This program was recorded early in the morning on SUNDAY, December 27. Due to Covid-19, shows are being prerecorded beginning March 13, 2020 and until further notice. We miss our live call-in participants, and look forward to a time we can once again go live. Thinkwing Radio with Mike Honig (@ThinkwingRadio), a listener call-in show airing live every Monday from 3-4 PM (CT) on KPFT-FM 90.1 (Houston). My co-host and Editor is Andrew Ferguson.
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- An educated electorate is a prerequisite for a democracy.
- You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.
- Make sure you are registered to vote!
- VoteTexas.GOV – Texas Voter Information
- HarrisVotes.COM – Countywide Voting Centers, (Election Information Line (713) 755-6965), Harris County Clerk
- Fort bend County Elections/Voter Registration Machine takes you to the proper link
- GalvestonVotes.org (Galveston County, TX)
- LibertyElections.com (Liberty County, TX) <– UPDATED LINK
- Montgomery County (TX) Elections
- Brazoria County (TX) Clerk Election Information
- Waller County (TX) Elections
- Chambers County (TX) ElectionsFor personalized, nonpartisan voter guides and information,
- Consider visiting Vote.ORG. Ballotpedia.com and Texas League of Women Voters are also good places to get election info.
- If you are denied your right to vote any place at any time at any polling place for any reason, ask for (or demand) a provisional ballot rather than lose your vote.
- HarrisVotes.com – Countywide Voting Centers
- HARRIS CTY – IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED FOR VOTING: Do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of these IDs?
- Fill out a declaration at the polls describing a reasonable impediment to obtaining it, and show a copy or original of one of the following supporting forms of ID:
- A government document that shows your name and an address, including your voter registration certificate
- Current utility bill
- Bank statement
- Government check
- A certified domestic (from a U.S. state or territory) birth certificate or (b) a document confirming birth admissible in a court of law which establishes your identity (which may include a foreign birth document)
- You may vote early by-mail if:
- You are registered to vote and meet one of the following criteria:
- Away from the county of residence on Election Day and during the early voting period;
- Sick or disabled;
- 65 years of age or older on Election Day; or
- Confined in jail, but eligible to vote.
- Make sure you are registered:
- Ann Harris Bennett, Tax Assessor-Collector & Voter Registrar
- CHECK REGISTRATION STATUS HERE
- CLICK How to register to vote in Texas
- Outside Texas, try Vote.org.
- HARRIS CTY – IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED FOR VOTING: Do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of these IDs?
- VoteTexas.GOV – Texas Voter Information
- Time to send in your “Vote By Mail” applications. Make sure it is not date-sensitive.
- After January first, it will be time to send in your “Vote By Mail”
- The current forms on the election site are for 2020.
- After January first, it will be time to send in your “Vote By Mail”
- Texas Department of Motor Vehicles announces end date for waiver of vehicle title, registration requirements; By Hannah Zedaker | COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM/HOUSTON | 1:38 PM Dec 15, 2020 CST | Updated 1:38 PM Dec 15, 2020 CST
- Texans now have until April 14, 2021 to renew expired vehicle registrations …
- Texas hasn’t said when or how inmates will receive the coronavirus vaccine – Texas officials have not detailed when jails and prisons — known hot spots of the coronavirus’ spread — will receive doses of the vaccine. And many on the inside remain wary of getting the shot in prison. by Jolie McCullough | TEXASTRIBUNE.ORG | Dec. 23, 20204 AM
- Texas’ prisons and jails have been coronavirus hot spots throughout the pandemic. At least about 200 Texas inmates have died with COVID-19. So have more than 30 people who worked inside the state’s prisons — and countless others have spread the virus inside lockups and into the surrounding communities.
- But it’s unclear when the still-limited doses of virus vaccines will be made available to the more than 186,000 people detained in Texas prisons and jails. That timeline is among several factors Texas prison officials either haven’t decided or haven’t publicly released more than nine months into the pandemic and weeks after leaders knew a vaccine was on the horizon.
- And if the doses remain voluntary once they do arrive for inmates, lockup staff will need to convince incarcerated people — many of whom are skeptical of prison medical care — to get the shot.
- In Texas, health care workers and people in long-term care facilities like nursing homes are at the front of the line to receive the vaccine. Several states have earmarked doses for the incarcerated soon after those initial groups of health care workers and first responders. Because of the disease-prone environment they live and work in, advocates in the state and throughout the country have urged officials to prioritize inmates and corrections staff to get the coronavirus vaccine rapidly.
- But Texas officials have so far remained largely silent on when people behind bars may receive the doses.
- At a press conference last week, Gov. Greg Abbott skirted a reporter’s question about when prisoners would get the vaccine. And a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson declined to answer questions on how and when the vaccine would be distributed in the state prison system, referring questions to the governor’s office and the University of Texas Medical Branch, which is handling vaccine distribution for the state prison system.
- Though seven Texas prisons were set to receive 1,100 doses this week, according to the state health department’s weekly distribution list, a UTMB spokesperson said that only health care workers at the units were in line to get the shot so far.
- Spokespeople for the governor did not respond to repeated questions since last week, including whether the second-phase of people to receive the vaccine — those 65 and older or with certain chronic medical conditions — will include inmates that fall into those categories as well. A health department spokesperson said anyone 65 and older will be eligible for the vaccine. …
- The governor has said previously that the shot will be voluntary for everyone. His office did not respond to questions on if that would apply to prisons and jails, too.
- Prisoner advocates said there is a lot of fear and distrust of the vaccine from inmates and their loved ones on the outside. It’s a wariness that many people in the free world feel as well with the rapidly developed vaccine. But prison health and condition experts said there are multiple reasons that exaggerate the skepticism, from a history of medical experimentation on prisoners to a lack of information in lockups.
- “It speaks to the incredible distrust that exists inside prisons of medical care and whether people feel like they’re being treated with dignity or respect and whether anyone cares about their safety,” said Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer and prison conditions expert at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs and law school. “I don’t think it’s justified, it’s just understandable.” …
- A spokesperson for TDCJ said last week the prison’s communication department was creating a campaign to tout the vaccine as the best way to stop the virus. Several advocates have suggested the prison’s already existing peer education program, where inmates are given the tools and knowledge to inform and engage with other prisoners on issues like sexual assault reporting and Hepatitis C. …
- Federal appeals court says Texas doesn’t have to give geriatric inmates hand sanitizer for now – The order temporarily blocks a lower court’s ruling that would have gone into effect Oct. 14 and forced Texas to provide more protective measures against the coronavirus at a geriatric prison. by Jolie McCullough | TEXASTRIBUNE.ORG | Oct. 7, 2020, 12 PM
- A federal appeals court has ruled that, at least for now, Texas does not have to provide more protective measures, like giving hand sanitizer to inmates who use wheelchairs against the coronavirus, at a geriatric prison.
- The order from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday temporarily halts a district judge’s ruling from last month while it considers the case on its merits. A more permanent ruling, which could allow or reject the lower judge’s order, will be issued later. Wednesday’s ruling is the latest development in a lawsuit filed in March by two older inmates at the Pack Unit who argued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s policies and practices did not adequately protect them in the pandemic. …
- After a weeks-long trial that started in July, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ruled late last month that TDCJ officials acted with deliberate indifference toward the inmates’ medical needs and recklessly disregarded obvious health risks during the pandemic. Along with requiring measures that have since reportedly been implemented by the prison since the lawsuit was filed, like providing unrestricted access to soap and water, Ellison ordered the prison to provide hand sanitizer to inmates who use a walker, a cane, crutches or a wheelchair. …
- The order was set to go into effect on Oct. 14. TDCJ appealed the ruling, having argued that it had many protective measures in place already and hand sanitizer could be used to drink or start fires. Inmates’ attorneys said the concerns were “disingenuous,” as fires are not a problem at the prison and inmates have plenty of other flammable material, like paper.
- Attorney General Ken Paxton asked Trump administration to take back some of Harris County’s COVID-19 relief money – The county, which is home to the state’s biggest city and is a critical Democratic stronghold, had planned to spend some of the federal dollars on expanding voting options, including printing absentee ballots. by Emma Platoff | TEXASTRIBUNE.ORG | Dec. 22, 20204 PM
- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in May urged the Trump administration to rescind millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds that Harris County planned to use for mail-in ballots, as Republican state leaders and Democratic local officials were sparring over whether and how to expand voting options during the pandemic.
- In a May 21 letter, Paxton alerted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin of Harris County’s “stated intent to use federal funding in violation of state law,” and asked him to “seek return of any amounts improperly spent on efforts to promote illegal mail-in voting.”
- “Without implementing adequate protections against unlawful abuse of mail-in ballots, the Department could be cast in a position of involuntarily facilitating election fraud,” Paxton wrote. The letter was obtained and published this week by watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
- Experts say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots allow for widespread voter fraud, but Texas Republicans have long relied on that claim to justify keeping Texas’ mail-in balloting among the most restrictive systems in the country. …
- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo slammed Paxton for working to take essential federal dollars from the state’s largest city.
- “Taking emergency relief funds from the people of Harris County would have knocked the floor out of our citizens’ ability to vote safely during a pandemic and an important national election,” said Hidalgo, a Democrat. “This attempt to cut off emergency federal funding for fellow Texans is indefensible.” …
- Texas Republicans, with Paxton sometimes leading the charge, challenged a number of Harris County’s attempts to expand voting options, including suing local officials there to prevent them from sending applications for mail-in ballots to the county’s 2.4 million registered voters. The question over expanding access to mail-in ballots was a particularly partisan flashpoint. The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court ruled that voters could consider their own personal health circumstances, along with their vulnerability to COVID-19, to determine whether they had a disability that would qualify them for an absentee ballot under state law.
- Spokespeople for the Department of the Treasury did not immediately respond to questions about whether they followed Paxton’s exhortation to vet Harris County’s spending plan.
- Hidalgo also criticized Paxton for not being open about his attempt to sap funding from the state’s biggest Democratic stronghold. He did not announce the letter at the time it was sent.
- “To do so in secret is truly a shame and I’m relieved this is now out in the open,” Hidalgo said.
- Asked why the attorney general’s office never publicized the letter, a spokesperson, Kayleigh Date, said only that the letter “speaks for itself.”
- Despite smooth election, GOP leaders seek vote restrictions; By ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE and CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY | APNEWS.COM | DEC. 26, 2020
- Changes to the way millions of Americans voted this year contributed to record turnout, but that’s no guarantee the measures making it easier to cast ballots will stick around for future elections.
- Republicans in key states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden already are pushing for new restrictions, especially to absentee voting. It’s an option many states expanded amid the coronavirus outbreak that proved hugely popular and helped ensure one of the smoothest election days in recent years. …
- They are vowing to crack down on mail ballots and threatening to roll back other steps that have made it easier for people to vote.
- “This myth could not justify throwing out the results of the election, nor can it justify imposing additional burdens on voters that will disenfranchise many Americans,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.
- An estimated 108 million people voted before Election Day, either through early in-person voting or by mailing or dropping off absentee ballots. That represented nearly 70% of all votes cast, after states took steps to make it easier to avoid crowded polling places during the pandemic.
- The changes were popular with voters and did not lead to widespread fraud. …Nevertheless, Republicans in Georgia have proposed adding a photo ID requirement when voting absentee, a ban on drop boxes and possibly a return to requiring an excuse for mail voting, such as illness or traveling for work on Election Day. …
- In Pennsylvania, Republican lawmakers have been writing legislation to address what they claim are problems with the 2020 election and mail voting in particular, even though courts and elections officials have found no evidence of widespread problems. …
- In Michigan, Republicans held every congressional seat and kept control of the legislature despite Trump losing the state. Yet Republicans still held a legislative hearing in which Trump’s lawyers argued there were widespread irregularities without explaining how these somehow affected only the presidential race but not other contests. …
- “It’s a solution in search of a problem,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat who was recently tapped to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. “It will undoubtedly have the net effect of disenfranchising a lot of people without necessarily improving election security.” Padilla supports sending registered voters a ballot in the mail. …
- Not all Republicans are seeking to add restrictions. In Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said his legislative priorities are to expand early voting locations, increase oversight of election vendors, add an online option for requesting absentee ballots and address confusion over drop boxes. … Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams said the pandemic forced the state to implement early voting, which proved popular among voters of both major parties. The Republican said he thinks it’s likely state lawmakers will create an early voting policy for subsequent elections and has heard of no opposition to that in the GOP-controlled legislature. “It just makes voting easier,” he said.
- The Democrats Trying to Overturn an Election; – The nation’s largest city overwhelmingly approved a referendum to adopt ranked-choice voting a year ago. Now some elected leaders are trying to delay the reform. By Russell Berman | THEATLANTIC.COM | December 22, 2020
- A year ago, New Yorkers approved a referendum to use ranked-choice voting for the municipal elections in 2021. It was not a close vote: Ranked-choice voting won by a nearly three-to-one margin, making the Big Apple by far the nation’s most populous jurisdiction to adopt a system that allows voters to list candidates in order of preference rather than just choose one. New York would join Maine and the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Minneapolis, among others, in moving to ranked-choice voting. Citizens in Alaska voted last month to approve the format as part of a package of political reforms.
- Just two months before the system’s initial test run, however, a group of Democrats opposed to the format—including the majority leader of the New York City Council and the leaders of its Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus—sued to halt the introduction of ranked-choice voting. They drew backing from a prominent mayoral contender, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, in arguing that a city that struggles to administer elections in the best of times was unprepared to educate voters on a complicated new system in the middle of a pandemic.
- Supporters of ranked-choice voting see the push to stall its implementation as a thinly disguised attempt by members of the Democratic establishment to thwart a reform that would threaten their grip on power by further opening up New York City’s machine politics to newcomers …
- This is far from the first time that elected politicians have tried to undermine or reverse ballot measures backed by voters, although the highest-profile recent examples have come from Republicans, not Democrats. In Maine, GOP legislators repeatedly tried to block the implementation of ranked-choice voting after citizens approved the format in a 2016 referendum; at one point, Republicans enacted a law to delay the system only to have voters overrule them in a second ballot measure. And in Florida, Republican lawmakers responded to an overwhelming vote in favor of restoring the franchise to formerly incarcerated people by enacting legislation that forced them to pay fines and court fees to secure their right to vote—a move that acted like a poll tax.
- Critics of ranked-choice voting in New York have likened it to political “gentrification.” Without a proper education campaign, they say, the system would essentially disenfranchise lower-income voters of color, and those who do not speak English, because they lack the time and resources to devote as much research on the candidates and the system as other voters. “Those people are not going to be able to participate in ranked-choice voting the way that people that are more internet-savvy will be able to,” Laurie Cumbo, the majority leader of the City Council, told me. “This ranked-choice voting game is really a tool for those that are engaged in the internet world, with broadband, with having internet access. …
- As for the 2019 election that resulted in the adoption of the system, Cumbo said most New Yorkers didn’t know what they were voting for. “There was no real education on what was on the ballot,” she said. Advocates for ranked-choice voting spent more than $1 million promoting the referendum in 2019, and the city is allocating $2 million to raise awareness about the new system ahead of the June citywide primary—an amount that Cumbo says is nowhere near enough. Nor, she said, should she or other city officials be focused on an education campaign in the middle of a public-health and economic crisis. “I don’t have time to stand out on the corner and teach people about ranked-choice voting,” Cumbo said, “while I’m trying to get food for people, trying to pull people out of a shelter, trying to get people on health-care services and all these different things. It’s just a lot right now.”
- The criticism of ranked-choice voting on racial grounds infuriates Lewis and other nonwhite supporters of the system. “It was just insulting to me,” Lewis told me. “You want to say that voters are stupid.”
- “People of color know how to go online,” she added. “People of color know what Google is.” …
- A state judge dismissed the lawsuit seeking to halt ranked-choice voting last week, although the plaintiffs said they plan to appeal. Absentee ballots will soon begin going out for a pair of special elections in February. But the system’s biggest test will come in June, when the city holds primaries for what could be New York’s most consequential municipal elections since the fall of 2001, when voters elected Michael Bloomberg as mayor while the embers of the destroyed World Trade Center were still smoldering in Lower Manhattan. Every citywide office and all 51 seats on the City Council will be up for grabs, as a metropolis with more residents than all but 12 entire states decides who will lead its economic recovery from the devastation that COVID-19 has wrought.
- The mayor’s race is wide open, and while Adams has criticized ranked-choice voting after backing its adoption in 2019, most of the other major contenders are supportive. They include Scott Stringer, the city comptroller; Maya Wiley, a former de Blasio aide and MSNBC commentator; Representative Max Rose, the recently defeated Staten Island congressman; and Shaun Donovan, a former senior Obama-administration official who previously led the city’s housing department under Bloomberg. Andrew Yang, the former Democratic presidential contender who is reportedly eyeing a mayoral run, is also a big backer of ranked-choice voting.
- Yet the people with the most at stake in the fight over ranked-choice voting may be the outsider candidates—including many of color—who see the format as a way to compete with Democratic machines that still wield considerable influence in local races. In multicandidate fields in which a winner might secure only 25 to 30 percent of the vote, ranked-choice voting could produce more upsets like the one that elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated Representative Joe Crowley in a 2018 primary.
- Rodrigo Camarena, a progressive activist making his first bid for an open City Council seat in Brooklyn, told me the new system was one reason he decided to run. “The system that will hopefully go into effect will make it so that people like me can campaign in a way that promotes a diversity of opinions and a diversity of ideas,” he said. “I think it’s an overwhelmingly positive thing for New York City and for our democracy.”
- Maine’s experiment with ranked-choice voting was muted in 2020; by Caitlin Andrews, Michael Shepherd and Jessica Piper | BANGORDAILYNEWS.COM | November 5, 2020
- After some worry and a long legal fight, ranked-choice voting made no difference in the outcomes of Maine elections. In the two races on Maine’s ballot to use the voting method, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, emerged with a clear majority of votes. A polarized Maine also handed outright majorities to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden statewide and in the 1st Congressional District and to Trump in the 2nd District. …
- Sweden’s Covid-19 failures have exposed the myths of the lockdown-sceptics – The “herd immunity” strategy that led to a disastrous Swedish death rate would have been even more dangerous in the UK. By Neil O’Brien | NEWSTATESMAN.COM | 21 December 2020 (Neil O’Brien is the Conservative MP for Harborough and was previously director of Policy Exchange.)
- Many strange things happened in 2020, but one of the strangest was the romance between Britain’s Covid-sceptics and Sweden. It turned out to be an ill-fated one, ending in tragedy, but it was intense while it lasted.
- For much of this year, those who object to measures to control the virus have hailed Sweden as a libertarian paradise, supposedly showing us how Covid-19 could be kept under control without intrusive government restrictions.
- Of late, these champions have fallen silent. It’s not hard to explain why. Recent days have seen Sweden’s Nordic neighbours Finland and Norway offering emergency medical assistance as Stockholm’s hospitals have been overwhelmed, infections and deaths have spiked dramatically upward, and the King of Sweden has made an unprecedented criticism of the government’s bungled strategy.
- Unprecedented, but hardly surprising: Sweden has suffered a death rate that is roughly ten times that of neighbouring Norway and nine times that of Finland. A searing government report concluded the state had failed to protect the vulnerable. Mats Persson, a former UK government adviser, said of his home country: “For a social model largely designed around the state levelling the odds and caring for the vulnerable, this will leave a very difficult moral legacy.” …
- To understand the magnitude of what’s gone wrong, it’s worth noting that Sweden started the pandemic with several huge advantages. First, it’s a far less urban nation than the UK,for example, and the virus spreads much more rapidly in dense, built-up areas. While the UK has 273 people per square kilometre, Sweden has just 25.
- Second, Sweden has the highest rate of people living alone in the world: 42.5 per cent of households are single people, compared to just 29.9 per cent in the UK. Obviously, it’s much easier for the virus to spread within the home, and places with large, multigenerational households suffer most.
- To form an idea of the consequences that would have followed if the UK had followed the Swedish model, you would need to compare Sweden’s outcomes to its similar neighbours. Given the country’s death rate is ten times higher, imagine the chaos we’d have seen if we had multiplied the UK death rate by a factor of ten.
- Nor has there been an economic upside for Sweden: in fact, they saw a bigger hit to their economythan their neighbours, as well as much worse health outcomes. The Swedish virologist Lena Einhorn concluded: “Sweden’s strategy has proven to be a dramatic failure.”
- Chinese economy to overtake US ‘by 2028’ due to Covid – China will overtake the US to become the world’s largest economy by 2028, five years earlier than previously forecast, a report says. COM/NEWS |Published 26 DEC 2020, 6 hours ago
- The UK-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said China’s “skilful” management of Covid-19 would boost its relative growth compared to the US and Europe in coming years. Meanwhile India is tipped to become the third largest economy by 2030.
- The CEBR releases its economic league table every year on 26 December. …
- The US economy, by contrast, has been hit hard by the world’s worst coronavirus epidemic in terms of sheer numbers. More than 330,000 people have died in the US and there have been some 18.5 million confirmed cases.
- The economic damage has been cushioned by monetary policy and a huge fiscal stimulus, but political disagreements over a new stimulus package could leave around 14 million Americans without unemployment benefit payments in the new year. …
- The report says that after “a strong post-pandemic rebound in 2021”, the US economy will grow by about 1.9% annually from 2022-24 and then slow to 1.6% in the years after that.
- By contrast the Chinese economy is tipped to grow by 5.7% annually until 2025, and 4.5% annually from 2026-2030.
- China’s share of the world economy has risen from just 3.6% in 2000 to 17.8% now and the country will become a “high-income economy” by 2023, the report says. …
- But the average Chinese person will remain far poorer in financial terms than the average American even after China becomes the world’s biggest economy, given that China’s population is four times bigger.
- In other predictions:
- The post-Brexit UK economy will grow by 4% annually from 2021-25 and 1.8% annually from 2026-30 (after shrinking in 2020)
- India had overtaken the UK as the fifth-biggest economy in 2019 but has slipped behind it again due to the pandemic’s impact. It won’t take over again until 2024, the CEBR says