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Penny for Your Vote

Local mail ballots got some run on the Channel 13 news last night. Commentary was the first to talk about the postage costs that now are kind of causing a debate of sorts. I said this the other day:

My Mom still gets around the house but doesn’t drive these days. My Dad does drive but has undergone eye surgery recently so he hung up the car keys for the time being. This past Friday my Mom called to let me know that their mail ballots had arrived and on the return envelope it said you had to plunk down a 69 cent stamp instead of a Forever stamp. Who in the heck has a 69 cent stamp laying around? She said she didn’t like the idea of slapping on two Forevers on the envelope. I don’t blame her. Since I was planning to visit the next day to bring them some grub, I told them I would stop by the post office and buy a couple of 69ers out of the postage gizmo in the lobby.

I rarely handle mail ballots, but this is the first time I have ever seen the “69 cent postage due” printed on the return envelope. I am thinking that some older voters might miss the 69 cent notice and will just stick a Forever on the envelope. I hope they don’t get their ballots returned or lost.

Well, it turns out the USPS says the cost is actually 70 cents and the word is they are holding a tray or two of ballots over at the post office until they are assured of payment. Some ballots probably have the 69 cents, some the Forevers, and some probably don’t have any postage. Hey, times are tough at the post office these days.

Look, this is the first time the county ever printed on the return ballot envelope “69 cent postage due.” In the past they probably had to eat the difference of all the envelopes with the Forever stamps. But with more and more folks voting by mail and let’s say if 82,000 stick on a Forever, then that is $17,220 the county has to cough up. I get that but that is not a discussion we ought to be having less than four weeks before the election. Can we talk later and in the meantime let’s go over to Franklin Street and pick up our mail.

Well, while most of us were watching the Texans last night, Channel 13 ran a news story on the confusion, mix-up, screw-up, or whatever. Here is the story:

Hundreds of mail-in ballots that are being mistakenly held for days at a downtown post office will now be delivered to the Harris County Clerks Office.

The downtown post office was holding the ballots for insufficient postage, something they are not supposed to do.

“We found a glitch. And we’re going to expose this,” said Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis.

Lewis found out about the ballots and offered to pay for the postage shortage. Almost all the ballots were short on postage by just pennies.

“These votes whether Republican or Democrat, I don’t know, but they need to be counted,” said Lewis.

A postal worker told Eyewitness News the shortage was about $57. The worker said for that price, Lewis could take the ballots, put the stamp on himself and return them to the post office. That’s against policy and illegal.

“We could have walked out of here with those ballots. But we did not,” said Lewis.

That is totally irresponsible on their part,” said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart.

Eyewitness News learned the county clerk’s office has an account with the Post Master, so any shortage should be billed to his office. Post office workers said they knew nothing about an account. They were ready to send the ballots back to the voters.

“By procedure and by law, deliver the ballots regardless of the postage on those ballots,” said Stanart.

Eyewitness News learned Stanart made his own mistake. The return ballot states the postage is 69 cents. But it should have been 70 cents. Some ballots were being held for just a penny. Stanart said he didn’t know about the change in postage.

“I personally didn’t. I would have to talk to my office if they do know that,” said Stanart.

Dionne Montague, a USPS spokeswoman, released the following statement to Eyewitness News:

“We have policies in place to ensure absentee balloting material, received in the mail, is handled promptly. We do not delay delivering ballot materials even when they are received with insufficient funds or no postage. Our policy is to attempt to collect the postage due from the election office at the time of delivery or at a later date. This policy will be rein forced with all of our employees.”

Stanart said the problem has been worked out, and the ballots will be soon delivered to his office.

I sure hope so. I wonder if you can ask a Forever stamp for a Voter ID.

Of the four teams remaining in the MLB Playoffs, name the player with the highest batting average of the past season?

Today the Chron E-Board endorsed in more state house races – 4 GOPers, 4 Dems, and 1 they skipped. Check it out here: http://www.chron.com/opinion/recommendations/article/State-House-part-2-5812628.php.

J.J. Watt certainly knows how to live up to the hype. He certainly owns this town.

Buster Posey of course of the Giants leads all playoff players with a .311 season batting average.

The ‘Stros won’t be bringing back pitcher Matt Albers next season. He was dinged up most of the season. He only pitched 10 innings and was paid $2.25 mil. The team also said adios to Jesus Guzman. He only got into 69 games, was paid $1.3 mil, and batted .188. Hitting Coach John Mallee is leaving so he can become Hitting Coach for the Cubbies. Mallee is credited with helping Jose Altuve win the MLB batting title. Mallee is from the Chicago area so you can’t blame him for wanting to be close to home and his family.

I put out this yesterday and it got some buzz:

In 2010, here in Harris County, 54,625 folks voted by mail. 24,231 went straight GOP and 11,448 went straight Dem. 31,101 voted for Governor Perry and 22,875 for Bill White.

In 2012, 75,177 voted by mail with 28,608 going straight GOP and 19,557 going Dem. 43,270 voted for Mitt Romney and 31,414 voting for the President.

As of yesterday here in Harris County, 80,641 mail ballot applications have been submitted. 36,910 of the applications have been generated by the Democratic Party or Democratic candidate campaigns and 34,381 by the GOP and GOP candidate campaigns.

Here are the new numbers:

As of yesterday (Oct. 8) here in Harris County, 82,129 mail ballot applications have been submitted. 37,250 of the applications have been generated by the Democratic Party or Democratic candidate campaigns and 35,230 by the GOP and GOP candidate campaigns.

Now what I didn’t say because I didn’t know until I checked was in 2012, the Harris County Clerk mailed out a little over 92,000 mail ballots and 76,000 were returned. That means 16,000 or so never made it back and didn’t get counted. I am figuring the Dems know this and are following up if you know what I mean. Dems are not going to let the mail ballots sit at home. Regardless, this looks like a pretty impressive effort. Just to approach the 2012 figure is A-Okay. Nice work! Keep following up!

B’More will host KC for the first two games in the ALCS. B’More last won the World Serious in 1983. Who did they beat?

The First Lady taped some radio ads for Team Davis. That’s a good move. AG Abbott has already injected The President into the race so The First Lady can only help – got it!

AG Abbott has $30 mil in the bank and he’s selling his campaign signs. Go figure! Here is what his campaign tweeted yesterday:

Texans for Abbott ‏@AbbottCampaign 7h7 hours ago
Get your Abbott for Governor yard sign today with a $14 contribution!

Here is the link if you want to score one:

http://store.gregabbott.com/accessories/offical-yard-sign.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=t.co&utm_campaign=20140930_gwa-d-yardsignpromotw930_twitter&utm_content=gwa.

Today the Chron E-Board endorsed in local state house races – 4 Dems and 3 GOPers. Here they are:

http://www.chron.com/opinion/recommendations/article/State-House-part-1-5810296.php.

It is too bad all news 92.1 FM didn’t work out. I guess the days of an all local news radio station in H-Town are history. Folks have a lot of choices to get their news these days and I guess when they are driving around they would rather hear talk radio, sports talk, Bluetooth audio, Sirius, CDs, NPR, or other FM tunes stations. Of course, if there ever is a breaking kick arse local news story that is deserving of live coverage, you aren’t going to hear about it on the radio.

In 1983, B’More won the World Series over the Phillies in five of course.

It looks like the ‘Stros/Rockets TV mess may be coming to a resolution in case anyone cares.

The only thing folks care about today is TNF at NRG this evening so take the afternoon off and get ready!

In 2010, here in Harris County, 54,625 folks voted by mail. 24,231 went straight GOP and 11,448 went straight Dem. 31,101 voted for Governor Perry and 22,875 for Bill White.

In 2012, 75,177 voted by mail with 28,608 going straight GOP and 19,557 going Dem. 43,270 voted for Mitt Romney and 31,414 voted for the President.

As of yesterday here in Harris County, 80,641 mail ballot applications have been submitted. 36,910 of the applications have been generated by the Democratic Party or Democratic candidate campaigns and 34,381 by the GOP and GOP candidate campaigns. Now that my friends is very interesting.

Congrats to the Dems! Keep up the good work!

San Luis eliminated the Dodgers from the playoffs last night. According to today’s Chron, how much is the Dodgers’ payroll this season?

Today the Chron E-Board endorsed in races for probate courts – three GOPers and one Dem. Check it out here: http://www.chron.com/opinion/recommendations/article/Probates-courts-5807712.php.

In her column today, Lisa Falkenberg calls on AG Abbott to stop appealing the same-sex marriage ruling. It is a loser she says. She’s right but he won’t.

I am going to stop watching CNN. They are falling down on the job. I had to learn this morning from a Sen. Dan Patrick ad that ISIS is at our border.

All news 92.1 FM is old news or gone news or no longer news.

The Dodgers paid their players $256 mil according to the Chron.

The ‘Stros paid their players $44 mil and change.

Over 2 Million!

We have never had a general election where here in Harris County we had over 2 million voters on the rolls. Here is from the Chron a couple of days ago:

Harris County leaders are expected to announce record-setting numbers of registered voters on Monday. As of last Wednesday, the county had 2.05 million voters, but fewer than half are expected to cast ballots this election cycle. Between 30 and 40 percent of registered voters in Harris County participated in recent midterm elections.

About 5 percent of the voters registered in the county this election cycle are new voters.

Can we outdo the “fewer than half are expected to cast ballots this election cycle” prediction?

Here in Harris County, in 2006, 601,186 out of 1,902,822 voted or 31.59% turnout. Dems won the straight party vote 50.9% to 48.04% and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson bested Barbara Radnofsky 56.47% to 41.26%. That was the year we had Guv Dude, Chris Bell, Carole Strayhorn, and Kinky Friedman running for governor.

In 2008, the Barack Obama year, 1,188,731 out of 1,892,656 voted or 62.81% turnout. Dems won the straight ticket 52.94% to 46.51% and Obama won with 50.45%. Dems also had a near sweep of countywide offices.

In 2010, the year of the Tea Party, 798,995 out of 1,917,534 voted or 41.67% turnout. The GOP routed Dems in straight party voting 54.33% to 45%. Bill White carried the county but all other Dems got beat pretty bad.

Two years ago, we had 1,942,566 registered voters and 1,204,167 showed up to vote or 61.99% turnout and the President edged Mitt Romney 49.39% to 49.31%.

This year isn’t 2006 or 2010. Immigration has replaced Obamacare as the GOP’s boogeyman, but this issue cuts both ways. Both major candidates for Governor have a significant presence on TV and the races are getting a lot of local media coverage – a whole lot more. And finally, dollars are being spent on local Spanish language media.

So where are we headed? Certainly not the 31.59% turnout of 2006. I am leaning north of the 41.67% turnout of 2010. I just see a whole lot more activity by Dems this go around so stay tuned!

San Luis third baseman Matt Carpenter hit his third dinger of the NLDS last night against the Dodgers. That’s three dingers in three games. Where did Carpenter go to high school?

Commentary has made it pretty clear that I love “The Good Wife.” This season we have had cameos from the great Gloria Steinem and The White House’s Valerie Jarrett. It looks like Alicia Florrick may run for office so stay tuned!

Commentary also is a huge fan of “60 Minutes.” Here us what I tweeted during Sunday’s show when FBI Director James Comey was being interviewed:

@FBI Director prefers the term #LoneRat over #LoneWolf when referring to potential home grown violent extremists in the #USA. #60Minutes

I can handle that.

Commentary has also been watching the new “Madam Secretary” with Tea Leoni that airs between “60 Minutes” and “The Good Wife.” Some are saying that the show is kind of promoting Hillary Clinton. Duh, I don’t think so. The only similarities are that they are both women. Secretary McCord has 20 years of service in the CIA. Secretary Clinton had 8 years of service in the U.S. Senate. Secretary McCord has three school age children living with her at home, Secretary Clinton didn’t. Secretary McCord’s hubby is a college professor. Secretary Clinton’s hubby is a former President. Hey, it is Sunday night TV so chill.

Matt Carpenter of course went to high school down the road at Elkins in Missouri City.

I forgot to mention that the ‘Stros’ Dallas Keuchel led all AL pitchers with tossing five complete games this past season How about that!

Forever 69 Cents

My Mom still gets around the house but doesn’t drive these days. My Dad does drive but has undergone eye surgery recently so he hung up the car keys for the time being. This past Friday my Mom called to let me know that their mail ballot had arrived and on the return envelope it said you had to plunk down a 69 cent stamp instead of a Forever stamp. Who in the heck has a 69 cent stamp laying around? She said she didn’t like the idea of slapping on two Forevers on the envelope. I don’t blame her. Since I was planning to visit the next day to bring them some grub, I told them I would stop by the post office and buy a couple of 69ers out of the postage gizmo in the lobby.

I rarely handle mail ballots, but this is the first time I have ever seen the “69 cent postage due” printed on the return envelope. I am thinking that some older voters might miss the 69 cent notice and will just stick a Forever on the envelope. I hope they don’t get their ballot returned or lost.

I am thinking I don’t like the sound of this.

A couple of weeks or so ago the Chron E-Board endorsed the GOP Harris County Clerk. Here is what they said about him this past Saturday on their regular weekend “Ups and down:”

(Thumbs down) Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart administers county and state elections. Our view is that he should maintain an appearance of objectivity. However, in a recent political mailer he urges voters to pull a straight Republican ticket. His action provides further evidence that election activities should be presided over by a nonpartisan who doesn’t have to genuflect as a party apparatchik to get elected.

Well, you endorsed him!

Congrats to KC and B’More for sweeping the ALDS in three. What was the ‘Stros record this season against both of these ALCS teams?

All and all I think the Chron E-Board has gotten a bit more politically savvy lately. Last week I noticed a flurry of twitter chatter coming from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office on an incident that was reported by a local news media outlet. This past Friday the Chron E-Board put out a take on the incident and here is how it started:

Looking like a man worried about his political future, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia held a news conference to address a chilling scandal at the county jail.

I have to admit that the thought certainly crossed my mind.

Here is the entire E-Board take on the Sheriff: http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Jail-scandal-5797616.php.

The lead front page story in yesterday’s Chron was on Latino voter turnout in this year’s election. Si se puede o no se puede? Lack of action on immigration is once again discussed as a possible decisive factor. The Chron story is behind the paywall so I can’t bring it to you. Here is how it starts:

The historic tide of Latino voters that lifted President Barack Obama in 2012 and raised alarms among Texas Republicans may be ebbing with the approach of the 2014 elections, when the GOP is expected to make gains in Congress and maintain its dominance in Texas.

While the rapid growth of the nation’s Hispanic population has fueled the hopes of Democrats both nationally and in Texas, some leaders say it could be a struggle to turn out Latino voters with the current stalemate on immigration reform, a strong driver of Hispanic voter mobilization.

Though Texas has long lagged in Hispanic voter turnout, Democrats in the Lone Star state – home to nearly one in five of all U.S. Hispanics – remain optimistic after more than a year of intensive grassroots effort registering potential Latino voters.

“There are things happening here that are different,” said Rebecca Acuña, spokeswoman for Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis, who is mounting a come-from-behind campaign for governor against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott.

I am maybe going out on a limb and say Latino voter turnout might be better than expected. The issue is getting a lot of press and media coverage so that helps. Team Davis and AG Abbott are both on Spanish language TV and that also helps. We will know something for sure in about 15 days when we can start looking at Early Voting in Person turnouts.

I hope you got to watch a couple of epic MLB playoff games this past weekend. Friday’s come-from-behind San Luis 10-9 win over the Dodgers was incredible. Saturday night’s 18 inning Giants 2-1 win over the Nats was a record setting classic. Yep, the ‘Stros’ 18 inning win over The ATL in Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS is now the second longest playoff game in MLB history.

We were 3-3 versus KC and 3-4 against B’More of course. Not bad at all.

Latinos are watching closely for any White House signal on immigration. With the election 32 days away last night they may have gotten a positive glimpse of what is in store. This may keep Latinos from staying home or dropping support for Dem candidates. Here is from a story that came out this morning:

With frustration mounting, President Barack Obama sought Thursday to quell doubts he’ll use his presidential powers to act on immigration, telling Hispanics and immigration activists it’s “not a question of if but when.”

At the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual gala, Obama warned activists that his eventual actions will spark intense political opposition that could threaten the durability of what he does. In a partisan pitch a month before Election Day, he urged Hispanics across the U.S. to use their votes to improve prospects in the future for a legislative fix.

“The moment I act — and it will be taking place between the November election and the end of the year — opponents of reform will roll out the same old scare tactics,” Obama said. “When opponents are out there saying who knows what, I’m going to need you to have my back.”

If he wants us to watch his back then you have to figure that he is really going to do something significant that will pi__-off the Tea Party bunch. Here is more:

Once hailed as a champion for Hispanic rights, Obama’s relationship with the Hispanic community has become strained since he decided last month to abandon his earlier pledge to act quickly after summer’s end to help some immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Instead, he said he’d wait until after the Nov. 4 elections, exasperating immigration activists who accused the president of putting politics ahead of their families and said they had waited far too long already.

With the elections nearing, Obama sought to parlay impatience into motivation for Hispanic voters to elect politicians who will enact more sweeping reforms to fix the U.S. immigration system. Arguing that no executive action on immigration could be as comprehensive as what Congress could do, he urged Hispanics at the black-tie dinner to go into their communities to ensure voters don’t stay home.

“Yes we can — if we vote,” he said, first in Spanish and then in English, in a twist on his 2008 campaign slogan.

Stay positive and stay tuned!

I want to wish my nephew David Andrew Lafuente a Happy 40th Birthday today – WOW! Dave is a great dad, a great son, a great grandson, a great nephew, a great Godfather to Dante, and a great ‘Stros fan! Happy Birthday Dave!

The Royals beat the Angels in 11 innings last night, 3-2. Everybody is talking about that this is their first playoff appearance since 1985. When was their first ever playoff appearance?

Do you think the AG Abbott – Team Davis race is tightening up? Burkablog does. Check what he has to say:

I’m not surprised that the race for governor has tightened according to the recent Lyceum Poll. This is a contest between two candidates who have the support of large constituencies that stretch far beyond Texas. Abbott is among the state’s most prominent attorneys and is no stranger to the U.S. Supreme Court. Davis staked her claim to fame with her memorable filibuster of HB 2. Republicans have the advantage in numbers, this being Texas, but Democrats seem to be somewhat resurgent, and Davis gave them a shot in the arm with her strong performance in the final debate. Abbott has to be the favorite, but this is not a particularly strong Republican ticket, and the full force of the Texas Enterprise Fund scandal has yet to be felt. It’s going to be closer than people think.

I am starting to think so. Of course if it has, then it also has to be good news for Harris County Dem candidates.

The Chron E-Board endorsed in more local judicial races. Two Dems and two GOPers got endorsed today. Here they are: http://www.chron.com/opinion/recommendations/article/Criminal-courts-5797625.php.

Yesterday morning I was watching NBC News’ Dr. Nancy Snyderman report live from Liberia. I thought then that I hoped she and her crew were taking the proper precautions. It was announced last night that her cameraman now has Ebola. Dr. Nancy and her crew will now put themselves in isolation. WOW! Dr. Nancy is one of their high profile reporters!

In 1976 of course, the AL West Champions Royals lost the ALCS to the Yankees in five.

The first two MLB playoff games today will be played in B’More and D.C. The next two will be played in LA and Anaheim. Now that is cool.

Are You Sure?

Ebola is the last thing I want to talk about but it is now up the interstate. “Today” spent the first ten minutes of their show this morning reporting on Ebola in Dallas and West Africa. A relative of the fella that has Ebola in Dallas told the media that he had to call the CDC because the Dallas hospital wasn’t responding properly.

CNN is reporting now that 80 folks are being monitored in the Dallas area. The State of Texas has just put that number at 100. Parents are taking their kids out of schools after they found out that some students attending the schools had been exposed to the Ebola patient. Here is from a story on the front page of today’s Chron:

The headline: Are area hospitals ready for potential Ebola threat?

Houston health officials Wednesday sought to provide assurances the area is prepared for any local arrival of an Ebola patient, as their counterparts in Dallas scrambled to explain why a hospital initially discharged a symptomatic man from West Africa who turned out to have the deadly disease.

The local officials pointed to a widely disseminated strategy, such as signs posted throughout hospitals, instructing workers to question feverish patients about whether they’ve travelled to countries affected by the Ebola outbreak or have been in contact with sick people from such countries, then isolate those who have. The strategy also calls for hospitals in such cases to notify the local health department.

The last thing I am going to do is talk about their hospital and clinical protocols. They know what they are doing. The problem is communications and gaining the trust of the public.

This morning Channel 2 had a crew staked out at IAH waiting to talk to passengers arriving from West Africa. What were they going to ask them? How are you feeling? Do you have any Ebola symptoms? Did they really have to have a news crew out there?

I hope this Ebola situation in Dallas gets better before it gets worse. I don’t know though. We don’t have a whole lot of experience dealing with something like this so mistakes will be probably be made from the communications from those in charge to the media doing the reporting. Right now I don’t have 100% confidence.

Nobody really challenged the 49% to 40% lead by AG Abbott over Team Davis among likely voters in the Texas Lyceum Poll. Among registered voters it is 43% – 37% AG Abbott and that’s what Team David is sending out in emails to their list – interesting. Folks are saying that a huge turnout advantage among Dem voters is what will keep them in the game. We will know soon.

The Harris County DA came out with a proposal for those caught with small amounts of pot. Kim Ogg’s proposal is way better and a whole lot different. Here is from the Chron:

“This is not a new plan,” Ogg said. “It’s a ‘me too’ program by a candidate who has shifted her position with the winds of political change.”

If elected, Ogg has said, police officers will simply ticket misdemeanor marijuana suspects, even repeat offenders, and require them to spend two days picking up litter around Houston’s bayous.

Ogg said her program would save an average of $10 million a year in jail, court and prosecution costs by diverting about 12,000 offenders annually.

(Harris County DA Devon) Anderson’s six-month pilot program is different because it only affects first offenders, about 2,000 people a year, the incumbent said. It also requires police officers to take suspects to a police station, write an offense report and catalog the evidence.

While they may sound similar, the two plans are fundamentally different because of their primary goal. Ogg’s plan is an effort to keep police officers on the street to catch more serious criminals. Anderson’s plan is a move to get first offenders to stop using the illegal drug before it affects their future.

And:

Beginning next week, non-violent first offenders caught with less than 2 ounces of marijuana, the threshold for a Class B misdemeanor, will still get a ride to a police station where they’ll be fingerprinted to confirm their identity and lack of a criminal record.

If they qualify, they will be released and allowed three days to make an appointment with the county agency tasked with monitoring suspects out on bail.

If suspects do not successfully complete the program’s requirements, class B misdemeanor charges will be filed and an arrest warrant will be issued, Anderson said. If convicted, suspects face a maximum of six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

That’s a huge difference folks. Like night and day.

Like Commentary, Burkablog also thinks Sen. Wendy Davis won the debate. Here is his first line of his take:

The final debate in the 2014 governor’s race is over, and the winner was clear-cut: Wendy Davis.

Here is his take: http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/davis-win.

The Chron E-Board today endorsed for local judgeships three GOPers and one Dem. Check it out here:

http://www.chron.com/opinion/recommendations/article/Criminal-courts-part-1-5795019.php.

I am skipping the MLB question and any mention of the ‘Stros and MLB Playoffs.

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