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Summer Reading 2015

Long days in the Lege managed to kill off a lot of my normal reading time. If you'd like, I can provide countless hours of very abnormal committee hearing notes that have occupied much of that time. But for the summer ahead, there are a few items on the reading list to make up for lost time. And you should know that the sole purpose of posting this is to shame myself into actually reading these for fear that someone will ask me about them (what with all the dinner parties I attend).

» Red Tape: Its Origins, Uses, and Abuses
by Herbert Kaufman
I actually forgot I ordered this since I pre-ordered it several months prior to release. Which is remarkable since the book is a reprint of a 1977 book.

As far as subject matter goes, the book keeps me planted pretty close to the Political Science/Public Administration realm. Which is just as well since I've got two partially-read college texts on the subject to mow through over the next 18 months. I've put off buying James Q. Wilson's "Bureaucracy" to fill this need for reading material. So I'm hoping that it absolves me of the need to buy more lit in this genre when it's all said and done.

» Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877
by Brenda Wineapple
I wish there was some majestical reason I could give for picking this book out of the herd, but the reality is that it came with a $3.79 price tag that went very well with my itch to read more about Reconstruction-era history.



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Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

One more legislative session is out of the way. One thing that definitely feels overdue is the need for an actual vacation. So, no sooner than I get my stuff moved back into a new place in Houston, I'll be packing up for a few days in the Twin Cities of Minnesota (a poor man's DFW, if you will). Most of time is penciled in for the St. Paul side of things, although Mall of America is an obligatory stop and I've noticed a timely Twins-Tigers series going on while I'm in town. The main draw for me is a visit to Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul. But I'm spending a lot of my free time listing other possible things to do, see, eat, or experience. If you know of anything worthwhile to do in either Minneapolis of St. Paul, feel free to let me know.

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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

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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.

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