Dallas County Sued for Violating the Voting Rights of White People

Categories: Elections

Thumbnail image for I_Voted_Sticker.JPG
Dwight Burdette
Giving voice to the voiceless.
Five white plaintiffs, backed by the Dallas-based Equal Voting Rights Institute, are suing Dallas County because, they say, the 60 percent-white Dallas County Commissioner's Court does not fairly represent them.

Dallas County, for the record, is 39 percent Latino; 32 percent white, non-Latino; and 23 percent black, according the the U.S. Census Bureau. Everyone's a minority here.

"Like something out of the bad old days, a Southern electoral body plays naked racial politics, intentionally using its power to minimize a dissenting race's political sway. The body does so through its redistricting authority, cramming as much of that racial minority as possible into a single district and splitting the remainder up as an insignificant fraction of the electorate in the surrounding districts. It undertakes this move to intentionally deny the racial minority a chance to fairly participate in the electoral process, while claiming that the minority has no legal right to protection and arguing that higher law compels the racist act," the suit says.

Again, they're talking about white people. Specifically Republican white people.

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Ronquillo Fires First Shots in Battle to Unseat Rawlings

Marcos Ronquillo for Mayor
Giving it his best shot.
One thing is clear from Dallas attorney Marcos Ronquillo's first mayoral campaign press release: He's looking to make his May 2015 contest with incumbent Mike Rawlings a single-issue showdown, a third referendum on the Trinity toll road.

"The proposed Trinity River toll road project has been controversial from day one," Ronquillo said. "With the promise of new park space and fancy sailboats along a series of new Trinity River lakes, voters narrowly approved the project. But this plan has evolved into nothing more than a $1.5 billion boondoggle -- a poorly conceived idea that gets drastically more expensive every time it is discussed."

Last Friday, during a meeting with the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News, Rawlings made it clear that he believes those who oppose the toll road -- the Greyson/Griggs/Kingston/Medrano faction on the City Council and others -- are disrespecting the will of Dallas voters.

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Software Vendor Takes "Full Responsibility" For Election Day Website Crash

Stephen Young
How dallascountyvotes.org looked on election day.
They had one job. Last Tuesday, the one day this year most people will even think to look at the Dallas County elections website, it went down. For seven hours. Any person needing to know her polling place had to seek out other methods. The situation was laughable, but it also couldn't have helped turnout.

See also: Dallas County's Voting Website Is Down

"I've got some real concerns," county commissioner John Wiley Price said at this Tuesday's Commissioner's Court meeting. "This is the second time that the website has gone down."

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Texas Had the Worst Voter Turnout in the Country, and the Rain in Dallas Didn't Help

Categories: Elections

Dwight Burdette
No we didn't.
Preliminary numbers are out for Texas' midterm election voter turnout from the Election Project, and they are abysmal. Just 28.5 percent of Texans eligible to vote did so, either in early voting or on Tuesday, the lowest percentage in the country. The last time Texas voted for its governor in 2010, 32.1 percent of eligible Texans voted.

Dallas County weather, and the dearth of competitive races, likely bears most of the blame. In 2010, Dallasites voted at a 37 percent clip, casting 424,511 votes for the top line race -- Rick Perry and Bill White's gubernatorial election. This year, despite the number of registered voters in the county growing by about 100,000, only 406,594 ballots were submitted in Greg Abbott's landslide coronation. That's 32 percent turnout. Prior to the election Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole told The Dallas Morning News she thought turnout would be between 35 and 37 percent.

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We Knew Craig Watkins Was In Trouble, but Last Night Was Ugly

Categories: Elections

Would be king no more.
As in any good tragedy, Craig Watkins' tumble from his perch as Dallas County district attorney was preceded by hubris and stupidity. After badly underperforming compared with the rest of his party in his 2010 re-election win against Republican Danny Clancy, Watkins did everything possible to ensure another close race in 2014. He got one, and now, come January he'll be out of a job.

Whether it was the car wreck that Watkins secretly settled using forfeiture funds, the contempt charge saga, a bizarre debate performance or an ill-advised attempt to become the de facto boss of the Dallas County Democratic Party, Watkins consistently found new ways to shoot himself in the foot, and never raised enough money to spend his way out of it.

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Texas' Voter ID Law Hinders Some, Inspires Other Voters to Come Prepared -- and Angry

Categories: Elections

Rob Boudon
Texas' voter ID is back, at least for this election.

In one West Dallas neighborhood, roughly 25 to 30 percent of eligible voters do not have a valid photo identification for voting. This area, along with sections near Fair Park, have the highest rates in the city. Yet speaking to voters outside C.F. Carr Elementary School, one of the central voting locations in the neighborhood, voters were, for the most part, well-prepared. And more important, many were more adamant about voting this year because of the voter ID law.

See also: Dallasites without Voter IDs Are Generally Poor, Non-White and -- Surprise! -- Democrats

Kameha Brown voted early last week, but says she has had a few friends who were discouraged from voting because they did not have a proper ID.

"I had a friend who came in with the voter registration card, and they said with the new ID law, we cannot let you vote unless you have the ID," Brown says. "It's causing a lot of confusion, and people are getting upset."

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Dallas County's Voting Website Is Down

Categories: Elections

Stephen Young
This ain't it.
If you aren't sure of where you're supposed to vote this morning, you're now battling more than just the rain. As of 10:00 a.m., dallascountyvotes.org, the county's guide to all things voting, isn't working.

We called the county to see what was going on. A worker told us the site was working, but when she closed her tab and tried to log back on, she got the same message we did. Elections experts predict that shutting down our computers, counting slowly to 10 and restarting them should fix the problem.

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Want Your Vote to Count? Think Local. Or Move to Wyoming.

Categories: Elections

How much does your vote really mean?

For all you Dallasites who skip the midterm elections in favor of the presidential races, you might reconsider that strategy: For Texans, your vote in national and even state races is all but symbolic.It's local issues where your ballot will really count.

According to financial analysts at WalletHub, Texas is ranked near the bottom on a list of most empowered voters in each state. A local elections such as the Denton city ordinance to ban fracking is an issue in which Denton voters are given a substantial amount of power to determine what happens in their city.

Casting your vote for senators, presidents, and governors in Texas is much more symbolic than numerically meaningful. Yet every Denton ballot cast for or against a fracking ban will have significant repercussions throughout the city.

Dr. Tom Hayes, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut who contributed to WalletHub's report, says that for an issue like Denton's, local voters could have ripple-effect power. Their vote could, in turn, influence later votes on similar issues.

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Democratic PAC Says DA Candidate Susan Hawk Let a Killer Roam Free. Um, Not Exactly.

Categories: Elections

Lone Star Project
A careful researcher might have included a few more ticks on that timeline, like the time Craig Watkins admitted his office made a mistake.
For three years, a confessed attempted murderer roamed the streets of Dallas, going on a crime spree that ended when he killed a man in July 2007. Michael Wyatt had pleaded guilty to the attempted murder in 2004, but the Dallas District Attorney's Office wanted him to testify against his co-defendant Aaron Vaughn, so Wyatt stayed out of prison on bond while Vaughn awaited trial.

Now Wyatt is back -- in a fashion -- in a political ad that targets Susan Hawk, the Republican running against District Attorney Craig Watkins. The ad suggests that Hawk, who at the time was a judge in Wyatt's case, was to blame to letting Wyatt remain free until the day he killed a man in an Oak Cliff drug house.

There's one problem with that theory, though. It contradicts Watkins' own words at the time of the killing.

See also: Witness for the Prosecution

The Lone Star Project, a Democratic political action committee, debuted a new ad last week that claims Hawk should have done more to keep Wyatt in prison. Even worse, the PAC charges, Hawk altered court records in 2012, removing Wyatt's references to a deadly weapon in his attempted murder plea and minimizing the charges against him.

Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, says the case is a reflection of Hawk's political opportunism, just like her running as both a Republican and a Democrat in previous elections. As she geared up to take on Watkins, Angle says, Hawk sought to soften any potential blow Wyatt's case would strike against her campaign.

But the history of the case tells a different story. As reported in the Observer in 2007, Watkins and his office have already taken partial responsibility for Wyatt's crimes while out on bail.

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Underdog Anti-Frackers Struggle for Denton's Vote, But Fight Could Swing Either Way

Tom Arthur
Dentonites are turning out more than ever for early voting, many in response to the proposition to ban fracking in the city.

As early voting wraps up this week, Denton County has seen a surge in voters, as well as campaign spending. Much of that has to do with the fracking debate, which has also incurred more spending than any other campaign in Denton's history.

See also: Frackers Have Launched an Aggressive Campaign to Kill Denton's Drilling Ban

"It's pretty fair to assume that given how much money is poured into this, that's why so many people are out," says Dr. Adam Briggle, a leader with Frack Free Denton and a bioethics professor at UNT. "Everything now is focused on communicating with voters, especially at the polls, and making sure that they're not confused when they're going in to vote. The language is definitely written by a lawyer. So we want to make sure that folks know that they're voting what they want to vote for."

As of Tuesday night, Denton County election officials report, there was a 16 percent increase in early voting from the 2010 election: 47,035 in-person votes were cast, up from 40,529 on the same early-voting day in 2010.

"I have noticed since I came here that there is great activity," says Lannie Noble, Denton County elections administrator. "We've had people at a lot of early-voting locations trying to get information out to the voters. Most especially here in Denton we've had the fracking parties, for and against, well-represented."

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