After All voting equipment for Houston, Harris County destroyed in 3-alarm fire citizens of Harris County have every reason to be concerned that our elections will not be free and fair in 2010.
Much is as stake. The fire comes just months before the general elections on November 2, which include the governor’s race and redistricting due to population shifts that will will hand Texas several new congressional seats. This election will decide the players who will draw new lines in redistricting. Houston is the nation's fourth largest city, Harris County is the most populous county in Texas and the third most populous county in the United States.
HOUSTON – A three-alarm fire swept through a northeast Houston warehouse early Friday wiping out more than 10,000 pieces of voting equipment, but officials said voters should have nothing to worry about when the elections begin in a few months.
The Harris County Election Technology Center, located on Canino at Downey, caught fire around 4:20 a.m., and the blaze quickly grew to three alarms.
The warehouse stored more than 10,000 pieces of equipment, including voting booths and eSlates, the computer-based machines used for collecting votes. Officials estimate the total damages at $30 million.
This is certainly going to spark some conspiracy theories in the competitive Rick Perry-vs.-Bill White gubernatorial contest in Texas. Harris County is Houston, where White was mayor and where his base should come from on Election Day.
Early voting is scheduled to begin October 18th and Harris County does not allow Vote By Mail, except for the disabled and those over 65.Officials scramble after fire destroys vote machines and even before the pre-dawn fire was out, County Clerk Beverly Kaufman pledged to hold a "timely election" on Nov. 2 but suggested the county may have to run fewer than its planned 739 Election Day polling stations if it cannot find enough machines.
Glenn W. Smith at The Huffington Post, paints a very grim picture of just how devastating this situation is in, Possible Arson and the Right's Texas Voter Suppression Effort, where he writes about new right-wing voter suppression campaigns here.
There are simply no machines available to replace the loss of Houston's machines. That means either a return to paper ballots (there may be very few scanners to count them) or a greatly reduced number of polling locations. The latter would require the emergency suspension of state law and run afoul of the Voting Rights Act. In any case, confusion will reign, and confusion reduces turnout.
The former Mayor of Houston, Democrat Bill White, is running against secessionist Republican Gov. Rick Perry this year. White's counting on a big turnout in his home town. The fire and the voter suppression campaign guarantee a greatly diminished turnout.
The Cause of fire that destroyed voting machines still not determined. Even if the fire is ruled accidental, its consequences remain the same. If a great number of Houston voters are disenfranchised as a consequence of the fire and the right's election vigilante effort, democracy loses, and so does the country.
Texas Liberal asks a reasonable question, Should Outside Election Observers Be Sent To Harris County?—How About Jimmy Carter?
The integrity of the elections process is under attack in Harris County.
Far-right Tea Party groups are harassing voter registration drives in Harris County that are looking to increase the number of voters of all kinds in Harris County.
These Tea Party groups are being funded by billionaires who want to corrupt our democracy with huge amounts of money and extremist conservative ideology.
Tea Party groups are recruiting hundreds of poll watchers to possibly harass and intimidate likely Democratic voters.
From Brains and Eggs
Neil at Texas Liberal attended press conferences held by both Houston Votes and by a local so-called Tea Party group, as a possible pattern of harassment and intimidation against likely Democratic voters in Harris County may be at work. Also, Neil announced that he will now also be blogging at The Daily Hurricane as well as at Texas Liberal. Neil is also a featured politics reader-blogger at the Houston Chronicle.
The Texas Progressive Alliance sure hopes that Harris County has a disaster recovery plan for the loss of its voting machines as it brings you this week's blog roundup. (There's an emergency commissioner's meeting on the topic scheduled for this afternoon that I will attend and report on.)
Off The Kuff says,
Maybe you don’t have a suspect in mind, but it’s not hard at all to imagine a motive. Everyone knows Bill White will need a strong showing in Harris County to be able to win the Governor’s race. Perhaps someone who doesn’t want him to win decided to do something about it. I’m not saying this is what happened – we don’t even know if the fire was deliberately set or not yet – just that this is what everyone will be thinking if it turns out it was arson. See the comment thread at Political Wire and Burka for examples of this. Believe me, I very much hope this is a tragic accident.