Saturday, June 22, 2019

Combined Primary Voting Locations

I had the opportunity to meet with the Harris County Clerk, Diana Trautman, and her staff to discuss combined primary voting locations. Her staff provided a demonstration of the proposed process which included a complete voting location setup with voting machines, check in tables, and the staff needed to conduct the demonstration. The demo was conducted very professionally. Great job to the entire office!

Current process
A voter enters a voting location, selects the line for their party, declares their intentions to vote in that primary, checks in, and votes. Each different process is operated by the members of that particular party.

Combined Primary Locations
The new process is operated by both parties, sitting side by side. There are no different lines for different parties. Everyone, just like in general voting, stands in the same line. Once they check in they will be asked to select which party they intend to vote in. (see pic below) This choice is presented to the voter on the iPad. The ballot is presented to the voter at the voting booth based upon the party choice.

Advantages of the new process
  1. It saves the county an estimated $285,000. Who can possibly be against that?
  2. The Voter's party preference is protected from disclosure to others in line. 
  3. Voters of the minority party in the voting location would not be intimidated by the longer lines of the majority party.
  4. In the current process the dominant party of a voting location may use the entire voting location sending the minority party somewhere else. Case in point here in Clear Lake a minority party location was established 5 miles away from their usual voting location. 
  5. It makes it easier to vote and to participate in the process
Disadvantages of the new process?
I asked this question of the Clerk and staff. They could not identify any disadvantages. I have heard the Republican Party is concerned about solving a problem that doesn't exist. This coming from the party that gave us Voter ID laws to address a problem that doesn't existed. The Chair of the Republican Party had to dig deep to find something to complain about and it was based on incorrect information:
“The Democrat County Clerk's proposed joint primary elections would empower the bureaucrats and, worse, let one party's workers run the other party's primary election that to selects its candidates, running the risk of disenfranchising, inconveniencing, and confusing voters."
Whats next?
The primaries are the responsibility of each party. The Clerk's office provides the equipment and support for the voting process. This new process must be approved by each party. Currently one party, the Democratic Party, is on board. The Republican Party is not. Hopefully that will change.

The bottom line
This process saves tax payers money. It's more secure. It makes it easier for people to participate in the process. Who can possibly against that?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Harris County Voting Centers

From The Houston Chronicle
Harris County Commissioners have voted in favor of creating County wide Voting Centers as proposed by County Clerk Diane Trautman. What does this mean to voters and what's the downside? I was fortunate to be invited to Trautman's office to discuss this as well as the proposed Combined Primary voting locations. (more on the primaries later)

Early Voting
Early voting will not change. If you vote early you simply vote at any early voting location in Harris County. Unlike in the past these locations will also be available for voting on Election Day.

Election Day
On Election Day voters can vote at ANY voting location in any precinct or at any early voting location. There are no longer "Precinct" voting locations. Instead there are "voting centers" located in your precinct. So on Election Day you simply vote where you used to vote in your precinct, or at any early voting location in Harris County, or at any voting center in any precinct in Harris County. Got it?

On Election Day in 2018 we helped about 100 voters who came to the Clear Lake Library, an early voting location, find their precinct voting location. Now those individuals would simply vote there on Election Day. All the early voting locations in Harris County will be available on Election Day.

Finding a place to vote
On Election Day you can access the County Clerks website, enter an address, and it will display the 5 nearest voting centers along with an indication of how heavy the traffic is at that location. (Red, Yellow, Green lights) So a voter could vote close to their work, or school, or anywhere in the County.

The Downside
So voting centers might sound too good to be true. What's the catch? For voters there is no catch. It's easier. It's just plain easier to vote.

For candidates and their consultants who pour over the election results as they come in an attempt to predict the outcome based upon precinct voting, it's not going to be that easy. Since there are no "precinct voting locations" that analysis will not be able to be performed since someone could vote in a different voting center in a different precinct. Candidates locked in a close election may have to wait till all the locations have been counted.

The bottom line
The use of voting centers was not to help the consultants predict when to pop the champagne. They were created to help the voter voter. And it will.

Great job Harris County Clerk and staff!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Dallas Police vs open carry of assault weapons

Photo by Tom Fox of The Dallas Morning News
Dallas citizens and police were lucky. 

In Texas Governor Abbott signed a bill to allow open carry which includes carrying loaded assault rifles like the Dallas shooter did this past week. Luckily no one was injured besides the shooter. Abbott and the Republican Party believes dressing up in military outfits, wearing bullet proof vests, and holding loaded assault weapons with large capacity clips in public is necessary and is a right of all gun nuts across Texas. This is legal in Texas. 

So it shouldn't be so shocking to anyone that a person like this can simply walk up to the building and start shooting. In 2016 Five officers were killed, and nine others and two civilians were injured during a shoot out at a Black Lives Matter protest. During this event people were carrying assault weapons which confused those who were providing security for the event. So how does any of this protect our Police Officers?

Short answer. It doesn't. What kind of idiot thinks carrying loaded assault type of weapons in public, dressed up like GI-Joe is necessary? How do we determine if this person is a law abiding gun nut and not a domestic terrorist? This is insanity. Law enforcement across the state was against this bill yet Abbott and company passed it anyway.

Unfortunately the police across Texas continue to vote for them.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Like father like son. Anthony Dolcefino

Wayne Dolcefino was an investigative reporter (sic) for KTRK-TV. He had a boner for Sylvester Turner back in 1995 when Turner first ran for Mayor. Dolcefino was eventually sued and lost for a story about insurance fraud and a jury awarded $5.5 Million. 

On Father's Day 24 years later his son, Anthony, took up his fathers crusade running for City Council District C on his Facebook page:

Dolcefino should be running on what he could do for the district and not how he could rekindle a 20 year old allegation and disrupting Houston City Council. I would bet Anthony is a trump supporter. We do not need a trump asshole representing the people of District C, although that is for the voters in District C to decide.

What the hell is going on in Houston to attract Trump like candidates? Tony Buzbee, Ryan Lee, and now Wayne Dolcefino Part II? WTF?

Monday, June 10, 2019

Spending Campaign Cash: Stan and Gail Stanart

In the words of Hank Hill: That boy ain't right.

Stan Stanart was defeated by Diane Trautman in the Blue Wave of November of 2018. Stanart had a problem with doing his job, running the elections, as Harris County Clerk. He also had a problem with his campaign spending.

Stanart's wife, Gail, was his treasurer. She was also a candidate for Texas House District 126 in the Republican primary. She lost in March of 2018. She loaned her campaign $20,000 and used her campaign donations to repay a portion of it. That isn't unusual.

After Stanart lost to Trautman Stan used his campaign cash to repay his own loan of $20,000. That
too isn't unusual but on December 27, 2018 he donated $17,795.38 to his wife's now defunct campaign which she used to repay the balance of her $20,000 loan. This payment was made 2 months after the 2018 mid term elections and a full 9 months after his wife lost in the primary. Instead of using that $17,795.38 he received from his supporters to try to win, he held onto the money in order to pay a loan that would have benefited himself.

It looks illegal. It smells illegal but it may not be illegal. Texas has lenient laws concerning campaign donations and loans. This donation/loan payment to himself seems pretty strange. He basically used her defunct campaign to launder his campaign donations in order to repay his wife's loan which probably went back into his/their checking account.

Stanart couldn't keep his unused donations but he could donate to his wife's non-existent campaign and pay off her loan. It's as if he took $17,795.38 from his donors. And that is illegal.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Tony Buzbee dumped by the Fire Fighters Union

That must have hurt.

After Buzbee sucked up to the Fire Fighters Union for months for his run for Mayor, the Union decided to endorse City Councilman Dwight Boykins only a day after he entered the race. Both are courting the Union by claiming they would fund their 25% increase in pay but both are not able to pay for it. Boykins attempted to call for a increase of $25/month on garbage collection which failed. Buzbee has no stated plans. Boykins conceded to the fact that there needs to be a revenue increase to avoid layoffs:
“I believe this solution is a fiscally responsible option, and it’s only an option, that would eliminate the need to lay off city employees,” Boykins said during the Council meeting.
Unlike Buzbee Boykins has qualifications to be Mayor. He is not politically ignorant. Hopefully that is why the Union endorsed Boykins over Buzbee. Buzbee fired back claiming he was campaigning on city property courting the Fire Fighters vote:

I've got a problem with the Union on this issue. I believe they are not being honest about how to fund for this increase in pay, one they deserve. Boykins, at the very least, understands that funding issue. Buzbee on the other hand might want to check on the laws concerning campaigning on city property and during office hours before visiting Police Stations.

Monday, June 03, 2019

TX Congressman Pete Olson: Gun silencers should be legal

Leave it to Pete Olson and Brian Babin to support the Virginia Beach shooter.

Texas Congressmen Pete Olson CD22 and Brian Babin CD36 cosponsored House Bill 155 which would make buying a silencer as easy as buying a gun, which is pretty easy in the USA. The bill is called the "Hearing Protection Act" and would allow easy access to a silencer like the one the Virginia Beach shooter used to kill 12 Americans. Olson and Babin believe it is important to protect the victims hearing as they are shot to death.

Babin is in a 70/30 district and will easily win reelection but Pete Olson won in 2018 by only 3 points and the district is now a target for the Democratic Party. Easy access to a gun silencer is about as stupid as nominating Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize which both had sponsored. Currently the law allows silencers to be purchased but there are specific requirements and applications that must be met.

Making  it easier is not in the best interests of the vast majority of Americans.

Let us prey for Donald Trump

The christians who have forgiven Trump for having multiple affairs with a porn star and playboy bunny, who put children in cages, separated families, mock the disabled, acting like an 8 year old, has temper tantrums, lies to them, and violates almost every commandment, has called for a day of prayer for him. So, lets prey.

Oh Lord  Let us prey.
Let us prey on the poor for they cannot afford to fight.
Let us prey on the sick for they cannot afford insurance.
Let us prey on the Hispanics for they will not vote.
Let us prey on the Blacks for their lives do not matter.
Let us prey on the disabled for they are weak.
Let us prey on the Muslims for they are now targets of hate
Let us prey on the Immigrants for they do not belong here.
Let us prey on the police as we flood the streets with guns.
And oh Lord
Let us prey on his supporters for they are too ignorant to know we are preying on them too.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dear NASA, SpaceX blew up.

I'm surprised there hasn't been more reporting on this.

During a static test of SpaceX Crewed Vehicle, Dragon, the vehicle exploded. A leaked video and commentary was posted on the web before SpaceX could stop it. The media referred to the explosion as an "anomaly". You can watch the video below.

This was suppose to have tested the abort system on the crewed vehicle. SpaceX was scheduled to put humans into this vehicle for their first manned trip to the Space Station in late 2019. I can only hope the root cause of this "anomaly" will be found, corrected, and re-tested before any human being puts a foot into it. They have successfully launched the crewed vehicle without a crew and docked with the Space Station earlier in the year.

This is not the first vehicle that blew up on the pad for SpaceX. In 2016 an unmanned vehicle was destroyed along with the payload. In 2015 they had another "anomaly" which destroyed the payload and vehicle. Payloads can be replaced. Humans cannot. This isn't pushing the envelope technology. Escape systems were developed over 50 years ago. "Anomalies" like this should concern everyone. Especially the crew.

BTW. NASA successfully tested the Launch Abort System for the Orion Crewed Vehicle being developed by Lockheed back in 2010. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Slap down of Houston Police Union President, Joe Gamaldi

In the words of Hank Hill, that boy ain't right.

Houston Police Union President, Joe Gamaldi, is sowing discontent between the Houston Police Department and the Harris County District Attorney's office. (More about that later) It's probably because he is trying to divert attention away from his ill advised press conference after the botched raid resulting in 4 Police Officers being shot. Here's the story from Click 2 Houston:

After the botched raid, while our officers were recovering in the hospital, Gamaldi went on a tirade blaming activists. Here is what he said:
“if you’re the ones that are out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy, just know we’ve all got your number now, we’re going to be keeping track of all of y’all, and we’re going to make sure that we hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers. We’ve had enough, folks. We’re out there doing our jobs every day, putting our lives on the line for our families.”
Police Chief Acevedo, in an email, clarified and denounced Gamaldi's statements:
 I made it clear that President Gamaldi represents the HPOU and that I, as the Chief of Police, along with my executive team, run the Houston Police Department.  I also stated that activists should not be painted with a broad brush nor should the Houston Police Department be painted with a broad brush due to the comments of one person.  Rather, the Houston Police Department should be judged by the body of its work as performed by its leaders, officers and support staff.  The 5200 professionals that make up the Houston Police Department work tirelessly to build relationships with the community, including our activist community.  The Houston Police Department is not “keeping track” or “targeting” activists.
The fallout from the botched raid is going to be felt for a long time. Cases have been dismissed due to the actions of the Police Officer responsible for the botched raid. Indictments are sure to follow. Gamaldi ought to do everyone a favor, let our HPD do their jobs, and shut the hell up for a while.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Donating Campaign Cash: Tony Buzbee playing both sides

There is nothing worse than someone who attempts to play both sides. Case in point, Tony Buzbee, Republican running for the Mayor of Houston.

Since 2011 Buzbee has donated $905,601 to various candidates. $520,423 to Republicans, $268,678 to Democrats, $17,100 to unknown candidates, and $100,000 to Texans for Insurance Reform. Texans for Insurance Reform is described as
"The sole mission of Texans for Insurance Reform PAC is to stand with and support candidates for the Texas Legislature.  Candidates who aren't afraid to stand up to the insurance industry....."
The details of the donations are significant. On the Republican side Buzbee donated $308,000 to Greg Abbott and $79,000 to Rick Perry, and $2000 to the Galveston County Republican Party. He gave nothing to the Harris County Republican Party. He donated about $142,492 to a number of judicial candidates.

On the Democratic side Buzbee helped the party wipe out the Republican judges in Harris County with his $90,000 donation to the Harris County Democratic Party not including the $20,000 to their Federal PAC in 2018. He also donated $176,178 to Democratic Judicial Candidates. Every one of them won.

Tony Buzbee used to be a Democrat. He was the Chair of the Galveston County Party and a Democratic candidate for House District 23. Then he struck it rich and started to be a player. As I have said before:
In 2016 Buzbee gave the Trump Victory Fund $250,000. He held a fundraiser for Trump at his home in River Oaks. He donated $35,000 to Trump's PAC and $165,000 to the RNC. He then donated $500,000 to Trump's inauguration
He is player, playing both sides, but Democrats know better. Maybe the Republican Judges that are without a job understand this also.