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The Brief: Nov. 9, 2011

Paltry turnout marked an already quiet Election Day on Tuesday.

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The Big Conversation:

Paltry turnout marked an already quiet Election Day on Tuesday.

Just over 5 percent of the state's registered voters cast votes in Tuesday's constitutional amendment election, down from an already low 8.7 percent in 2007 and 8.1 percent in 2009.

Voters approved seven of the 10 proposed changes to the state Constitution, rejecting Propositions 4, 7 and 8, which would have instituted new bonding authority for counties, a recreation district in El Paso and tax breaks for landowners who conserve water. Approved amendments included Prop 6, which allows the land commissioner to transfer millions of dollars to public education, and Prop 9, which expands the governor's pardon-granting authority.

Voter turnout was even lower in some counties, like Hidalgo, where 1.5 percent of registered voters cast ballots. In Starr County, just 0.5 percent showed up at the polls.

"I just wish we knew what we could do," Hidalgo County Elections Administrator Yvonne Ramon said of turnout, according to The Monitor. "We want that consistency and fervor to participate to be there regardless of the election."

In the only state race to appear on a ballot anywhere in Texas, Republicans Bob Yancy and John Raney will compete in a runoff to fill Bryan state Rep. Fred Brown's House seat. Yancy edged Raney, 36 percent to 28 percent; a Democrat and Libertarian also ran for the seat.

In Houston, Mayor Annise Parker beat low approval ratings to win re-election, with 50.9 percent of the vote. Parker faced no major opposition, but her five opponents nearly kept her from claiming a majority of the vote. (She would have faced a runoff otherwise.) 

In New Braunfels, voters overwhelmingly approved a ban on disposable containers on the city's waterways, ending an at-times dramatic debate that had consumed the city.


  • A Washington-based federal court on Tuesday blocked Texas' redistricting maps, saying the state "used an improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice." The ruling means a three-judge panel in San Antonio will likely draw temporary maps for the state's 2012 primary elections while the D.C. court holds a trial to determine whether the Republican-drawn districts protect minorities. Though for now the news simply complicates preparations for the 2012 elections in Texas, The Hill has reported that the ruling has at least one Republican concerned that redrawn maps could cost the GOP up to three congressional seats.
  • State Rep. Joe Driver, the Garland Republican who acknowledged last year that he for years had been pocketing taxpayer reimbursements for travel expenses paid by his campaign, has been indicted on a third-degree felony, Dallas' Fox 4 News reported Tuesday. Driver, who recently announced his retirement from the House, could face a fine of up to $10,000 and two to 10 years in prison.
  • As the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw and Jay Root write today, recent polls have repeatedly shown Rick Perry running virtually even with Newt Gingrich, for whom two of Perry's top campaign operatives worked before jumping ship over the summer. But as Nate Silver of The New York Times' FiveThirtyEight writes, even if some supporters of embattled Herman Cain begin to defect to Gingrich, numerous pitfalls would line his path to the nomination.

"I’ll promise you, those Navy SEALs that took out Bin Laden, they knew what they were doing a long time before the president of the United States took office."Rick Perry in an appearance on Bill O'Reilly's radio show


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