The Sweep: What Democrats Don’t Get About Texas
Plus, ‘Walking Dead’ PACs and mail-in ballot snafus in the Texas primary.
Campaign Quick Hits
Quote of the Week: “With two-thirds of the new boundaries set, mapmakers are on pace to draw fewer than 40 seats — out of 435 — that are considered competitive based on the 2020 presidential election results.”—Reid Epstein and Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times.
Down Ballot Moves Up in the World: According to Axios, state secretary of state candidates in top six battleground states from 2020 “had brought in three times as much money as 2018 candidates at the same point in the election cycle.” Obviously, an increased number of donors in both parties now believe their opponents have the famous Stalin quote stitched on a throw pillow: “Those who cast the votes decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything.” Of course, the irony is that the Stalin quote is fake.
But here’s a funny quirk from their reporting: “Wisconsin’s even seen a surge of funds, despite the fact its secretary of state is not currently involved in election oversight.”
Walking Dead PACs: Ever wonder what happens to money sitting in a candidate’s PAC after the candidate dies? Ok, probably not. But it’s perfectly—and shockingly—legal for the PAC to continue or for his family to give all the money to a charity that happens to be run by a family member. And the truth is, the candidate doesn’t even have to die. Former federal candidates with money left in their campaign coffers can let it sit there indefinitely while former campaign staff and accountants continue to draw fees every month.Former candidates who join lobbying firms can donate money to the people they are lobbying from their defunct PAC. An individual like you or me can give only $2,900 to a federal candidate, but a PAC maintained by a former member-turned-lobbyist can give $5,000 to his former colleagues.
Sens. Michael Bennet and Elizabeth Warren have introduced the Zeroing Out Money for Buying Influence after Elections Act, aka the ZOMBIE Act, which would require politicians to close their campaign accounts within six months if they do not file to run in the next federal election or before they register as a lobbyist.
According to the press release, “unsuccessful candidates from the ten most expensive Senate races in 2020 still had over $35 million combined in their bank accounts three months after the election.” Wow.
Early Voting Starts in Texas for Some: Texans started voting in the state’s 2022 primary this week. But not as many as wanted to. Recent reporting by the Texas Tribune found that 40 percent of mail-in ballots were returned to voters in Harris County, which covers Houston, because they lacked the proper voter ID number.
A new law in Texas requires voters to include their driver’s license number, partial Social Security number, or another equivalent on their mail-in application and ballot. Most of the rejected ballots so far didn’t include any number at all (probably because the ID field is under the ballot envelope flap), but some did include a number and were still rejected. The trick there is that the number on their ballot has to match the number in the voter’s file. Do you remember which number you used on yours? Sitting here right now, I’m really not sure which one I used. If I had to fill out something on paper, I would have used my SSN because it’s easier for me to remember. But if I registered in person, then I would have handed the person my license.
Texas doesn’t have no-excuse absentee balloting, so mail-in ballots account for about 5 to 6 percent of the total vote. It also means that the people most affected are the elderly, who vote disproportionately Republican. In a general election with 8 million voters, we’re talking close to 500,000 votes that could be cast by mail with these new envelopes that have the ID requirement under the flap. And if the rejection rate stays as high as 30-40 percent, that could mean 150,000 votes that never get counted.
Remember the Alamo
Maybe I’m homesick or just craving some decent tortillas, but I figured it was time to explain what’s been going on in Texas.
Texas Independence Day is just two weeks away and so is the primary election in the state. Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Beto O’Rourke is struggling. While the answer may seem obvious from the outside, I think it bears some explanation.
I first started in Texas politics in 2002 and even then the “turn Texas blue” crowd had enormous fundraising success every time it told Democratic Charlie Brown donors to take another swing at that red state football.
The argument is built—at least in large part—on the “demographics are destiny” idea that Democrats would always win people of color and that those groups would continue to grow as a percentage of the voting population in Texas. So it was just a matter of time until there would be a sizable enough voting bloc to elect a statewide Democrat. In pitching donors, it also meant that the tipping point could always be just around the corner.