This Week in Texas: August 31, 2010

Posted August 31, 2010 in The Mignon Memo

With early voting set to begin in 47 days and the general election only 63 days away, Harris County officials are hard at work after a fire last Friday destroyed nearly all Harris County’s electronic voting machines. The Harris County Commissioners Court approved County Clerk Beverly Kaufman’s emergency plan Monday to spend $13.6 million to buy 2,325 electronic voting machines and supporting equipment. Kaufman’s plan also includes 1.4 million paper ballots, which will be distributed to polling stations as a backup in case a shortage of machines leads to long lines. Why is this fire a big deal? Harris County, with 1.9 million registered voters, accounts for nearly 15 percent of the state’s electorate. It is also home to the Democrat candidate for governor, Bill White. Concerns over voter participation let sixteen Democratic lawmakers from Harris County to send a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling on the Department of Justice to assist and oversee the new plans for conducting the upcoming elections in Harris County.

Speaking of the gubernatorial race, the five largest newspapers in Texas announced plans to host a gubernatorial debate on Oct. 19th at 7:00pm in KLRU’s studio in Austin. All candidates who register 10 percent or better in a preference poll to be conducted by the newspapers in mid-September will be invited. Both Gov. Rick Perry and former Houston Mayor Bill White will receive invitations to attend. Libertarian Katherine Glass will have to improve in the polls in order to secure an invitation. Perry has repeatedly said he won’t debate White until White releases tax returns from the 1990s.

Rep. David Swinford (R-Dumas) announced that he is retiring, effective today. Last year, Swinford announced that he would not run for another term as representative of House District 87. Republican Four Price and Democrat Abel Bosquez are on the general election ballot for November 2. Due to the timing, Governor Rick Perry announced that he will not call a special election for the seat. The seat will remain vacant until the winner of the general election contest is sworn in on January 11, 2011.