1. Primary Day is Tuesday, March 1
Tuesday is Election Day for the Republican and Democratic primaries for congressional, statewide, and local offices. All the hours you put into studying sample ballots, reading candidate bios, and watching TikTok videos of topless Railroad Commission candidates have come to a climax, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, it is in the hands of the voters now.
Many November voters, forced to choose among depressing alternatives, wish “somebody” would do “something” about the poor choices available. Well, now’s your chance. Not only can you help set the ballot for November by voting in the primaries, but you can also have an outsized influence on those selections. That’s because voter turnout in Texas primaries is dramatically low this year.
So, wo/man up and get to your polling place if you have not already voted!
2. Racing for the Runoff
Every candidate would like to win his or her primary outright, and some will. For many, though, that does not seem in the cards. So, Plan B is to finish in the top two on Tuesday, getting to a runoff election held in May. And while the top vote-getter has a statistical advantage going into a runoff, almost anything can happen.
Two polls, one by the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin and the other by the Polling Center at UT-Tyler, suggest that Greg Abbott, Beto O’Rourke and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick will win their primaries without facing runoffs. But the following races are currently too close to call:
GOP Attorney General. This may be the most interesting race this go-‘round, with four candidates with proven fundraising and electoral bases. Incumbent Ken Paxton has 39% of likely voters and $4.7 million cash on hand; is that enough to stay out of a runoff? And with whom? Challenger George P. Bush is the choice of 25% of likely voters and has $1.2 million to spend, but former SCOTEX Justice Eva Guzman has outraised him the last two reporting periods. She has 13% of likely voters and about half a million dollars cash on hand. Former congressman Louie Gohmert brings other credentials to the table; he’s trailing but is beloved by elements of the GOP base. Will they show up to drag him over the finish line?
Democratic Attorney General. The Conventional Wisdom is that the Attorney General’s race is the Democrats’ best chance to win a statewide election this fall. So there’s a lively contest for the nomination. No one has broken out in the available polling – civil rights attorney Rochelle Garza is at 22%, followed by former Galveston mayor Joe Jaworski (13%) and civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt (9%) – so a runoff seems almost certain. None of them has more than $100,000 cash on hand as they head into the final weekend.
Democratic Lieutenant Governor. Four years ago, accountant Mike Collier ran a workmanlike campaign against Dan Patrick and came within five points of upsetting him. This time he must deal with two primary opponents if he wants another shot at Patrick. He has 21% support in the polls, with State Rep. Michelle Beckley (18%) and Democratic Party vice chair Carla Brailey (15%) right behind. But going into this weekend, Collier has $120,000 cash on hand, almost five times his closest challenger.
GOP Agriculture Commissioner. This race interests me out of sheer morbid curiosity. Despite the importance of agriculture to the state economy, Texans have never put a premium on genius in their selections. Former Ag Commissioner Reagan Brown (1977-1982) famously stuck his hand in a fire ant hill, with predictably hilarious results. Incumbent Sid Miller continues the doofus tradition, but with a soupçon of corruption and mismanagement to boot. That’s why he’s in an unexpectedly lively contest against six-term State Rep. James White. It’s possible neither of them will win outright – Miller is at 32% and White at 14% -- and they are relatively matched in cash on hand. The winner of the primary will face the victor of the Democratic race between rancher Ed Ireson and lawyer Susan Hays.
3. The Texas GOP’s Just-in-Time, Made-to-Order Absentee Ballot Debacle
Thousands of voters around Texas are getting rejected when they apply for an absentee ballot, or Ballot By Mail (BBM), as they are now called. A new law, passed last summer with the noble intention of eliminating the scourge of voter fraud under which Texas democracy has withered over the last couple decades, requires that an applicant for a BBM provide his or her Texas Driver’s License Number or the last four digits of their Social Security Number (SSN) on the new and improved form.
Here’s the first catch: you must notice this new requirement and successfully include one of the numbers on your application. And, by the way, it is now a crime for any elections official to tell you that. So we all hope your figure it out for yourselves, losers.
Here’s the second catch: if your voter registration record contains only your DL number and you submit your SSN digits, your application is rejected. And vice versa. So far, so bad.
These are essentially user errors, and they probably account for some of the appallingly high BBM rejection rates we’re seeing around the state. About 30% of BBM applications in the socialist hellhole of Harris County are being rejected, and in God-fearing, all-American Lubbock County the rejection rate is (checks notes) also 30%. Clearly, a democracy that wants to encourage voting should not trifle itself with such obstacles. But Texas is not such a democracy, and rarely has been.
Here’s the third catch, though: if, at the time you originally registered to vote – say, anytime during the previous century – you were not required to give either your DL or your SSN numbers, you are now, as the proverb says, shit out of luck. Your voter registration record has neither of the numbers the new law says your application must match with, and so there is no way your application for a BBM can qualify. You must re-register to vote, this time providing the additional information, and then submit a new BBM application that matches that information.
The voter registration deadline was January 31, so if you’ve just found this out, you will not be able to vote by mail in this election. You can still vote in person, though – unless they think up something else to keep you from exercising your franchise.