Elections

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Travis County Commissioners Court approved an $8 million contract for a slate of new voting machines that local officials have said are more secure and create a paper trail.

During a meeting Tuesday with commissioners, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said voters have been asking for a paper record of their votes for years.

“We are finally going to get this to them,” she said.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

An election in Virginia was decided this morning by luck. Luck of the draw, specifically. The race between Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds for the Virginia House of Delegates was tied after a recount. So, today the State Board of Elections put their names in a bowl and pulled out the name of the winner: incumbent Yancey.

The news around this unorthodox way to pick an elected official got the KUT Newsroom wondering: What would happen if there were a tie in Texas?

Spc. Carlynn Knaak/Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

From Texas Standard.

If you were of news-consuming age 17 years ago, when then-Vice President Al Gore and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush ran for president, you also remember the controversy over counting votes in Florida, and how the most contentious element of that election was a tiny piece of paper called a chad. Republican and Democratic election lawyers argued over which paper ballots in Florida should, and should not be counted, based on “hanging chads” and “pregnant chads” that made the voters intention unclear.

Michael Stravato/Texas Tribune

Polls across Texas are now closed in the 2014 Democratic and Republican primary runoff elections. Since the start of early voting May 19, voters have selected six candidates that will run in November's general election. 

Republican runoff voters cast ballots in four contests:

  • The bitter battle for Lieutenant Governor nominee, pitting incumbent David Dewhurst against State Sen. Dan Patrick. Patrick has won the nomination.
  • The Attorney General battle between State Rep. Dan Branch and State Sen. Ken Paxton. Paxton has won the nomination.
  • The Agriculture Commissioner contest between former state Reps. Tommy Merritt and Sid Miller. Miller has won the nomination.
  • The Railroad Commissioner runoff between former state Rep. Wayne Christian and oil and gas consultant Ryan Sitton. Sitton has won the nomination.

On the Democratic side, two contests:

  • The nominee for U.S. Senate, between establishment favorite David Alameel and outsider Kesha Rogers. Alameel has won the nomination.
  • The Agriculture Commissioner runoff between entertainer Kinky Friedman and unknown Jim Hogan. Hogan has won the nomination.

Nathan Bernier / KUT

Local municipal and bond elections were held Saturday in many Central Texas communities. Voters approved five out of six Central Texas school school district bond propositions.  Here are some results from those elections, separated by municipality:

Cedar Park:

  • Council member Lowell Moore won his sixth term Saturday with 60 percent of the vote of Dr. Mo Jahadi. Jahadi received 39 percent of the vote.
  • Voters also elected former state representative Corbin van Arsdale to the city council. He ran unopposed.

Eanes:

KUT News

Update: It's worth noting that ballots accepted from 7 to 9 p.m. will be provisional ballots. A press release from Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has more: 

Pursuant to Texas election laws, ballots cast by individuals who arrive at a polling place after 7 p.m. but before the polls close, will be voted as provisional ballots.  Ballots cast provisionally are reviewed by a ballot board and will be accepted as long as the voter is otherwise qualified.  Votes casts by eligible voters during extended hours will be counted and included in the final tally, however, results from these ballots will not be included in this evening’s unofficial vote totals. 

“We appreciate the dedication and stamina of our election workers who will be working long into the night.” said DeBeauvoir.  “Elections wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of these steadfast and faithful citizens who conduct elections under extraordinary circumstances.” DeBeauvoir added.

Some observers are already discussing what effect those ballots could make – especially in one Travis County race. Jim Henson, director of UT-Austin's Texas Politics project, tweets "That ringing sound you hear? Calls from[Andy] Brown, [Sarah] Eckhardt to election lawyers." 

Update (2:40 p.m.): A judge has granted a request to keep Travis County polling places open an extra two hours tonight - until 9 p.m. - after icy weather caused voting officials to delay opening polls until 11am this morning.

Bob Daemmrich, flickr.com/thetexastribune

After what are shaping up to be easy primary wins in March for the leading gubernatorial candidates, Republican Greg Abbott starts the general election race for governor with an 11-point lead over Democrat Wendy Davis, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Photo by KUT News

Starting today, you can vote early in this year's party primaries, which will determine which candidates goes on the general election in November. The actual Election Day is March 4.

A state law that went into effect last year requires Texans to have a form of valid photo identification to cast a ballot. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir hopes to alleviate any kind of worries that voters may have about the requirement.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Austin is just over a month away from March primaries – and Monday, Feb. 3 is the final day to register to vote.

Some Texans will also need to get their IDs in order. Following a 2013 Supreme Court decision, a state issued drivers license or one of several approved documents is required to cast a ballot at Texas polling stations. (See more information on acceptable documents.)

Tax Assessor/Collector Bruce Elfant says the new law could affect voters in Travis County.

flickr.com/dawilson

A doctor who wants to determine a patient's health will gather all kinds of data - temperature, blood pressure, pulse, weight, blood test results, and the like - to come up with an overall picture of how the patient is doing.

The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas at Austin kind of did the same thing to determine the civic health of Texas. Bad news: this patient's not in good shape.

whiteafrican via flickr

Update: Early voting ends today for the AISD bond election. 

Original post: Early voting starts today for the Austin Independent School District bond election.

Voters will make a decision on a $892 million bond for AISD. The bond is split into four parts and would go towards things such relieving overcrowded schoolsincreasing security, technology upgrades and more. You can view a sample ballot provided by the Travis County Clerk's Office listing each proposition.

KUT News

Update: Tomorrow is the last day to register to vote in the May election.

If you’ve moved since the last time you voted – you’ll have to register again. In Travis County, you can register in person at one of tax office locations, mail in an application – which are available at post offices and libraries, or update your information online.

President Obama has established a new bipartisan commission on election administration, something he promised to do in his Feb. 12 State of the Union address. He signed an executive order Thursday making it official.

The nation has twice elected an African-American president.

Black voters have been turning out for general elections in rates that for the first time in U.S. history rival those of whites.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

While Austin voters will face 18 city propositions this election, two dueling propositions are getting the most attention: Prop 3 and Prop 4. Both propositions would fundamentally alter Austin’s form of city council representation and elections. Here’s a closer look at Prop 3 and Prop 4, which would bring different forms of geographic representation to the Austin City Council.

What is Prop 3?

Here’s the yes/no question voters will be asked to decide upon:

Shall the city charter be amended to provide for the election of council members from 10 geographical single-member districts, with the mayor to be elected from the city at large, and to provide for an independent citizens redistricting commission?

Currently, all seven members of the Austin City Council (including the mayor) are elected at-large, meaning they represent the entire city and not just specific geographic parts of it. Prop 3 would change this by dividing the city into 10 separate geographic districts, which council members would represent. (Only the mayor would continue to run citywide.) A citizens commission would be tasked with drawing the district lines and have the final say on those boundaries. Prop 3 was put on the ballot by a citizen petition drive.

Good morning. Austin’s in for another warm, breezy and partly cloudy afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on:

The Austin school board voted 7-2 to extend an employment contract with Dr. Meria Carstarphen, the superintendent who oversees the education of more than 86,000 Austin children in the largest school district in Central Texas. 

The city of Miami claims to have taken almost half of its homeless population off the streets in the last 10 years. In Austin, where homeless services are stretched to the limit, the City Council is looking for new solutions. Last night, council members met with officials from Miami. The challenges of one local homeless family that is struggling on the streets show how complex the problem can be.

Proposition 5 would amend the city charter to allow council members to directly hire their own staff instead of having the city manager make those appointments. … Prop 6 would allow the City Council, instead of the city manager, to hire the city attorney, which is already standard practice in many large cities.

flickr.com/utcomm

With barely half of eligible 18 to 29 year-olds voting in 2008, it seems many young citizens look at the political process and ask, “Why bother?”

KUT News has begun a reporting and outreach series this topic. It's part of a broader initiative, "Why Bother? Engaging Texans In Democracy Today," in partnership with the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life and KLRU-TV, Austin PBS.

Our first forum, “Why Bother? Voices of a New Generation,” is airing tonight on on KUT 90.5 and on KLRU, both at 8 p.m. 

The series and our taping on Tuesday has already inspired some conversation.

Mitt Romney may have given his campaign something of a reset with his performance in the first debate against President Obama.

He appeared more comfortable on stage than the incumbent, and was able at least to lay the groundwork for a message of bipartisanship that could appeal to remaining undecided voters.

Gage Skidmore / Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Paul Sadler held the first of two planned debates in their battle to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate last night.

The debate, held in Dallas at WFAA, touched on healthcare, immigration, federal spending, foreign policy and taxes as the candidates repeatedly tried to out-lawyer one another. 

Cruz repeated his assertion that he would work to repeal the Affordable Care Act if elected, stating that the law puts the United States on a path toward socialized medicine. He stated that socialized medicine leads to low quality, inefficient medical care. Sadler countered that Cruz’s position would put Texans at risk by allowing insurance companies to deny or limit insurance coverage based on preexisting conditions, and would leave many young people currently on their parents’ insurance plans without coverage.  

Regarding immigration, Sadler stated that he supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  Cruz opposes such a pathway and wants to put an end to illegal immigration. 

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Travis County resident Michael Moore isn’t dead. And he doesn’t know why he has to prove it to be able to vote.

Moore received one of about 82,000 letters recently mailed out by elections officials asking recipients to verify their voter status and prove they are not deceased, the result of a little-known House bill passed last year by the Legislature.

House Bill 174, sponsored by state Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton, requires the Texas secretary of state’s office to access the Social Security Administration’s death master file to check for deceased or possibly deceased registered voters and purge them from voter rolls.

Laura Rice, KUT News

Austin economist Jon Hockenyos says bringing a medical school and teaching hospital to Austin could add about 15,000 permanent jobs to the community.

Hockenyos says nearly 7,000 of those jobs would be directly connected with the medical facility and research. The other 8,000 or so would be indirectly created.

“The impact of this facility and the operation of this entire complex is going to create ripple effects through the whole community and so we’ll raise the overall level of economic activity here and that will in turn create opportunities in restaurants and dry cleaners and for people supplying things to the medical complex – all those different, related, ancillary activities will then, in turn, have to hire workers,” Hockenyos says.

flickr.com/stuseeger

Hays County is growing so fast that it has to add more voting locations for the November election. “Because the 2010 Census showed a large increase in populations (about 60,000 people more) we are required by state law to have our main early voting site plus one site in each of our Commissioner Precincts,” Hays County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan said in a statement. 

The voting sites also have to remain open for the entire two weeks of early voting, in addition to Election Day.

In the last presidential election, Hays County had only one main voting site.

Ambulance photo Daniel Reese for KUT News; all other photos credit KUT News.

Update: The city has  finalized the fall 2012 ballot since this post was originally written. For a look at the City of Austin's ballot propositions, read "The 18 Propositions Before Austin Voters This November." 

Original post: While a potential 10-district scenario for electing Austin City Council members – and the council’s controversial decision to put a competing “hybrid” plan on the same ballot – may be getting the most attention when it comes to November’s city charter election, those aren’t the only items Austin voters will face.

Not by a long shot.

By KUT News’ estimation, 11 items are in the bag already, set to be put before Austin voters. And two other potential changes to the city charter – Austin’s governing document – are still a distinct possibility.

Some are small housekeeping measures. Others could impact how the city runs for decades to come. But as a charter election can only be held once every two years, when voters head to the polls  they’ll face a dozen or so proposed charter changes.  Here, we run them all down.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

The Austin City Council is focusing on the November election in a work session today.

The council is set to consider putting another option on the ballot for voters who want council members to be elected from geographic districts. The so-called “8-2-1” plan would allow for eight council members from geographic districts. The mayor and two additional council members would be elected at-large.

If approved, the option would be one of two on the November ballot. Under the competing “10-1” plan, which was placed on the ballot by petiotion, only the mayor would be elected at-large. Currently, all council members are elected at-large.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The message from Texas runoff voters? Out with incumbents.

Though the biggest election news on Tuesday night was former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz’s defeat of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Republican race for U.S. Senate, there was a jaw-dropping ousting of elected officials up and down the ballot — particularly in the Texas House. From emergency room doctor and political outsider Donna Campbell’s win over state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, to Supreme Court Justice David Medina's upset at the hands of former district court judge John Devine, to the commanding defeats of state Reps. Sid MillerChuck Hopson and Jim Landtroop, here’s a look at how the votes fell in key races across the state.

Texas Senate

In SD-25, Campbell easily upset Wentworth, R-San Antonio, ending his 20-year career in the Texas Senate. 

KUT News

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, here’s results for statewide and area races in last night’s Democratic and Republican primaries:

U.S. Senate – Republican Primary

Ted Cruz: 628,336             56.80%

David Dewhurst: 477,888              43.19%

U.S. Senate – Democratic Primary

Paul Sadler: 148,712        63.09%

Grady Yarbrough: 86,996              36.90%

flickr.com/kcivey

As of 10:10 p.m., here’s the results for tonight’s statewide races and down ballot races affecting Central Texans. 

U.S. Senate – Republican Primary

Ted Cruz: 547,334             56.00%

David Dewhurst: 429,924              43.99%

U.S. Senate – Democratic Primary

Paul Sadler: 127,971                    62.37%

Grady Yarbrough: 77,177              37.62%

U.S. Representative, District 25– Republican Primary

Wes Riddle: 16,627          42.33%

Roger Williams: 22,649  57.66%

flickr.com/kcivey

Early voting numbers are coming in for today’s party primary runoffs.

In the much-watched U.S. Senate Republican runoff between Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst, Cruz is currently edging out Dewhurst.

In the District 25 State Senate Republican primary, Donna Campbell is routing incumbent Jeff Wentworth in early voting.                

Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

Austin’s Electric Utility Commission voted last night to recommend the City Council put a measure on the November ballot that would allow voters to choose whether to have Austin Energy governed by an independent board, rather than the council.

Phillip Schmandt is the chair for the Electric Utility Commission. He says the change was recommended back in 1996 and is back in the spotlight since the recent vote to increase Austin Energy rates.

Schmandt says many people believe the time and energy required to run Austin Energy is just too much for city council. He also says another advantage of having a five-person board is that representation could include people who live outside of the city limits.

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