The last five weeks have been pretty busy over here and my sincerest apologies for the scarcity of Texas Plenty. I've gotten feedback that even a much shorter post would be better than nothing. If you have thoughts about the frequency, let me know at [email protected].

That being said, today is me starting back up again and this post is going to be longer than most. So hopefully the wait has been worth it. It's also timely because early voting in Texas began yesterday and voting in California began last week.

A Quick Recap

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voting is a bit different this year. Folks, especially senior citizens and those with pre-existing conditions, are rightfully concerned about the risks of voting in person. That's why many states have made it easier to vote at home, including California.

As it is, Texas will not be making it easier to vote at home. Texas elected leaders, including Governor Greg Abbott, are very concerned about voter fraud, and believe, like the President does, that increasing the opportunity to vote at home makes voter fraud more likely. I've written before about how I don't see the evidence that way.

That being said, Governor Abbot has expanded early voting by a week. In another iteration of flattening the curve, by opening up voting locations a week early, he hopes to spread out the number of people voting in person to limit the number of people at a voting location at any one time.

Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West, while not commenting on whether that was a good idea or not, did not believe that Governor Abbott had the authority to make that change. He filed a lawsuit to try and stop the extra week of early voting. Just in time, last week, the Texas Supreme Court sided with the Governor and so we will get an extra week of early voting. In fact, it seems like Harris County has already passed day one records, with incredibly long lines.

Photo: Melissa Phillip/Staff photographer at the Houston Chronicle

You would think that's all, but separate from all of these maneuvers, Governor Abbott also issued an executive order to limit the number of locations in which mail-in ballots can be dropped off. Specifically, he limited it to one. Democrats filed a lawsuit claiming this would hurt older and disabled voters, especially those in Harris County who will have to travel long distances to submit their ballots. A Federal District court sided with the the Democratic Party, but almost immediately afterward, the Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court. If you have a mail in ballot from Harris County, you need to send it back in the mail, or drop it off at NRG Arena – Hall D, NRG Pkwy, Houston, TX 77054.

And even as I'm writing this piece, I found yet another lawsuit filed by the Texas Republican Party challenging curbside voting, a long standing practice for those who are not eligible for mail in ballots, but also cannot enter the polling location. We'll see what happens next.

Alex's Election Recommendations

Over the last few weeks I've had folks come chat with me about my election recommendations. As y'all know, I try to be very upfront about my perspective and biases. You can read all about them here.

Before I get into my favorite candidates, regardless of whether you agree with me or not, please make a plan to vote. We all have busy lives and if you don't make a plan to vote, it just might not happen. If you're looking to avoid the crazy lines, take some advice here from Derek Ryan and go during the 2nd week of early voting

If you don't live in Harris County or the Houston area or the San Francisco area, and just want the "big picture" take, feel free to skip to the next section.

If you live in Harris County, definitely check out these candidates:

  • Kayla Alix for Texas State Representative, District (129) - this is the district I ran for back in 2018. It covers Clear Lake, Webster, Nassau Bay, Taylor Lake Village, Seabrook, El Lago, Webster, the Southbelt area and Harris County side of Friendswood. I got a chance to meet Kayla back when I was running and she's a great advocate for the community - especially disabled veterans.
  • Christian Menefee for Harris County Civil Attorney - Harris County is the only county that has an attorney empowered to file civil lawsuits against folks that hurt the county. That includes all those oil companies that, through their negligence, end up polluting our atmosphere. I met Christian last year and thought he was an incredibly sharp lawyer. He'll be a great attorney standing up for us.
  • Ashley Graves for Nassau Bay Mayor - Nassau Bay is a wonderful town just south of Houston in Harris County. It's got a great community and a wonderful City Councilwoman in Ashley Graves. She's a local realtor and is incredibly passionate about public service and her favorite city, Nassau Bay. We met when I was running for office in 2018. She'll do a great job as Mayor.

If you live in Brazoria County, definitely check out:

  • Travis Boldt for Texas State Representative, District (29) - Travis and I met each other at Webster Intermediate, we were both part of the gifted and talented program there. He runs a home healthcare agency and spends his time trying to take care of our parents and grandparents. That's definitely the type of person I want in the state legislature.
  • Andrew Bell for Brazoria County Tax-Assessor Collector - Andrew and I met in 2019 when he was given my contact information by Run for Something. He's a young guy who really understands the challenges that working families face and as tax assessor he'll fight to make sure that the wealthiest among us pay their fair share.

Lastly, if you're in San Francisco County, please use one of your votes Jeanette Quick for City College Board. Jeanette and I met each other when we both worked for South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson on the Banking Committee. She's also an incredibly smart and talented lawyer who has a real passion for continuing education. She has what it takes to get City College back on track. She's been endorsed by State Sen. Scott Wiener, Mayor London Breed, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

What's Left To Do

As y'all know, I'm a Democrat and ran for office as a Democrat, so my thoughts here tend to be biased in that direction.

But whether you agree with me or not, if you still want to have the biggest impact on the way our country is governed, here's what I would suggest (with a little bit of cribbing from this Vox piece):

  1. If you're 65 and over and voting in Texas, you're allowed to request a mail in ballot. The County Clerk must receive your application for a ballot by October 23rd, 2020. Shoot me a message if you need some help with the process. And if you know someone who could get a mail in ballot, go help them get their ballot.
  2. Reach out to your friends and make sure they vote. Remind them that this year (again in Texas) there is no single button straight ticket voting. That means we have to go through every race. State and local government races (including many school board and city council races that got postponed to November are incredibly important). Voters can go to their local County Clerk and print a sample ballot at home so you can go through the races on your own time. Harris County has one of the longest ballots in the country (due to judicial races). The League of Women Voters in Houston has a great guide that voters can use to make their decisions.
  3. One of the ways you can still make a big difference to campaigns (especially the state and local ones) is by donating money. Candidate spending their own money is incredible important for three reasons:
  • When candidates do their own spending, they controls their message and can tailor it exactly the way they want
  • Candidate committees are legally guaranteed the best ad pricing from media
  • Those ads are less likely to get taken down when there are complaints. So giving to candidates can be even more impactful at this late stage in the campaign
  1. If you want to do more, find a group to do voter outreach with. I do calls on Saturday with They See Blue Texas. They're focused on reaching Texas voters of South Asian origin. But there are lots of groups - based on geography, faith, tradition, occupation, education, hobbies, etc that are organizing this year. That's how civic society works. Find a group and give whatever feels right to you.

That's a long post with a lot of information, but I hope to leave you with one last thought. Despite the incredible partisanship in the country today, it's not impossible to persuade someone to change their vote. It's hard and it won't often make sense to you why any one point might persuade one person versus another, but it is very possible.

Take a look at these results from the Pew Research Center. As you can see (at least from one survey), Joe Biden has certainly convinced many people across many groups that didn't support Hillary Clinton to support him. But Donald Trump has also convinced many people across many groups, notably some Hispanic men and some African American women, but also urban voters and those without a religious tradition to support him.

I'll leave you with the words from my favorite skinny kid with a funny name:

The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

So never write anyone off based on the way they look, sound, work or believe. We're all Americans and this democratic republic is our birthright.

Let's do this.