Category Archives: Voting Rights

The Latest in Harris County Voter Data

Thanks to Hector de Leon from the County Clerk’s Election Office, I’ve got my hands on the latest on the county voter registration rolls. FYI, when they break down the Hispanic numbers, they’re just estimates since they go by surnames. When registering, we are not required to give our ethnicity.

That said, there are 2,119,052 voters whose status is active. And of that, 470,041 are Spanish surnamed. That’s 22% of the voter rolls, folks. And if 20,000 or so would fix their status, we’d be closer to 500,000.

When broken down by congressional district, the county finds that 57% of voters in CD29 are Spanish surnamed. But in a show of “we’re everywhere!” we are anywhere from 14 to 22 percent in the other CDs. In the “hotter” races for CD2 and CD7, Spanish surnamed are 16% and 14%, respectively. In my own very Democratic CD9 and in Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s district, Spanish surnamed are at 19%. But when one looks at CD22 and CD36, which are quite suburban, Spanish surnamed are at 22% and 20%, respectively.

We’re everywhere! And this is a good thing because the ability to impact elections in Harris County is not just in one particular area, and “control” of GOTV efforts are not in any one group of politicos. On the other hand, there is plenty of opportunity to GOTV for those who really want to put in the effort and money. [I’m talking to those big money raisers and groups who GOTV, now.] Particularly when it comes to registered non-voting Latinos who often go ignored, or easily scapegoated, depending on the political party.

One particular set of data to note is how County Commissioner’s seats are broken down. What used to be a stronger Hispanic opportunity precinct, Precinct 2, is at 39% Spanish surnamed. I recall arguing before the County’s redistricting lawyers that while I appreciated Precincts 1 and 4 becoming more Hispanic and it seemed like a good thing because it showed we’re everywhere, it wouldn’t take much cutting from both precincts to bolster Precinct 2 as a Hispanic opportunity district. They didn’t listen. This is important as Latino candidates in the Pct. 2 Democratic Primary fight for whom gets to the chance to knock off a GOP incumbent, thus adding some needed diversity to the Court. I guess it’s important for those of us seeking partisan balance at the County, too.

There’s some 2014 data through which I need to sift that gives a clearer picture about where Latinos voted and in which Primary in 2014, and, no surprise, one finds those more “conservative” ones in the more suburban areas of the county. Has there been much change in how these Latinos feel about one side versus the other after a year of Trump? Are there new voters who haven’t even been given attention by either side? Well, I wish Latino Decisions would give it crack to find out.

Anyway, no doubt there has been growth. Voter registration efforts continue and there’s plenty of time to further impact these VR numbers toward November. What this tells either side of the political spectrum is that upwards of a quarter of the voter rolls are up for grabs if a political party takes that segment seriously in its GOTV efforts.

As Tony Diaz and I discussed on Tuesday on his radio show, it takes more than speaking Spanish and eating a taco in public. It takes being in tune to where Latinos are on the big issues. Those are usually Education, Health Care, Economy (jobs), and of course, Immigration. And I’m pretty sure a lot more of us are listening–whether you’re speaking to us or not. And that’s how November decisions are made.

Anyway, this is where we’re at regarding voter registration.

 

 

 

 

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Latino Turnout: Are Latino Candidates The Answer?

You may recall I wrote about attending a League of Women Voters low voter turnout forum a few weeks ago. Local professor Richard Murray stated that 2016 could be a good year for Latino turnout if either political party runs a Latin@ VP candidate.

He further cited that 2002’s campaign by Tony Sanchez actually increased Latino turnout throughout the state. I recall Sanchez’s ads and they hit at the hearts of Mexican Americans–I certainly enjoyed them. But when Rick Perry ran ads tying Sanchez to drug dealers and money laundering, even White Democrats believed Perry and voted for him in large numbers.

We’re at 2015 and we’ve had a first test of the assertion that a Latino on the ballot helps drive Latino turnout. Post-election research showing how Chicagoans voted is quite interesting. Hispanic voters gave almost 70% of their vote to Chuy Garcia, while 66% of white voters and 58% of black voters went to Emanuel. As far as the other demographics were concerned, it’s not like Garcia was far from their issues, but they stuck with Emanuel for some reason. Perhaps Latinos were looking for change, but certainly a progressive Latino candidate did help increase Latino turnout in Chicago, according to Latino Victory Project, although numbers were still low.

Will Houston get to test this assertion next? I think it is safe to predict that a left to center Latino candidate for Houston Mayor could increase Latino turnout, but will the end-result be the same as Chicago? Would there even be a run-off? I guess it all depends on if Houstonians as a whole embrace a Latino candidate. Chicago showed a tendency, but obviously not a full embrace.

Obviously, Murray’s assertion is that there be a Latino VP candidate in 2016 to give either party a major assist, but I’m talking about a major Latino candidacy at the top of the ballot. After yesterday’s results, I tend to think results elsewhere would be the same. Latino candidates not only have to campaign to a diverse electorate, but against big money interests, and they also have to combat right-wing, anti-Latino sentiment coming out of state legislatures.

Still, I think it needs to be continually tested, rather than have prospective Latino candidates remain in their comfort zones. Certainly, it would ensure a response to those who would make Latinos a political scapegoat.

Tweet of the Day: Los 20 Latinos

DC followed the Austin “10-1” single member districts battle last year and the result is that Latinos in Austin seem to be running everywhere, and not just in one or two districts. Here’s a Tweet from DC friend Paul Saldaña:

Good luck to the candidates, but I have some favorites, thus far. Here’s the list:

Mayor – Council Member Mike Martinez
District 2 – Delia Garza and Edward Reyes
District 3 – Susana Almanza, Julian Fernandez, Miguel Ancira, Mario Cantu, Eric Rangel, Sabino “Pio” Renteria and Ricardo Turollols-Bonilla
District 4 – Gregorio Casar, Monica Guzman, Marco Mancillas, Gabe Rojas, Xaiver Hernandez, Robert Perez, Jr. and Manuel A. Munoz
District 5 – Mike Rodriguez
District 7 – Pete Salazar, Jr.
District 8 – Eliza May

NALEO: Over 7.8 Latinos Will Head to Polls in 2014

LatinoVoteWell, 7.8 million (8% of the nation’s voters) certainly isn’t the 11 million which voted in 2012, but I guess it is a non-presidential year. Although Latinos make up 17% of the population, only 11% are eligible to vote.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials released a report which included 2014 projections and the effects of voter suppression laws and court decisions. According to NALEO:

  • Nearly seven million Latinos eligible to vote residing in jurisdictions that were previously subject to preclearance pre-Shelby Co. are currently without proactive protections under the VRA.
  • VRAA legislation would restore preclearance protections to more than 4.5 million Latinos eligible to vote – nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of those covered before Shelby Co.
  • Under the VRAA, there are four states that would be required to submit changes to voting procedures for preclearance review prior to implementation. 
  • These states, which include Ga., La., Miss. and Texas, would be required to submit changes to voting procedures for preclearance for at least 10 years.
  • An additional 24 jurisdictions in 12 states could also become subject to preclearance upon passage of the VRAA; approximately 140,000 Latinos eligible to vote reside in these 24 jurisdictions.

There weren’t any projection numbers for Texas, which doing so would be very important given that we have a nationally followed Gubernatorial race and a high-profile Latina like Leticia Van de Putte running for the #2 spot. But we do know there are 4.2 eligible Latino voters, according to NALEO’s press club presentation.

Anyway, that’s where Latinos are at 6 months from Election Day.

Texas Gets a Hire in DNCs Voter Expansion Project

Recently, you may have heard of a video VP Joe Biden made to bolster voting rights in America. In fact, it is part of a push by the Democratic National Committee to expand voting in America, ensuring voting rights for all Americans. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz announced four new hires in Ohio and Texas–two states in which voter protection has become a priority.

“With our state party partners, we have a national infrastructure and team of experts that no other organization can bring to bear,” she said in a statement.  “Voting laws are rapidly changing, and our Voter Expansion Project will make sure that Democrats – and all voters – across the country are able to exercise their right to vote and make their voices heard.”

In Texas, it was announced today that the project’s state director will be Sondra Haltom whose work protecting the rights of voters during a stint at the Texas Democratic Party is widely known.

A native Houstonian, Haltom has 15 years of experience working on election issues like ballot access, voter suppression prevention, redistricting and more. In December 2012, she founded Empower The Vote Texas (ETVT), a non-profit organization dedicated to voting rights and election reform issues. ETVT tracked election legislation proposed in both the Texas Legislature and U.S. Congress, monitored litigation on voting rights, served as a resource on Texas election law, and educated Texans about the voting process.

“Protecting and expanding the right to vote has long been a struggle in Texas but the challenges have been magnified in recent years,” said Haltom. “In order to fight back against the barriers being erected to voter participation, it is vital that this work happen year-round. That’s why I am so excited to be a part of the DNC’s effort to ensure that all eligible Texans are able to fully participate in their democracy.”

Prior to starting ETVT, Haltom served for seven years as the Political Director for the Texas Democratic Party where she built and lead the TDP’s Voter Protection Program and their efforts to fight illegal redistricting maps, voter suppression efforts and voter ID legislation. She is a graduate of Texas Christian University.

Here’s more from President Bill Clinton on the project.

Immigration Reform: What’s Next?

It is safe to say any perceived progress toward comprehensive immigration reform came to a dead-stop the minute the Democrat-heavy U.S. Senate gave away some high-dollar, high-collateral items to the Republicans to gain their support for Senate Bill 744. The House Republicans not only sensed blood, they sucked it right up and made themselves political dead wood on the issue–with no reason to move, no reason to care. It’s hard to believe that soon after President Obama’s re-election, immigration reform was the top issue for him and “Latino outreach” became the task of Republicans. So much for that.

President Obama has been using the last five years to “prove himself” as an immigration enforcer to gain Republican votes in Congress. He’s funded and bolstered programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities to the point of throwing out almost 2,000,000 immigrants from the United States–a large portion being low-level offenders who didn’t even fit these programs’ description of “criminal immigrant.” And he and Congress have also bolstered detention policies and the private prisons who warehouse these folks. How’d that work out? Certainly not  well for the broken families affected by these policies.

Some of my lib-lab friends utilize the talking points well:  It’s the Republicans! I don’t argue that fact, but when it comes to deportation, it is President Obama who holds the keys to the deportation bus.

Certainly, Republicans knew exactly what President Obama was doing since they didn’t budge at all on the House side. If anything, the issue may still figure prominently in 2014 elections as Republican primary candidates try to out-hate each other on the issue. What will the Democratic campaign response be in 2014?

And while the national pro-migrant organizations (LULAC, NCLR and others) kept their talking points intact, all the while while turning their collective cheek to the mass deportations, mass human warehousing, and general indifference of both sides of the aisle, it was the immigrant-activist community whose message seemed to be strengthening:  Stop the deportations. The question that goes unanswered is if there is agreement on taking anything less than a path to citizenship.

According to the latest Pew Hispanic Center polling, 55% of Hispanics now favor deportation relief over a shot at citizenship. Given that Hispanics make up 3/4 of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, this is a significant trend. And according to the experts at Pew, it is this trend that could cause a major shift in the immigration debate–one that could allow piecemeal legislation and other compromises. That’s if the Republicans don’t feel the need to try to milk the issue for what it is worth to them in the GOP primaries.

According to Cesar Vargas of the DREAM Action Coalition, a piecemeal approach is what is going to happen.

Walking away with nothing is not an option for us; “citizenship-or-nothing” is not an option. We can’t ask our communities to wait for “citizenship” while we see our mothers, our fathers being separated from their children. Citizenship is our ultimate goal but we cannot let it become a hardline that poisons bipartisanship.

This year we have a real opportunity to secure our first victory; a victory that will allow us to live and work freely, to travel and see our family members we left behind. Rest assure the next day, we will be ready to work and fight for the next victory, including a path to citizenship. Let’s, however, get our first win 2014.

Ultimately, a piecemeal package may not spell political victory for either political party.

If the immigration bill dies, a plurality of Hispanics (43%) and Asian Americans (48%) say they would mostly blame Republicans in Congress. But sizable minorities of each group—34% of Hispanics and 29% of Asian Americans—say they would hold Democrats in Congress and/or President Obama mainly responsible.

I would think that simple deportation stops wouldn’t give an edge to either Party at this point. Political promises and niceties from both political parties have failed as campaign tactics, given Hispanic numbers tanking for President Obama and achieving new lows for Republicans. For those Hispanics who continue to have faith in their vote, or perhaps aren’t single issue voters (folks like me), I’m sure they will continue to be engaged at some level. But breaking down immigration reform (and the Hispanic community) to the point of accepting only deportation relief is concerning–at least for folks like me.

To me, there is nothing more important than citizenship–the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Although it is understandable that those who live in the shadows and fear detention and deportation want some sort of relief, I fear the formation of, for lack of a better term, a legalized sub-class of people will only be detrimental to our democracy. Sure, it may be a boon to our tax system at all levels, and to our economy, but eleven million people in a tax-paying, non-voting class all to themselves does not help further public policy that benefits our country, our states, and our local governments. If anything, it allows those who make the rules (on both sides of the aisle) to run roughshod over these folks–and any other group with a similar demographic make-up, yet, are citizens and voters.

Unfortunately, President Obama has now given a tentative “OK” to a piecemeal approach that the Republicans have been pushing, and the pro-migrant, national Latino groups will soon follow or get out of the way. Given the image of victory will be those groups led by immigrants who are asking for deportation relief, while Republican politicians will say, “Well, we’re just doing what they asked for.” In other words, Republicans will support anything but citizenship if they were to go along with this. That’s the even bigger question:  Will Republicans go along with it? Or will Tea Party bigotry be the victor, again?

I’ve been writing about immigration reform since I started this blog. My entire intent was not to become an “immigration blogger,” but what made me driven as a supporter of immigration reform was that citizenship was the end-game. At this point, deportation relief may bring a sigh of relief to a certain extent–depending on what the parties agree to–but a lack of a path to citizenship and whatever else the Republicans tack on which will limit the rights of this new legalized sub-class is not a workable solution, in my opinion. Some will call it a step toward citizenship (to be achieved in another 10? 20 years?), but what is the reality? How will the private prison and jail industry be appeased? And how will local law enforcement agencies who defend 287(g) and SCOMM move forward? There are a lot of unanswered questions as to how “deportation relief” will be defined in the end.

So, a new question is being asked:  Will we have something in 2014?

It’s hard to tell when even Professor Larry Sabato stated on CNN that this issue was a big loser in 2013 and that he didn’t expect much movement on it in 2014. And neither does my favorite policy guy, Robert Reich. Pro-reform Republicans, too. 

Obviously, we need to keep an eye on things. And, ultimately, the “pro-migrant” side needs to get its message straight so the rest of us know what we’re supposed to support.

Aura Bogado has a cool Prezi at Alternet about what happened in 2013.

Progress Texas: Pasadena Plan Discriminates Against Hispanics

I must agree with the folks at Progress Texas who remind us that that Pasadena city council redistricting plan discriminates against Hispanics.

Hispanics are the voice of Texas’ new majority. In Pasadena, the Hispanic population has grown from 48.2% to 61.6% in the last decade. The Republican mayor of Pasadena is doing everything he can to stop that.

A local ballot measure in the city of Pasadena, Texas would remove two single-member council seats currently held by Hispanics and replace them with at-large seats, eliminating the biggest voice Hispanics have in the growing Houston suburb.

Thankfully, the good people from the Texas Organizing Project are educating voters about this plan. It is time for all of you to spread the word and tell your friends and family in Pasadena to vote against Johnny Isbell’s ballot proposal.

Lone Star College System Agrees to Single Member Districts

I just about moved back to the ‘burbs when I found out that the voting rights lawyer for the Democrats (Chad Dunn) led the legal effort to change the way elections are held in the Lone Star College System.

The way they have been held in the past definitely bothered me during my decade in the ‘burbs since Latinos could never get elected, and only a couple of African Americans ever won. Even when an anti-immigrant, right-wing Hispanic (Martin Basaldua) was appointed, his own political party didn’t help him get re-elected (he lost).

The agreement includes a new voting map based on the 2010 Census that will take effect next year. The map divides the college system into districts each represented by a single elected board member.

In addition, board elections will be moved from May during odd years to November during even years to maximize voter participation, court documents state.

As suburban as the college system is, it is fast becoming quite diverse. The diversity had previously been centered at its North Harris campus; however, the face of all of the campuses is much different, now.

About 30 percent are Hispanic, 16 percent black and 46 percent Anglo, the lawsuit said.

I’m looking forward to seeing the new map to see how these districts are mapped out.

Latinos To Appeal Ruling on County Map

The Chron reports that Latino activists who a local federal judge ruled against over Harris County’s redistricting have decided to move forward with an appeal.

Activists who believe a now-adopted Harris County redistricting plan illegally dilutes Latino votes in the only Latino-opportunity commissioner precinct are set to appeal a ruling made at the beginning of the month.

In her long-anticipated decision, issued Aug. 1, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore said the plaintiffs, led by Houston City Councilmen James Rodriguez and Ed Gonzalez, were unable to demonstrate that a map adopted two years ago by the Harris County Commissioners Court was unconstitutional or that race was the predominant factor in the design of the plan.

The notice of appeal was filed Thursday in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by plaintiffs’ attorney Chad Dunn, general counsel for the Texas Democratic Party.

The initial lawsuit, which went to trial in November, was filed in 2011 as the Commissioners Court prepared to adopt a map with precinct boundaries based on the 2010 census. After the ruling, the court adopted those boundaries at a meeting on Aug. 13.

I’m looking forward to reading that appeal.

Pasadena Moves Toward Mid-Decade Redistricting

Hearing about election jurisdictions attempting to change voting laws definitely is not a shocker and I expect it to occur more in cities and towns around Texas who have benefited from single member districts in the form of representation. The Supreme Court’s decimation of the Voting Rights Act has caused conservative elected officials to walk around with their chests out while they reverse course on decades of progress on equal rights for all.

Regarding Pasadena, I received this from State Senator Sylvia Garcia:

Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell submitted a mid-decade redistricting change to the Pasadena City Charter that alters the city council from an eight single-member district council to a hybrid system with two at large seats and six-single member district seats.  The change will significantly increase the population size of each council seat and depending on the map could drastically harm the ability of Latinos to elect their candidates of choice.  The Pasadena City Council approved the city charter amendment on a 5-4 vote despite overwhelming public opposition in a late evening city council hearing on August 20, 2013.

“This decision by the Mayor and the majority of the Council is exactly the type of change the Voting Rights Act was intended to prevent.  I am extremely disappointed that the Council approved this charter amendment despite the opposition by the citizen’s commission and the minority community,” stated Senator Sylvia Garcia.

With the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the City of Pasadena will no longer need to obtain the pre-clearance of the Department of Justice, despite the fact that a similar election change was denied approval in December of 2012.  The measure will likely be added to the November ballot for voter approval.

According to U.S. Department of Justice, since 1982 Texas has had the second highest number of Voting Rights Act Section 5 objections including at least 109 objections since 1982, 12 of which were for statewide voting changes.  Texas leads the nation in several categories of voting discrimination, including recent Section 5 violations and Section 2 challenges.

According to this article, the charter amendment would be a fifth one added to a list to be voted on in November. The people still get to decide, but it will take a real, concerted effort to educate voters on defeating this amendment.

What I have been saying for the longest time is that while the Voting Rights Act was created to protect voters from people like Pasadena’s mayor, we still have the ultimate responsibility to vote. In the case of Pasadena, elections matter even more.

BOR has more, including some demographic analysis.