff seems to be with the GOP-held Seventh District (which went 47.1% for Obama), that could be problematic. In the case of the latter, I would presume that the GOP-held legislature will dutifully protect Republican voters in the district to continue sending candidates of their choice. At first glance, a minimal amount of tweaking to get the 5th just below majority BVAP should accomplish that. We’ll see ….

A Free-Market Intrusion into Health Care

July 28, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

» Washington Post: The drug that’s forcing America’s most important – and uncomfortable – health-care debate

Months before Gilead Sciences’ breakthrough hepatitis C treatment hit the market, Oregon Medicaid official Tom Burns started worrying about how the state could afford to cover every enrollee infected with the disease. He figured the cost might even reach $36,000 per patient.

Then the price for the drug was released last December: $84,000 for a 12-week treatment course.

At that price, the state would have to spend $360 million to provide its Medicaid beneficiaries with the drug called Sovaldi, just slightly less than the $377 million the Oregon Medicaid program spent on all prescription drugs for about 600,000 members in 2013. It potentially would be a backbreaker.

It’s not just Oregon. Having watched many of the interim hearings going on with the Texas Lege, we’re seeing references to the drug’s impact on costs all over the place. The Employee Retirement System highlighted the impact on their health care coverage costs by noting that their costs for all “compound drugs” rose from $660k in 2009 to $31.3 million in 2014. UTMB-Galveston, in pointing out how their pharmacy costs were similarly impacted, noted that while Hepatitis C prevalence is somewhere around 1-1.5% in the free world, it turns up in about 30% of the prison inmates that it sees.

The response by the Health and Human Services Commission was to ask Medicaid to cover the costs (alas – EXPANSION!). That was without luck, as it was suggested by the Medicaid board that Texas do what “other reputable groups were recommending.” Which is what agencies like ERS have chosen to do: limit drugs like Sovaldi by requiring approval on a patient-by-patient basis.

I think its safe to say we’ll be hearing more about the drug and others like it during the next legislative session. But the cost factors that are pushing state-level health care costs into the red are greater than just one drug. Still, it’s always good sporting fun to see states that deny Medicaid expansion under ‘evil Obamacare’ turn to Medicaid to cover costs associated with drugs like Sovaldi. But it’s also an interesting case study anytime you have a hyper-expensive drug that’s incredibly effective in a field full of low- and reasonably-priced drugs that haven’t proven effective. The current bet to resolve this seems to be over whether newer drugs will enter the market and drive costs down, or whether they’ll engage in “shadow pricing” – setting their price point at a premium on a similar basis to Sovaldi. I don’t think those two options are exclusive of one another (say, if a new entrant sets their cost at $40-50,000). But even more worth watching is to see the so-called conservative reaction to a drug being priced at something that at least mimics free-market pricing practices.

» Wonkblog: Why Sovaldi took off: Previous treatments were terrible
» NY Times: Gilead’s Hepatitis C Drug, Sovaldi, Is on Pace to Become a Blockbuster
» Forbes: Politicizing Gilead’s Research And Development Costs For Sovaldi Is A Reckless And Dangerous Misadventure

HISD 2014 Redistricting: CVAP & Voter Registration Data

July 17, 2014 Politics-2014 No Comments

Here’s the data dump for what the proposed HISD trustee districts look like, drilling down to the new numbers I have for Citizen Voting Age Population and also for Voter Registration …

             (2010 Census) 
    Pop.    Anglo  Hisp   AfrAm   Asian
1  153,789  26.5%  64.6%   7.2%    1.3%
2  155,562   8.5%  41.7%  48.9%    0.4%
3  146,509   7.3%  79.1%  10.4%    2.8%
4  156,281  20.1%  16.5%  55.2%    7.7%
5  149,488  51.3%  29.0%   7.2%   11.8%
6  149,999  34.0%  35.5%  19.6%   10.2%
7  156,191  51.2%  32.2%   7.9%    8.0%
8  148,057  18.9%  58.7%  19.6%    2.2%
9  149,658   8.3%  38.1%  49.6%    3.6%

             2010 Census 
    Pop.    Anglo  Hisp   AfrAm   Asian
1  113,386  31.7%  59.2%   7.1%   1.5%  
2  111,438  10.3%  36.9%  51.9%   0.5%  
3  101,791   9.4%  75.5%  11.4%   3.2%  
4  124,836  23.2%  14.4%  53.3%   8.5%  
5  113,236  54.1%  26.0%   7.3%  12.0%  
6  115,702  38.2%  31.7%  18.7%  10.7%  
7  129,826  54.8%  28.6%   7.8%   8.2%  
8  113,927  23.0%  53.3%  20.4%   2.5%  
9  104,863  10.0%  34.5%  51.0%   4.1%  

    2008-12 American Community Survey
     Pop.    Anglo  Hisp   AfrAm   Asian
1   83,880   41.9%  46.6%   9.0%   1.7%  
2   91,325   13.0%  22.8%  63.3%   0.4%  
3   66,710   15.0%  63.2%  18.1%   3.1%  
4  102,285   24.9%   8.2%  61.9%   4.0%  
5   85,865   69.1%  12.9%   8.3%   8.8%  
6   83,005   47.0%  19.2%  24.6%   7.6%  
7   93,125   68.7%  16.3%   8.1%   5.6%  
8   85,855   30.0%  42.0%  25.0%   2.2%  
9   87,390   13.1%  20.6%  61.9%   3.2%  

              2012 General Election
      Total           Non-Suspense
   Reg Voters  SSVR%   Reg Voters  SSVR%   SSTO%
1    69,296    40.7%    60,531     41.5%   33.2%
2    87,593    16.8%    76,850     17.3%   13.3%
3    49,644    59.1%    43,749     60.9%   55.6%
4    95,488     6.5%    77,510      6.5%    5.9%
5    80,246     9.8%    69,032      9.5%    8.7%
6    67,920    13.0%    55,841     12.6%   11.4%
7    78,866    10.2%    65,051      9.4%    8.9%
8    64,531    41.2%    54,933     43.2%   33.7%
9    74,370    15.0%    65,542     15.8%   12.2%

Recall that Districts 1, 3, and 8 are the Hispanic opportunity districts. It’s interesting to see how the population shares go as you move down from the most expansive (Total Population) down to the least (Share of Turnout). Here’s what that looks like, isolated by each of those three districts:

                    DISTRICT 1
                    Anglo  Hisp   AfrAm   Asian
TOTAL POP  153,789  26.5%  64.6%   7.2%   1.3%
VAP        113,386  31.7%  59.2%   7.1%   1.5%  
CVAP        83,880  41.9%  46.6%   9.0%   1.7%  
VOTER REG   69,296         40.7%    
TURNOUT                    33.2%

                    DISTRICT 3
                    Anglo  Hisp   AfrAm   Asian
TOTAL POP  146,509  7.3%   79.1%  10.4%   2.8%
VAP        101,791  9.4%   75.5%  11.4%   3.2%  
CVAP        66,710  15.0%  63.2%  18.1%   3.1%  
VOTER REG   49,644         59.1%  
TURNOUT                    55.6%

                    DISTRICT 8
                    Anglo  Hisp   AfrAm   Asian
TOTAL POP  148,057  18.9%  58.7%  19.6%   2.2%
VAP        113,927  23.0%  53.3%  20.4%   2.5%  
CVAP        85,855  30.0%  42.0%  25.0%   2.2%  
VOTER REG   64,531         41.2%   
TURNOUT                    33.7%

One extra highlight on these shares that seems less obvious, but definitely interesting is how the Anglo and Afr-Am population shares break in District 1 and 8. I would guess that the turnout in District 1 in particular may be majority-Anglo (or, at least, pretty close to 50%). It’s conceivable that you could see an Anglo majority voting for a very different candidate than the Hispanic population and winning that district. Meanwhile, in District 8, the CVAP split is more evenly balanced between Anglos and Afr-Am population. Making that district more secure as a functioning Hispanic opportunity district is that Anglo and Afr-Am voters don’t typically vote alike. So there’s less chance of a coalescing majority to out-vote what may not even be a plurality of Hispanic voters in that district. Of course, as luck would have it, both of those districts have pretty good representatives that any voter would be proud to have on the Board.

It’s also worth remembering that it’s not just the population shares that influence whether a district is a true opportunity district. District 1, for instance, seems to have a decent split of Bubba voters and Inner-Loop liberal Anglo voters. But what the numbers suggest is that it may prove to be increasingly challenging to maintain three solid opportunity districts over time. Obviously, this map only has a life span of six years before it will need to be re-drawn again. It should be interesting to see how creative the map has to get to avoid retrogression next time around.

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January 19, 2015

Belatedly, it’s worth noting that I’m back in Austin for the legislative session. Theoretically, that would mean a slowdown in blogging. But given the pace over the past several months, who knows. For the sake of making myself feel better, the work product over this span of time seems to be about 568 pages of […]

2009-13 ACS Update

December 11, 2014

The end of the year means new Census data being released. I’m saving most of my work until the Citizen Voting Age data is out, but here are the top lines for total population in Harris County, with previous ACS updates included to show the gradual change over time: Tot. Pop. ’10 (%) | Tot. […]

In Session

January 5, 2013

Today, I’m off to settle into a new workspace and a temporary residence in order to work with my new State Representative, Gene Wu, in Austin. Before anyone thinks to call, comment, or text about how exciting any of that is, you should be reminded that I was raised to loathe all things Austin. While […]


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