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The Brief: February 26, 2010

Last chance to cast an early ballot, Hodge still a threat and a warning from the feds about going into the badlands.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION

Today is the last chance to cast an early ballot for next week’s Primary Election and add to the impressive voter response it seems Texans are capable of mustering after all. In a state near the bottom in overall turnout, signs of life appeared during the first eight days of early voting. Through Tuesday, the last time the Texas Secretary of State updated its totals, about 274,480 ballots had been cast early, equal to about 3.35 percent of the registered voters in Texas.  That means about 127,000 more people showed an early interest in the primary compared to the 2006 statewide race during the same timeframe. The current total is also higher than the 11-day total from 2006. Still have questions about voting? Click here to get answers to most of them.

CULLED:

  • What was once a two-way race for HD-100 between incumbent Terri Hodge and challenger Eric Johnson should have turned into a guaranteed victory for Johnson after Hodge earlier this month pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion charges. As part of her plea agreement, the veteran lawmaker agreed she would never again seek public office. But some of her die-hards are urging voters to cast ballots in her favor nonetheless. The Dallas Morning News reports how, despite Hodge’s own pleas to stop, some are still pushing for her victory next week and how mail-in ballots could affect the outcome of that race.

  • In a year that’s already provided statewide elections, the winter Olympics, and soon, the World Cup, comes another non-annual tradition: the U.S. Census. The prelude to the decennial redistricting battle is quietly approaching. According to some, too quietly. Some fear that Texas’ lack of an official Complete-Count-Committee combined with the low turnout from border residents could lead to another sour showing and send more than a billion in federal dollars earmarked for Texas elsewhere. In an effort to reverse that trend, El Paso County will begin the count in the region’s colonias, the impoverished zones that offer little better than third-world conditions. There are also efforts to sooth fears among the undocumented population in the Rio Grande Valley and encourage turnout; on Tuesday, U.S. Census workers visited parts of the state dubbed “Little Mexico” near the cities of Donna and Alamo.
  • The U.S. State Department has modified its travel warning alerting U.S. citizens to the dangers of traveling to Mexico, including two cities that border Texas. In a surprise to nobody, Ciudad Juarez across from El Paso is an a area “of special concern” and the department recommends all non-essential travel deferred. It puts a special emphasis on the ports of Columbus, N.M. and Fabens and Fort Hancock, Texas (each of which is within 30 miles of the El Paso City limits). Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, across from Laredo, was highlighted as a place where “Americans have been targeted for violence” and in rare occasions, been caught in the crossfire between warring cartels and Mexican law enforcement.

 MUST READ:

Campaigning in the Valley, Democrat Bill White blasts Rick Perry's recordThe Dallas Morning Times

Drug violence flares in border citiesSan Antonio Express-News

E-Verify system to check worker status inaccurate, misses half of illegal workersAssociated Press

Trooper shortage has DPS cutting recruits' training time San Antonio Express-News

Primary Color: The Final FiveTexas Tribune

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